Author: Andrei Alexandru (Andi)
Erasmus Testimonials, 1st edition
Hello ESN friends, Erasmus lovers, curious people from all over the world – get yourself a comfortable seat, grab a cup of your favourite drink and be ready for what is coming up! Welcome to our first edition of Erasmus testimonials, part of a series which is intended to feature as many Erasmus students as possible, from different universities and in different countries. The main purpose of this project is to bring a clear, personal and diverse perspective about the Erasmus experience from young people that have already lived or are currently living their exchange adventure, in order to inspire and help future candidates.
Now, with everything settled, let’s move on to our first two Erasmus students who were eager to share their experiences and memories with us.
Diana Păcuraru is now a third year student at CSIE – Economic Informatics faculty of ASE Bucharest. Her first Erasmus adventure began in the fall of 2019 and lasted for one semester in the beautiful city of Braganca, Portugal. For her, the international experience was a mix of feelings, fluctuating “between missing home and wanting to go back, to never wanting to leave your Erasmus country ever and wishing it wouldn't end”.
While many people might be reticent when it comes to leaving their comfort zone for a few months, Diana set her Erasmus goals from high school and says that she “can’t imagine why someone wouldn't want to apply for […] the chance to go out in the world by yourself, meet people from all over Europe and learn directly from them about their country and culture”. The language obstacle is one of the reasons why some students step back, but it wasn’t the case of Diana. Her teaching language in Romania is English, the same it was at the Polytechnic Institute of Braganca. However, the accent of the professors made it difficult for her at the very beginning, but eventually she “got used to it pretty fast”.
“The Algarve region is considered to have amongst the most beautiful beaches in Europe”. Diana’s favourite memory from the mobility is her first time she went kayaking on the southern coast of Portugal with a group of Erasmus students that would end up being her closest friends there. When it comes to some other favourite things: for the place, there is “a tie between the University's canteen and the Belem neighbourhood in Lisbon”, for the food, the chocolate truffles “brigadeiro” that her Brazilian friends taught her to make, and for a favourite word, “chuva” – rain, in English – because it took her a good couple of minutes to put it in different phrases and to pronounce them. “Language is a funny thing” says Diana, where she mentions a little story about the way she found out that “thank you” is different by gender. “When I first got there I assumed if I was thanking a man I would use the masculine form («Obrigado») and for a woman the feminine («Obrigada»). It took a kind library employee to explain to me that because I am a woman, I will always say "Obrigada", no matter the gender of the person I am speaking to. Now I got a better idea why I got so many smiles when attempting to thank people.” When it comes to educational differences between Romania and Portugal, Diana felt that the Portuguese system is “more practical and project based”. She had the chance to take some courses which are currently not available at her home university, “3D Video Game Design” and “Virtual Reality Lab” being two of them.
Erasmus is about people, friendships, and bonds which last for a lifetime. Diana mentioned that she is still in touch with many of her friends, they “write each other on Instagram and Whatsapp, video calls, voice messages, funny pictures, it all depends on the person”. She says that many of her friends were made by attending the ESN events of IPB. In order to avoid, or at least to minimize the post Erasmus depression, Diana decided to join ESN ASE Bucharest, “which actually worked for a while, until events were cancelled”, but she also “made a photo album, […] talked my Romanian friends ears off about my experience in Portugal, these things helped”.
Asking Diana if she would repeat the Erasmus experience was a silly question, as she is currently in another mobility program at the University of Nicosia Applied Multimedia, in Cyprus. With a world pandemic going on, she spoke briefly about the current situation: “It is certainly different, but at the core Erasmus is about the people, and we find ways to make it work in any kind of situation”. We can’t wait to hear more from her!
Andreea Podovei is currently a third year bachelor student at Faculty of Economic Cybernetics, Informatics and Statistics of ASE Bucharest. Her Erasmus experience started one year ago, during the 2019-2020 academic year and lasted for one semester in Žilina, Slovakia. She attended the courses of the Faculty of Operation and Economics of Transport and Communications, part of the University of Žilina. During her time abroad, Andreea observed some differences between Romania and Slovakia. For example, “students and teachers are cooperating much more and are involved in more projects together”. On the other hand, regarding the non-formal education, she claims to “have developed a series of practical skills such as time-management and social ones”. Andreea is following an English program at her home university as well, so from the language perspective she didn’t face any difficulties.
What made Andreea apply for the Erasmus experience? “I have always been eager to experience as much as I can an international environment and to discover other cultures and languages” she says, therefore, the mobility represented the best opportunity to achieve these goals. Many Erasmus students find it hard to adapt in a new country and to a new culture. For Andreea, the first two weeks made it feel “a bit harder to get around in a totally new environment”. However, as she has “managed to meet more local and Erasmus students, the feeling of being an outsider vanished” and at some point it “actually has felt like home there”. Her new friends were very helpful in many situations and managed to make her feel more comfortable. “In Slovak the difference in pronunciation between «hello» and «goodbye» is pretty small and as a foreigner, I didn't really notice it. Therefore, every time I went to a supermarket instead of saying «hello» to cashiers I was saying «goodbye», until another Erasmus student observed it and corrected me”. Andreea mentioned that she is still in contact with the people she met in Slovakia and they have group calls from time to time to discuss, bring back memories and play online games together, mostly when their schedules don’t overlap. Also, she mentions the ESN community which “has been pretty involved, doing a lot of fun and nice activities but also helping us with everything that has occurred during our stay”. Andreea’s favourite memory is related to ESN, a trip called “Jungle Weekend” organized by the Uniza section, which took place at a cabin in the mountains and has included activities such as hiking trips and archery but also intercultural activities which aimed to connect the foreign students.
In Erasmus you learn how to appreciate and to be grateful for everything surrounding you. Maybe that’s why Andreea’s favourite word in Slovak is “Ďakujem” which means “thank you”. “A pub in the town which had a panorama of the city and a cosy atmosphere with good music in the background” – that’s how she would describe her favourite place – and for food “it was obviously Slovak traditional Halušky, and I also have to mention the sweet gingerbread that is especially made for Christmas holidays”.
In the first part of the article, Diana told us that joining ESN helped her to cope with the post Erasmus emotions. Andreea felt “some mixed feelings and a state of not belonging anymore” and soon after that she started her journey at the ESN ASE Bucharest section which made it easier for her to adapt back to the lifestyle at home. “I consider that deciding to go in an Erasmus requires a bit of impulsivity and courage”, she mentions, and also offers some tips and tricks for those who want to experience the Erasmus feeling on their own skin: “to be aware of the general aspects regarding the country, city and university before applying and to know as much as possible of the practical information needed such as transportation, life costs, paperwork and also about university, courses, campus and similar things”. Andreea would definitely repeat this adventure and, as a conclusion, she describes her Erasmus experience as “a whole journey of discovering a new country, new language, new people and new cultures”.
Stay tuned for more articles about the Erasmus world and experience! Don’t forget to follow ESN ASE Bucharest on social media and be the first one to find out the latest updates.