Studying abroad. Was it really worth it?
It's not so long ago since I finished university and started living a normal, "adult" life. I must admit that a lot of times nostalgy hits me and I kinda miss the old good times, and especially the possibilities to study abroad. Which leads me to think - what did it give to me? Did studying abroad change my life at all? (Note: parents and future parents, you might want to stop reading right now.)
It all started long ago when I was young, full of illusions and faith. I was at home, having a great time being sick, when I got to know that I passed the exams and could study Spanish at high school. Billingual high school. I said no, but my mum did what she wanted and enrolled me while I was sleeping, sneaky. In my third year I went to Spain for 10 months and now, 9 years later, I'm not afraid to say that that year pretty much defined me.
That 1 year in Zaragoza was magical - I lived in a small dorm with the pleasant company of totally high Spaniards, one nice donkey that was pissing me off every single morning and some chickens that were delicious (sorry, vegans). But the best were the weekends, of course. Every Friday I moved to the city center and lived a totally different life, kind of Pre-Erasmus. Yes, I started hanging out with Erasmus people when I was 17 and I'm not afraid to say that it made me who I am today (and 6 kg heavier).
How did that 1 year change me? Apart from making me fat for a while, it gave me hundreds of friends (back then), independence, great trips and, of course, perfect Spanish that I've been forgetting ever since.
And what did it take from me? 8 kg (dog bless spinning), pretty much 10 years of my life, but I'm very happy to give them away. Not to mention all the prejudices I had and capability to stay at one place longer than 6 months.
Erasmus nr. 1
It was not Erasmus per se, but I decided to call all the exchange programs Erasmus, it's easier. I went to Gdańsk (Poland) because of love which is, of course, gone by now, but I was pleased to get to know the north of Poland. It's really different from the rest of the country and even though I was a bit sceptical at the beginning, I must say I had a great time in there.
So, what did it give to me? It made me fluent in Polish and almost fluent in Norwegian (both kinda gone after Erasmus nr. 2).
What did it take from me? 10 years of my life thanks to that lovely lady at the department of Nordic languages. She never admitted I was there as an exchange student and did everything she could to make my life miserable. Maybe that's why I still can't access my e-mail address :)
Erasmus nr. 2
After I came back from Gdańsk, I went to Brno to do some exams and then straight to Oviedo (Spain). When I told my best friend that I was going there, she swore she would never come to visit. Oviedo is also known as lloviedo, thanks to the Atlantic ocean it rains there at least 5 times a day. Of course, my friend Lenka came to visit and could experience herself that Asturias is really the place to be. Ocean, mountains, cows all around. I think I don't need to mention that Oviedo is one of the cleanest cities in Europe, the rain does all the work. Apart from that, the university is quite good, food is greeeat (vegetarians and vegans should avoid Asturias though), guys are handsome and the nature is stunning. And sidra. That beverage that you hate at the beginning and then you miss it. The beverage, not the hangover it gives you.
What did the stay in Oviedo give to me? Definitely not more than 100 hours of sleep in 4 months, mostly thanks to the cats in the patio, and couple of really great friends. I learned how to make vegetarian schnitzel, how to work with gas and also how to kick out the door in our almost destroyed appartment (I'm sure the neighbours still haven't forgotten me and my roommates).
What did it take from me? 10 years of my life, 100 nights of sweet dreams and 1000 neuronas.
Erasmus nr. 3, 4 and 5
I decided to put all my stays in Norway into one package. Premium package. Norway is definitely something special and I fell in love with the country (and also its male members) on the first sight. My eyes were having a great time - Norwegians are really pleasant to look at. Tall, fit, clear eyes, so I'm pretty sure I will never have problems with pain in my neck, I was exercising it a lot :) The nature is magical. Wild. Beautiful. The weather is really unpredictable, but in the end, who cares. School was pretty easy, so I had enough time to travel. Northern lights in Tromsø, hikes to Kjerag and Preikestolen (with a 16-kg tent), boat trip to Stockholm, Helsinki, Tallinn and St. Petersburg. I volunteered at X-Games, jumped from Holmenkollen, did an internship at the Slovak embassy in Oslo and got my haircut in Spain. Just because I can.
How did Oslo change me? I stopped complaining about weather. I managed to reach a proper balance between work and leisure, worked out the hardest in my life and got 5 proposals on Couchsurfing.
What did it take from me? 10 years of my life, just because of that disgusting beer. I totally lost my capability of social interaction, since my personal space grew considerably. And, of course, my joints were suffering a lot. The ice is all around, which made me fall down all the time, especially in front of really cute guys.
Erasmus nr. 6
Straight from Oslo I went to Lisbon, so you can imagine the cultural shock I suffered. I spent the first three days almost crying - I wasn't able to arrange anything, literally anything (not to mention I still don't have access to my e-mail account at ULisboa). Thank dog a friend of mine was there with me for the first 3 days and did his best to calm me down, otherwise I'd have left immediately. I admit, the night life was quite good, but otherwise I didn't really fall for Lisbon.
What did it give to me? Traveling. Azores, Madeira, Algarve, Porto, Peniche and other surfing resorts. And thanks to the Portuguese ability to build solid houses I caught a 3 months' caugh, which gave me almost a six-pack. And the knowledge that Portugal is a great, beautiful country, of course :)
What did it take from me? Surprise surprise, 10 years of my life, and also illusions about how similar Spain and Portugal were supposed to be. Not really, and especially when it comes to their interactions with the exchange students. I have never had such a bad experience, but it might be only the Faculty of Arts, I really don't want to spread false info.
To sum it up, I'm not afraid to say that, thank to all these exchange programs, the world got smaller and more available. Lucky me it became smaller, thanks to all the Erasmus I only have some 10 years to explore it. Mum, if I don't come home for Christmas, blame yourself.