1st Erasmus: Life-changing- Lisbon, Portugal:

I waited quite a lot to start writing about this important chapter in my student life and it is still not finished. Erasmus is not just a European project for students; it is an experience that every one of us should try at least once in our lives, an experience that shapes us both personally and academically, an opportunity to broaden our horizons.

As a child, I wanted to participate in Erasmus mobility. I was always telling my mum about how much I wanted to go abroad, to study and see the world with my own eyes. Time has passed and here I am, at 20-something years old, in a café in the streets of Brussels, after two mobilities and one ongoing.

All tearful and profound phrases aside, these paragraphs are for the ones who have a strong desire to go abroad and explore new cultures, developing their skills and knowledge in different areas.

I will start with my very first mobility, back in 2022, in Lisbon, Portugal. I was quite nervous about it, because it was the first time when I was going out of Romania on my own and not with someone else. At the same time, I was super excited to create a new life abroad- I will be honest, I was not in a very good state when I left for this Erasmus mobility for personal reasons, so Lisbon was for me a safe place, far away from my problems and responsibilities.

It was easier than I expected and told to get integrated into Portuguese life: I met in my first month people with whom I am still getting in touch, I learned quickly how transportation and Portuguese daily-life work and how can I manage my income and schedule to finish my faculty responsibilities and have fun at the same time (and later on, work, but that is another story).

This experience changed me a lot: it helped me develop my multicultural sense, it taught me that happiness doesn’t have to end because of some obstacles every human is experiencing during life and it gave me some new ideas on what I want to do after I will finish my studies: because of the studies I did there, I moved from the field I was studying then to what I am studying now.

For the ones who want to do mobility in Lisbon, there are some tips I want to share with you (thank me later):

  • Mornings in Belem with Pastel de Nata + Galão.
  • Stroll the streets of Alfama/Graça and stop to listen to a Fado concert.
  • Head to Bairro Alto in the evening to Erasmus Corner: the perfect place to meet new people.
  • Enjoy the sun and go to the beach in Caparica/ Santo Amaro/ Cascais/ Carcavelos.
  • Go on a spontaneous trip to one of the towns near Lisbon - I chose Sintra. On the way, you can also stop at Cabo da Roca, the westernmost point of Europe!

2nd Erasmus: Maturity - Athens, Greece.

Little did I know back in Lisbon that Erasmus is not going to be just a life-changing experience, but a new area that I want to explore in detail, from the experience itself to how it was created and how we can prove it, as youngsters. I didn’t plan a second Erasmus mobility, but when the opportunity came again and I found out I was still eligible for another experience, I told myself “Why not? Let’s do it!”. So I applied and got a place in Athens, Greece for one more semester when I was already in my final year.

This time, I already knew how to get integrated faster in the community and how the Greek lifestyle was working. However, the new challenge for me was to be also responsible for my final thesis, which was a complex one. Academically, my Erasmus in Greece was challenging, because I had to be focused both on what I was doing for my studies in Athens and what I am doing for my Bachelor’s degree back in Romania. Moreover, life in Athens was different from the one in Lisbon, so I had to adapt a lot and change my perspectives while I was there.

If my first Erasmus was life-changing, this Erasmus was all about maturity: it made me more responsible for my actions and it gave me a strong desire to start searching more about Erasmus programs and get more involved in this area: after this mobility, I made my decision to join ESN.

For the ones who want to do mobility in Athens, there are other tips I want to share with you:

  • Freddo Cappuccino at Mikel’s (you have it everywhere in Athens- and only one in Romania, in Bucharest) and Greek sweets from the Greek bakeries.
  • Go by foot through the streets of Athens in the central part to discover its beautiful street art and murals.
  • Best place to study (for me at least)- Goethe Institute in Panepistimio.
  • Enjoy the sunsets at Glyfada beach!
  • Go on a spontaneous trip to one of the small islands near Athens - I chose Egina. I took a ferry which was really accessible in time and price.
  • GREEK CUISINE- THE BEST ( try Feta Saganaki!!).

3rd Erasmus: Balance - Brussels, Belgium

Back to the present, I am on my 3rd Erasmus mobility now, in Brussels. You can say that for me Erasmus became a part of my personality and a lifestyle. I can agree on this fact and I will tell you one more thing: I’m not going to leave this life behind. The reason why I chose to follow one more mobility and I chose this city specifically is the fact I want to be a part of what Erasmus+ programmes means, to contribute on giving opportunities to youth generations and to have a voice for them when it comes about studying abroad or mobility.

Moreover, I found here a place that makes me feel like I am home and it is not about just an experience. I learned a lot about balancing my academic life with my personal life here, I disciplined myself, but not forgot how to have fun. I integrated in the community as quickly as in the other mobilities and created a small family in Brussels. I developed my knowledge in both my domain and other fields and I maintain to be active in my volunteer life. I still do, because I am still in Brussels and I think I will stay a little longer than I was planning initially.

Now, after I spoke about all my three experiences in Erasmus+, let me give you some advice: don’t be afraid to jump in the unknown and be confident in yourself! The world is not as frightful as you think it is, it can give you so many benefits! Yes, it is challenging, you will have both great memories and life lessons, but it is an experience which you should have at least once in your lifetime!

P.S: For the ones who would like to do an Erasmus in Brussels, here are some tips:

  • Try the Liege Gaufre with speculoos, they are the best!
  • Take a walk through the streets of Brussels in the central part to discover its beautiful street art, murals and cartoons.
  • Buy an Art Nouveau Pass and visit the famous building in Brussels with this architecture ( Brussels is well-known for Art Nouveau buildings).
  • Join Uni parties: doesn’t matter if it's from your university or another, just join with your friends, because they are the best places for Erasmus people to get connected with other students!
  • Go to the other cities of Belgium during weekends! They are close to each other and during weekends, train tickets are reduced by 50%!
  • Go on trips to other countries: Belgium is really close to many countries such as France, Netherlands, Luxembourg or Germany, so take advantage and go on your dream trips! Moreover, plane tickets are cheaper from Brussels to any other European countries, so if you want to go somewhere warmer, this is your chance!
Maria-Elisa Podaru