One year ago, I wasn’t sure I’d make it through the mountain of paperwork for Erasmus. It’s not that it’s very hard, but you do have to do many things, and be as persistent as a… mosquito? I just googled what is very persistent. And it’s very true. I would wish you to go to sleep on a summer day with a mosquito in your room, only if you were my worst enemy. Back to it. The application process for Erasmus was not very short. From getting all the paperwork done in order to apply, to having your interview (to being suggested a different place, in my case), to therefore rewriting the paperwork, and handing it in. Next thing you know, you have to choose which semester you would like to go (Big decision.) A few weeks before my departure, I got all the paperwork, but having it all signed during the last weeks of the summer holiday was a bit harder than I expected. But, as all things that aren’t that great, it passed.
The day to leave had actually come. And, as every new journey, the path looked both exciting and frightening. I had to remind myself many times that everything will be ok. Because life has this odd characteristic: if you make it long enough, things will sort themselves out. This is something that I was to be reminded of many, many times. From the airport by bus to the city of Rome, from there by metro to the apartment. But between the metro and the apartment, there was a little hiccup. Once I exited the metro station I couldn’t find the street. And I walked and I walked. Finally, I asked a person, who happened to also be an Erasmus student. He told me it was on his way. We walked, until he got to his apartment and I continued on. (Be advised that I was pulling two suitcases after me.) Two hours later, after basically walking in a circle, I arrived at the apartment.
The first few days were the hardest. Going to the Erasmus office there, being sent to the wrong department and coordinator, finding the right ones, and finally changing the courses several times. Some were not available, or did not take place because there were not enough people who registered for them.
The months passed, one by one. You think it’s so long in the beginning. You visit places you you always wanted to: the Colosseum, the Column of Trajan, Basilica St. Peter, and Fontana di Trevi. To these are added many other museums, churches and plazzas you never knew about, yet they become the beautiful places you pass by every day.
To the magnificent touristic part of Erasmus, you also have to add the academic part. Getting accustomed to a new system in a matter of weeks is hard. In Italy they have longer courses, or the course is held twice per week. Most of their exams are oral, and the barrier between the teacher and student is so thick you could probably touch it, if you looked hard enough. Nevertheless, as in every new situation, you adapt. Be advised, as it may be unpleasant and frustrating.
As the exam session grows near you (hopefully) start reading and learning all the material. And at this point you realize how many books of 200-300 or even 500 pages you have to go through. As I was saying, a different system. You read and the time passes too quickly while you read a single page. Our mind is in overdrive. Italian seems even harder. When you left Romania you thought you could manage, then you got here and realized you weren’t as good as you thought. Then in the first months you improve your speaking and listening. While studying, you finally improve the reading. The exams meant learning and being able to give a spoken answer, in front of a full room of students.
Everything was ok, with all the paperwork, with getting all my grades. Of course, this was the result of going to the secretary of my department of communication and of the whole university at least 8 times, being told I should go get my answer from another place or person. Persistence is a very important trait. If you don’t have it, you’ll have to develop it. Some friends go a long way to assure you that you can make it, as well.
In the last week, you go and pick up the certificate that says you actually went to all those courses and you made it. Then you get the transcript of everything you did. I got a little sense of pride seeing all the courses and my grades. Just remember that even getting this final paper can be demanding. Making my Erasmus university understand that I needed a signature and stamp was harder than I thought. In the end, you’ll realize you can do much more than you thought you could.
As you pack your suitcases, you will realize how much this experience has changed you. You will see how much you’ve learned (and I don’t necessarily mean this in the academic sense); how much you’ve seen; and the people you met, either good or bad, how they shaped you. In the end, you understand that the place that made you feel anxious when you arrived, now feels like home.