Grateful for Erasmus – France
Why am I grateful for Erasmus?
Today’s article contains an emotional story about Erasmus in France. It has been written by Noemi Licata Tiso. I strongly recommend all of you to read it until the end. It has many great insights and lessons about Erasmus. 😉 So here is Noemi’s story:
“Hello everyone! My name is Noemi, I am 25 years old, and I am infinitely grateful for the program Erasmus. The three periods of Erasmus that I attended during university were crucial points in my life for me. It all happened by chance and I can’t explain it otherwise. I was in my second year of university- I had recently broken up with my boyfriend and I needed time and space for myself. One morning, by chance, I read a Facebook post from a classmate of mine about Erasmus, and I thought “Erasmus.. why not?” It was a few hours before the deadline, so I quickly sent my application, which was only minutes before the application closed. A few months later, I arrived in Lyon, France. I had heard vaguely about Erasmus but I felt confused as I didn’t have the faintest idea of what to do nor what a Learning Agreement was. I had never been to France before and I didn’t know the French school system. No one had given me advice, and there were a lot of things I wish people had told me sooner.
About Erasmus in France
I only knew one thing which was this: I needed freedom and I needed to be alone. And my time in France had given me much more than that. I learned to believe in myself, to manage to be alone, even to open a bank account abroad- and believe me, it was not easy! I fell in love with France, with French culture and language. I discovered a multi-cultural environment, in which each of us was appreciated for their particularities; I understood that differences are a strength and not a weakness.
Erasmus in Lyon had given me exactly what I needed at that moment of my life. I felt grateful for that experience; I felt like a citizen of the world, welcomed into a social and cultural context that was completely new to me, and different from mine. I fell in love with Lyon, with the people around me, with every little aspect of this new life that I discovered day after day. Thanks, Erasmus.
But the problem with Erasmus is that it creates addiction and therefore after just over a year I did another one, also by chance. I spent six months in a delightful town in Provence, in the south of France- and if any of you have ever been to Provence you can imagine it was a real summer paradise! I believe that every Erasmus is different because it depends on who we are and what we want. And in fact, this time was different: I was older, I had a degree, I already knew about life in France, and I was leaving to work in a French company.
Grateful for Erasmus friends
Consequently, this Erasmus taught me something different. I learned the value and importance of friendship, solidarity, and mutual support. I learned that home is not a concept linked to our origins, but it is a feeling: it is to feel good exactly where we are, no matter if we are far away from home.
I am immensely grateful to have met a truly special group of French friends who have been my family (la Famille in French). They were the best part of my Erasmus. One day, while I was volunteering with a friend of mine (cleaning up the beautiful beaches of the city) I hurt my ankle and ended up in the hospital. That bad episode made me realize even more that I had wonderful friends who never made me feel alone or abandoned, even when I had to rest for a month. My friends took care of me: they took me to the doctor, they went shopping for me, they collected my medication at the pharmacy, they did my laundry for me.
I have a precious memory of that time that I would like to share with you. After a month on crutches, I was no longer able to walk. So, one day a friend of mine took off my crutches and said “Come on Noemi, come to me”. “But I can’t, you know I can’t walk.” It was only a few steps, he was a meter from me, yet thanks to him I gradually began to walk again, or at least to believe that I would be able to walk again. This was one of my best victories during my Erasmus in Provence. I felt at home, in a place far from my relatives, yet perfectly at ease. I was serene, I no longer needed to find freedom, and I had finally found my place in the world. And I was fine with it.
Learn about Erasmus traveling
I felt so at peace with the world that I started traveling alone. I am a rather lonely person and Erasmus has allowed me to have this experience too. Have you ever gone on a backpacking trip? If not, do it- you must do it at least once in your life! With a backpack on your back, a tour guide, your camera, a great desire to explore, that is all you need! 3 cities in 3 days: Nice, Cannes, Montecarlo (Monaco). I felt like a citizen of the world again, eager to explore, to learn, to taste new foods, and to see new landscapes. This is one of the best feelings I wish anyone to have.
Six months went by like this: between weekend trips, day trips, afternoons at the beach, and apéro à la provençale– all spent with my friends, my family.
That second Erasmus had given me a lot of new insight, but I felt it was not enough. I still had other things to discover. So, we come to my third experience with Erasmus: living in Paris, the French capital, and studying at the Sorbonne Université: one of the most famous French universities in the country. This was my greatest achievement.
Get your Erasmus lessons
People repeatedly asked me: “Aren’t you tired of going on Erasmus?”; “Aren’t you obsessed with France?”; “But don’t you waste your time on Erasmus?”; “Can’t you just study in your city?” I would also like to thank these people for they pushed me even more to continue. And then I felt I needed something, another piece of the puzzle.
It had been Erasmus in Paris that taught me the most important thing: Paris taught me who I am.
“Who am I?”, this is the great existential question that sooner or later we all have to face: the problem is that we are often too impatient to find the answer.
I left for my first Erasmus in search of freedom, and I returned from my third Erasmus, aware of who I am, and what I want from life. I understood what my limitations, my weaknesses, my fears, my values, my dreams, and my aspirations were.
Erasmus Changed ME
I had changed, and it was Erasmus that had changed me.
So, what is Erasmus? Erasmus was, for me, much more than a study abroad experience in France because those people are right, “we can just study in our country”. It is much more than a never-ending party (I do not know how to dance and therefore I avoid discos). For me, Erasmus was a long and gradual journey with myself, which led me to learn more about myself, to know others, and to discover the world. We can have endless experiences abroad, but if we are not ready to change or welcome these changes, then it is as if we had never left.
I changed. And Erasmus changed me. Now I am ready to live real life. I’m done with Erasmus (at least for now) but I keep reliving it every time I call my international friends when I think back to the unforgettable moments spent together, the adventures, the laughs when I look at all the photos and videos. But most importantly, I will never stop being an Erasmus student thanks to my little blog, inspired during my backpacking trip. I will continue to share my experiences, thoughts, and advice with other students, to help them prepare for their Erasmus experience, and to give them advice. I consider my blog as a fourth never-ending Erasmus! I also joined an association that deals with providing assistance to Erasmus students, called “Erasmus Assistance”, this is our website.
My name is Noemi, I am 25 years old, and now you know why I am eternally grateful to Erasmus. I hope that one day you too will be able to look back and be grateful for the life lessons learned during your Erasmus. “
Written by Noemi Licata Tiso