I started writing this article a few times, and each time it felt weird as I was trying to remain impartial. I wanted to take on this omniscient voice on a subject that no one really is a master of. I thought writing about love on Erasmus would be easier, especially since I’ve been through a similar thing, having had my love find me during his Erasmus. But both Erasmus and love are unique experiences. You don’t come back from either unchanged. Writing about it as if I have not gone through it makes it seem as if I am writing from a distant point of view, one that couldn’t possibly describe what it means to go on Erasmus or fall in love.I can assure you, I deeply understand both.
In a lot of ways, experiencing Erasmus and love are similar. They’re both intense, special, and with each, everybody seems to know what to do better than you. To quote one of the stories we’ve received: “They say Erasmus is an experience. It’s more than this; it’s a feeling. It’s a thousand feelings, all perfectly described by this one word. It’s the urge to leave the past behind; the thrill of starting over; the fear of the unknown; Erasmus is to appreciate every moment; to love and be loved back” (Eleni, Greece). Isn’t love described similarly by writers throughout the ages?
Considering those similarities, falling in love during your Erasmus is not so unexpected. When you go on Erasmus, you have a limited time in the place you’re going to, so it makes everything that much more intense. As we know from Harry Potter: “There are some things you can’t share without ending up liking each other” and that applies to all the adventures, big or small, that you go on during your Erasmus.
Erasmus love stories do not differ much from other love stories.
There are usually two strangers and an opportunity to meet. They can start in random places and give these meanings beyond their simple context. So a train station isn’t just a train station and a line to a pre-Erasmus interview is more than just a queue. If I had to choose one thing that connects most (if not all) Erasmus love stories and yet somehow also separates them from the usual ones, I’d say that it's the words 'beyond borders'. More often than not, love on Erasmus grows between people from two different countries and therefore, two different cultures. Sometimes even from much further than Europe: “But what made my ERASMUS the best year of my life, was definitely meeting the greatest person I have ever known. Tell me guys, when in my life would I have imagined, as a Mexican, studying in France, that I would one day meet a Russian guy in Germany? How is that even possible? Only through an international program like this one” (Julieta, Mexico). Erasmus brings people together from various places in a way that seems almost impossible, as if your life suddenly changed from its routine into a book or a movie plot. The author of one of the beautiful stories that was sent to us, Carla, put it this way: “The impossible journey that went down in order for this situation to happen is exactly unthinkable. It’s like I’m the leading role in a movie, directed by Erasmus”. Romance novels and romantic comedies may be a bit overdone since love itself is an overwritten word, but it is so because we all share the struggle. We all have a first love, a last love, the one that got away. We all were heartbroken once, and we all once felt lighter than a feather with love. Yet, with all its universality, love is the most personal thing a person goes through. No one loves the same, feels the same, and the same story two people have gone through is actually perceived as two unique experiences.
Still, the familiarity of love can be felt across countries and cultures. We can all feel what is special about being kissed in front of Fontana Di Trevi, how funny and sweet it is when matchmakers do their job just right. A person you have just heard about can turn out to be the one, and a person you at first want to get rid of can later become the person you don’t want to live without.
There are two obstacles when it comes to starting a relationship between people of two different nationalities: distance and cultural differences.
For most of our lives, we look at the world through our own cultural lenses. We interpret the things we see by the rules of our own culture. To fall in love with someone who interprets the same thing differently, who sees the world through their own cultural lens is to accept an unconventional challenge of constantly asking why and expand your means of understanding. It might be scary at first, but Erasmus has already given you the tools you need to deal with some of the problems. Rajshree, the author of one of the stories we received, put it this way: “Honestly, due to obvious cultural differences, I never had imagined that I would be with a non-Indian guy but he made me aware that it is all about humanity and not man-made barriers. I love him from the core of my heart and I am beyond grateful that through Erasmus I found my soulmate” (Rajshree, India). She wasn’t the only one; Omer, another story author, also wrote about it: “We came from two totally different cultures but love doesn't know borders, distance or any differences and it proves that love can unite the whole world, we knew it won't be easy but it's surely worth it, and I'm very grateful for Erasmus+ for that [sic]” (Omer, Italy). With time, you make your own set of rules: you take what’s best from both of your cultures and you turn it into a little world of your own. Then, borders and distance, however painful, seem much less relevant.
The person you fell in love with during your Erasmus becomes an anchor in your memories.
Love shapes your Erasmus and multiplies the already sizable collection of things you want to remember. Thanks to relationships you create on Erasmus, a part of it never leaves you. The person you love becomes an anchor to those memories in your mind. Looking at them can take you back to those carefree and exciting times, and you always have a partner that understands how deeply meaningful this particular place is for you. You went on an adventure and came back with a companion for all those adventures that are to come. Jakob, a story author, wrote: “An Erasmus experience may only last one or two semesters. But the friends you make and, with a bit of luck, the romance you start during this amazing time, can last forever. I surely won’t ever forget my (nor my girlfriend’s) Erasmus experience” (Jakob, Denmark). Because:
Like anything else in the world, one of the most exciting things about it is the growth you go through.
As I wrote earlier, neither love nor Erasmus leaves you exactly as you were before. The change you go through thanks to either or both of them combined is wonderful. As you grow, so do your relationships, and as you change, so does the world around you. To quote one of the stories: “Because love can take different shapes, and going abroad teaches you to expand your love across states, cultures and nationalities, but it also fortifies the bond with what you left in your home country” (Giorgia, Italy). While distance may be an obstacle, you learn how to let it strengthen your relationships rather than let it weaken them.
Yet, the most breathtaking change is the one that happened inside of you. As we keep discovering life, we learn that love is much more than a romantic feeling between two people. It's also the feeling that should drive your relationship with yourself, the intensity of emotions, and the feeling of unity with yourself, your friends, your significant other, and the world. Maybe like Larissa, the love you found on Erasmus is the one you have for yourself: “I fell in love with myself thanks to my Erasmus. I fell in love with the confidence I got from moving to exactly this different place that I don't know the language, that I don't know the people. Yes, it is scary, but in fact it is what makes being alive very, very easy [sic]” (Larissa, Germany). Everybody struggles with their self-esteem once in a while, or sometimes even for longer periods of time, but Erasmus can help you see how truly brave and resourceful you are. As Adriana described it: “I thank myself every day for leaving two years ago and for taking that opportunity: my life has changed since then and I feel like a better person” (Adriana, Italy).
When you decide to go on Erasmus, you decide to go on an adventure. You take your story into your own hands, truly becoming the epicentre of it just to learn that everything you've ever known and felt could be multiplied in ways you couldn't imagine. And so you fall in love; maybe with others, maybe with yourself, and maybe with the world.