Sarp: A Technological Evolution
Sarp, originally from Istanbul and initially aiming for Italy for his Erasmus exchange, finally found Gent to be the most logical choice for several reasons. His older brother, who was already living in Gent, was the biggest factor in Sarp’s decision: choosing a place that is not home, but could feel like home because of the presence of family.
His academic journey saw him diving into translator courses and later gravitating towards economics and marketing. This journey started shifting when Sarp went to a guest lecture about analytics consultancy, which led to a job offer and the beginning of his longer stay in Gent. He is now working as a data analyst, collecting data on digital platforms to answer questions about the business and making suggestions on how to improve it.
Although Gent was not Sarp's first adventure abroad, the city offered him a unique blend of opportunities and challenges. The decision to stay post-studies was partly influenced by his job, but Sarp always had an appetite for diverse lifestyles, an aspect Gent offered him. This allowed him to make the decision to stay longer.
The buzzing streets of Istanbul, while dear to him, felt very exhausting. Gent, on the other hand, with its peculiar yet charming vibes, became his place to calm down. The mix of the socio-economic aspect and the urge to explore made him want to leave Istanbul. “I miss Istanbul, but I don’t miss living in Istanbul”, he said. The desserts, the Turkish cuisine, the warmth of family, the recognisable feeling of ‘home’ and understanding things immediately are the aspects he misses the most.
"Every Erasmus student experiences more or less the same things", he reflected. He immediately loved the international mindset of Gent and meeting fellow internationals. In Gent, he says, he has made his own chosen family out of people with similar stories and lives, and he wouldn’t change it for anything. He plans on staying in Gent for at least a few more years.
Austeja: Breaking Barriers and Building Bonds
For Austeja, Gent wasn’t just a random choice but a well-thought-out decision. Its academic prestige, affordability, central European location and the possibilities of linguistic immersion were decision-makers for her.
Living away from the familial bubble, Austeja remarked about the effort it took to break barriers with locals. But each effort calmed her down with every Belgian she met, she felt the walls lowering and the gap between them closing. Austeja’s Erasmus journey was accentuated with delightful memories – from the ESN trip to the Ardennes to karaoke nights where friendships were formed. However, she experienced some significant culture shocks, the biggest of which came from the early closing hours of local shops and the “recycling situation”. She doesn’t understand how students are supposed to fill a full bag of trash in a week without leaving their room smelly.
Like Sarp, Austeja, too wrestled with homesickness. She missed the serene lakes and the warmth of family. Yet, Gent offered something irresistible – love. A student job at a bar called Patrick Foley's and a blossoming relationship with Erin, a fellow traveller at heart, encouraged Austeja to extend her stay.
Written by Manuela Vicencio
Austeja’s Erasmus destination became a home by creating her own “Gent family”. A combination of co-workers, Erin, and her new friends and roommates are what convinced her to stay. She will be staying here for the next two years and is hoping to move to Lithuania or Vienna with Erin. They will see what time will bring. But wherever Austeja goes, the lessons and love from Gent will always accompany her.
Her advice for future Erasmus students? “Experience doesn’t have a price tag. Stepping out of your comfort zone is invaluable. What you couldn’t do at home, you will be able to do in Gent.”
Erasmus stories are not just about academic pursuits but about expanding horizons on every level possible. For some, it can be love; for others it can be ambition or a combination of all things. For Sarp and Austeja, Gent wasn't just a city; it was a playground of experiences, growth, friendships and love. Their stories prove the impact of stepping out of one's comfort zone and embracing the unknown, letting Erasmus change their lives.