This story starts in September 2019 as I was entering my last year of undergraduate studies in Bordeaux (France) majoring in applied foreign languages. Italian (and Italy) had already been part of my story as I had started learning the language back in high school, six years prior to that moment and I had already travelled the country with my school and family from Venice to Padua, Florence, Trieste… I saw the opportunity of doing an Erasmus semester to conclude my undergraduate degree, so I took the occasion to apply for one in Rome (Università degli studi Roma Tre).
When the response came back, I was thrilled: I had been selected to go to Rome! I was so excited and, after going through the long administrative part, the beginning of this new experience kept getting closer and closer. On February 2020 I landed in Rome with a lot of expectations about this semester regarding the studying experience as well as my personal life.
However, merely three weeks into my stay in Italy the coronavirus pandemic started hitting, and a lockdown was announced. Even though I could have chosen to stay, I decided to come back home to France. During the three weeks, I spent there, I only had the time to go to university twice, once for my course and once for the ESN Roma Tre welcome meeting.
That is when a new world opened to me. Before the lockdown was announced, I had the time to go to a few ESN events and to meet people, especially my “buddy”, Sara. I didn’t know it yet, but two years later I would be back in Rome and we would meet again! So I came back home to France to do what might have been one of the worst Erasmus experiences: following online classes and doing online exams without meeting any new people.
New Chances & Rediscoveries
However short this experience was, it still gave me the will to discover the other side of the medal of an Erasmus experience: the Erasmus Student Network. I discovered my local section as I was entering my second year of my master's (still studying Italian) and decided to join as a volunteer. I was now part of a new family formed by other former exchange students and could live another Erasmus adventure. A different one of course, but still, I could meet new people from everywhere around the globe and help them in the integration of their new life. But that is another story.
At the same time, I was looking for an end-of-study internship that I dreamt of doing abroad and especially in Italy because I wanted to “get revenge” on my Erasmus semester that had given me this will to step out of my comfort zone to explore new horizons. So when I finally found it, after months and months of applications, I couldn’t have been happier to learn I was going back to Rome. I was going to be able to live my Erasmus again somehow, but of course, it would be different because not being a university student would make it more difficult to meet Erasmus people.
I decided to go to some ESN events from the different sections of Rome and met some people, even though I have to admit that I met mainly French people. However, it was the perfect occasion to reunite with my buddy with whom I had stayed in touch from time to time over the past couple of years. This time I was able to discover the jewel that Rome is, take the time to walk around, and also escape it sometimes.
Keep Coming Back
I had the chance to discover other Italian cities such as Naples, Salerno, Verona, Perugia, and Assisi but also some smaller ones like Tivoli, Bracciano and Viterbo. I could thus discover another face of the country I was already falling in love with. This second experience abroad gave me the conviction that it was what I wanted to do with my life: go abroad to live new experiences. Going back home was hard, I suffered the “post-Erasmus syndrome” but I was happy to be back with my ESN family, to meet the new volunteers and the new Erasmus students. However, now that I had finished my studies, I had to start looking for new opportunities. But since I didn’t feel ready to start a job, I decided to give myself some time to go abroad and have new experiences. This is how I considered being an au pair in Ireland (which might still be an option for later) but ended up choosing the European Solidarity Corps experience in… Italy, of course.
That is why I am encouraging everyone to take the chance and go on an adventure abroad, whether it is through an Erasmus for studies or for an internship, some kind of volunteering or just jumping into the unknown to discover a new part of the world. It can really be a life-changing experience. Maybe you’ll find the love of your life, maybe you’ll make new best friends or maybe, just like me, you’ll discover a place from which you don’t want to leave. And in doing so, you’ll join the wonderful family that the Erasmus Generation is!
I don’t know yet what the future is planning for me, but I guess I can say that there are (very) high chances that I’ll be back in Italy sooner or later, maybe even to live there for more than a few months…
Written by Marion Dagnaud