We repeat the phrase ‘Once Erasmus, Always Erasmus’ quite a lot. Perhaps every semester, once the new international exchange students arrive at our university. The phrase is so true because most of us started off as Erasmus students ourselves. However isn’t the phrase also applicable to us as ESNers? We always feel like a part of ESN: at school, at work, in our personal life or during our own exchange period.
When I joined ESN, I hoped to escape my comfort zone, improve my spoken English and get ready for my own Erasmus exchange which was to follow in the coming semester. Sounds familiar? Perhaps, perhaps not. Maybe you joined after your exchange semester because you missed that international atmosphere or needed to deal with your post-Erasmus depression. Maybe you joined for a completely different reason or are still considering becoming a member.
For the outside world we look like any other student organisation unless they put some effort into getting to know us or our work a bit more. Of course, it is true. We are a student organisation. We have our structure, our mission, our values; we cooperate with other organisations and we primarily help the students from our university or city. Although once you are in, you realise that ESN is much more than just a student organisation…
…it is a way of life.
When you go to work, you spend eight hours there, you leave and you stop thinking about it. Unless your job is also your passion like ESN, then lucky you, and this comparison isn’t applicable to you.
However, do you stop thinking about ESN after a weekly meeting? After a local event you organised for international students? a National Platform? or an International event? If you kept reading until now, I’d say your answer is ‘No’. More than likely, you think about it even more. ESN becomes a part of your life and never leaves your mind.
Whatever you do, you can always find random connections to ESN. Maybe while walking your dog, you’ll come up with an idea for SocialErasmus. While attending a random party, you over think how much better it could be if it involved the Responsible Party project. Or after waking up at 4 AM for no reason, you conjure up an idea for an article for ESNblog… You see where this is going, right?
If you share the same values and outlook on life, aim and seek for the same goals as ESN or any other organisation for that matter, it stops being just an organisation for you. And that’s a good thing. It means you added something to your life that you are truly passionate about. Yay, you!
…it is a family
Bonds created in ESN can be as strong as the ones you share with your family. You are meeting people who share your values. You do something together for the good of others. You learn together and you teach together. You share experiences and knowledge. Give advice when it is most needed. You take care of each other. Travel together. Celebrate birthdays, Christmas and many other holidays together and cannot imagine it being any other way. How is that not family? You may want to quit a student organisation but would you want to quit a family? Doubtful.
The best things in life happen when you least expect them. By joining ESN, you might not intend to find people who will change your life forever. In general, you might not even intend to change your life and views much. However, most of the time you do.
Personally, ESN changed my life completely. It gave me a new outlook on life and hope for a united and open-minded Europe. ESN also gave me best friends with whom I can trust with anything and love entirely. I have a job that I enjoy because of my experience in ESN. I overcame my fear of public speaking because of ESN. I even changed the field of my studies because I realised what I am really interested in because of ESN. That’s not even all the connections I could make, but I’d rather ask, how did ESN change or can change your life?
When you live and breathe ESN, when it follows you in every personal and professional step you make, when it brings people into your life that you can call your family, you realise ESN can never leave you and you can never leave ESN. More importantly, you will never be the same person you were before. Because once you’re an ESNer, you’re always an ESNer.