Do you remember the moment when you first felt at home in your Erasmus city? The city which at first was like an unknown jungle, far away from your real home, full of people in a hurry who do not speak your language. You might also remember the first time you got lost in your Erasmus city or the times you found some hidden gems around the corner. Undoubtedly, we all have some flashbacks to our first days in that new city somewhere in the world and, in many cases, we also recall our last days there. Well, for some people there are no “last days” because they changed their temporary address to a permanent one, or in other words, they simply decided to live in the city (or town) where they spent their Erasmus mobility.
In the first days of my Erasmus mobility in the Czech Republic, I met two people who not only showed me around Brno but also tried to convince me why this city was just the perfect place to live in. Besides our walks in the city centre, we met to talk about what attracted them so much to this city and how it became their home.
First of all, tell us a bit more about your Erasmus+ mobility.
Sophia*: I did two mobilities in a row during my 1,5-year master degree program - one summer semester in Berlin, Germany and one winter semester in Brno, Czech Republic. I have studied German and chose the university in Berlin, because it offers German classes and also because I have been travelling to Berlin before and knew that it is a great city. I didn’t plan to do second mobility at that time, but I thought why not apply and decide later if I really want to go. The university in Brno was recommended to me by another student from my home university who already was there and convinced me: “you would like it in Brno”.
Galin: My Erasmus+ mobility was in Brno, too. I had never heard of Brno before, but a friend from the university recommended it to me. The first thing that thrilled me was that the destination was affordable, considering my Erasmus grant. The Erasmus itself was a great experience. I am happy I tried a lot of interesting things that I haven’t done before (like dancing). I made really good friendships and with some of the people, we still keep in touch and even visit each other.
What do you like most in your Erasmus city?
Sophia: I have never heard of Brno before, so I did research on Wikipedia and Youtube as I always do before going somewhere new. I like that the town is not too big and crazy and at the same time it is not that small. There are plenty of places to visit for food and drinks, lots of shopping options, a very well organized public transport system and a large international community because of the universities and the international companies. If I have to point at one thing that I like the most, it will be the parks, walking trails and green areas in Brno.
Galin: I like that it is not a really big city, people are not that stressed, you don’t need plenty of time to go from one end to another end of the city. It feels comfortable. Since it is the second biggest city in the Czech Republic, there are plenty of things to do and if you plan your week very well you can be at different events every single day. What is more, Brno has a great location - cities like Vienna, Bratislava and Prague are just two hours away by train.
When did you realize you wanted to stay here?
Sophia: There was another Bulgarian student on an Erasmus+ internship in my receiving university. She has chosen to come to Brno to be closer to her boyfriend who studies in Vienna (both met during their Erasmus in Lithuania by the way) and after the internship, she wanted to find a job here. We have talked that I need to start thinking about work, too, after I graduate so she suggested why not find one in Brno? At first, I was not thrilled by the idea, but then I thought again: why not apply and decide later if I want to work here? So, I sent my CV to the companies I was interested in and one week before returning to my home country I got a call for a job interview. A few days later, I was invited to a second interview and then got the job. I had to quickly realize that I want to stay in Brno. I knew that if I haven’t accepted the offer I would’ve been chased by the thought of what was going to happen if I stayed in Brno, and now I have no doubts that it was the right choice.
Galin: Since the first year of the university, I knew I wanted to go abroad and just stay there. So during my Erasmus here, I started researching my options and what I could do to stay abroad.
What has changed in the city since you first came? How has Brno changed you?
Sophia: I live in Brno for almost two years now and wouldn’t say that it has changed much. On the other hand, Brno changed me. We can’t turn back time, but we can take what the present is offering us whether or not it is in line with our comfort zone or plans for the future, and by doing so we become braver and so did I.
Galin: Hmm, I am not sure that Brno changed that much, however, once you are not a student here, you look at it from a different perspective.
How Brno changed me? Well...if the new Gal met the old Gal on the street, they would not recognize each other. I changed totally. From an extremely shy person, who used to become red in the face during almost every single conversation to a person who is able to talk to everybody without caring that much about their opinion – this is how much I changed. One of my Czech friends here says that I have become a leader. Perhaps it’s because I joined ESN, where I organized a lot of events and I was regularly leading the hiking groups. In short, Erasmus can make you a more friendly person, open to the world, if you just keep the Erasmus spirit.
*The interviewee wanted to stay anonymous, so the name was changed on purpose.