Until you stepped onto the plane that took you to your new Erasmus home, people had told you who you were many times.
You might have heard that you are shy/loud/lazy/persistent/impatient. And you have been carrying these adjectives with you ever since.
I think our identities, the words we use to describe ourselves are just that, a collection of phrases we hear from people in our life. Do you know who you are, when you are alone? For the longest time, I didn't.
And that is why going on Erasmus was one of the best decisions I've made.
Being on your own, facing challenges, meeting people, and missing people allows for introspection and self-reflection, helping you understand your values, goals, and priorities. While studying abroad I've learned how to be strong when needed and how to be my own friend.
In one of my Greek classes, I learned about the ancient Greek noun σωφροσύνη (sophrosyne) - a state of mind characterized by a deep awareness of one's true self, resulting in true happiness. And this word stayed close to my heart.
There is no better time to ask yourself who you are or what you like to do than your mobility. It is a time of meeting new people who change you forever. They will become pieces of who you are and who you'll be. But when you first meet them during an ESN event or a boring lecture, and they ask you about yourself, you can answer, knowing that you are still a mystery to them, there are no prejudices or past mistakes. You can freely tell them what you love and who you long for.
Erasmus's relationships are authentic because they emerge from a shared experience. The vulnerability of being in a foreign land brings forth a certain rawness, allowing you to express your true self without fear of judgment.
During your Erasmus adventure, you are on your own, yet surrounded by a world of possibilities. So, as you navigate the challenges, be gentle with yourself. It is easy to compare your experiences to others, especially on social media. It is easy to fall into the trap of comparison, particularly in the age of social media. The constant stream of picture-perfect moments on Instagram might evoke a sense of FOMO, the fear of missing out. However, it's crucial to remind yourself that these stories are nothing, but a fraction of somebody's day.
Your experience is uniquely yours, and the true essence of Erasmus lies not in the grandiosity of each moment but in the personal growth, self-discovery, and meaningful connections forged along the way. Embrace the authenticity of your narrative, and let your Erasmus adventure unfold organically, free from the constraints of perceived expectations.
If you ever feel overwhelmed being on your Erasmus just know that it is completely normal. Your friends are going through the same and that might make it easy for them to understand your worries. The fact that many of your struggles are universal experiences for students abroad does not mean you have to keep it all in and suffer alone. If you feel that your mental health is taking a toll, it's crucial to prioritize self-care and reach out for support. You can visit the website of Mental Health Europe and find a helpline or organization for young people in your country.
Remember, seeking help is always a sign of strength.