As you know, I’m Portuguese and I’ve been living and studying in Lisbon for a few years now. When I was taking my Bachelor degree, I decided to go on an exchange program and it was definitely what got me so involved in travelling. Therefor, I couldn’t avoid writing about it. Not only because it was a very important part of my life but also because everybody needs to know how great it is!
I always wondered how it was and I felt like it would be good for me to step away from my “real life” for a bit. So, one day (most precisely the last day it was possible to apply), I made the most spontaneous decision in my life so far, and I just applied ! Even though I was scared of being far from home and going to a completely unknown place where I didn’t know anything or anybody. I just decided to give it a chance and try doing something different for once. It that was the best decision I’ve ever made.
I did the Erasmus+ Program in Krems an der Donau, an adorable little village in the lower Austria, one hour train ride from Vienna.
Not everything went well at first, because Austrians are REALLY different from Portuguese people. So, there I went with all my heavy bags, I took 1 air plane and 3 trains to arrive to Krems and the first thing that felt weird was that nobody would help me carry my bags into the train. Second strange thing was, as I got to Krems and my landlady went to pick me up, I greeted her with two kisses on the cheek (Portuguese way) and she was a bit confused.(Actually that one is on me. I should have known, too much intimacy!!) .
Then I had some problems with my courses, which I had to change completely. Let’s just say that it didn’t start the best way.
I had a rough few first days and I must admit I though about quitting and coming back home but I didn’t give up, so I just randomly started talking to people and, as my birthday was coming up, I though it might be the perfect occasion for the first party and for everyone to connect. Today I am proud to say that that party I threw in my house was what got together my current Erasmus group of friends, or as we call ourselves “Krems family”.
My flatmates were also an important part of my experience, they are all amazing ! I loved living with them, since we were all from different cultures and got along so well – We had a blast!
The few months that followed were amazing and absolutely unforgettable: we partied (a lot), we threw international dinners with food from all over the world, and specially we got to travel together to amazing places like Italy, Hungary and Ireland. (Of course you’ll hear about that on other posts).
About the actual studies (which yes, I had to work a little), I found it very exciting, as there is more freedom to choose courses that you are interested in but don’t exist in your college back home. For instants, I was studying human resources management but I was able to attend marketing and hospitality courses which were new for me and I really liked. It is also important to have contact and work along colleagues from other cultures, as it will raise your cultural awareness and set your mind for international jobs.
Another great thing about exchange: it allows you to do whatever you want and be whomever you want! You get to reinvent yourself!
Going on exchange is really challenging, because you will go alone, you will depend entirely of yourself to live and make friends, if you’re sick there’s no parents to hold you. There’s just you. I guess this is the scary part.
My advice? Put yourself out there, start conversations, make friends from all over the world, travel, party ! Enjoy every second you have, and you will see the world and life like you never did. At least that’s what happened to me. It was an amazing period of my life: it helped me to grow up and to shape who I am today and to make friends for life.
So if you’re thinking about it… JUST GO and enjoy every second, because time flies, believe me!
Lots of Love,