“Quien lo probó lo sabe”

22 years after the launch of Erasmus in 1987, the European Commission celebrated the 2 millionth Erasmus student by collecting stories from 31 students from participant countries across Europe who could claim to be Number 2 million and symbolically stand for every member in the programme. Lotte Dieleman, the then Dutch representative and currently a Euroculture student, shares her contribution to this celebration in our blog.
Krakow Euroculture

“Quien lo probó lo sabe”
[1]
The unique experience of studying in the most beautiful city of Spain for five months

When you hear you are allowed to go abroad for one semester, you are more than excited. Five months away from home to discover a whole new world has to be a great experience. However, the closer the date of departure, the more nervous you get, and the last few days at home you are wondering all the time why you started all this. So many things have to be arranged, and when you have to say goodbye to all of your friends and family, you realize that you will have to build up something completely new in a surrounding you do not know at all.

An Erasmus experience can be compared with a good hike in the mountains. Others have told you that the view on top of the mountain is amazing, and that the climb will be a good training. When you have reached the summit you can, without any doubt, be proud of yourself. So in good spirits you say goodbye to friends and family and you start your climb. However, when the mountain appears you start to have some doubts. The first path you have to take turns out to be quite steep, but it gets better every time. The sun starts to shine and the landscape is beautiful. On your journey you meet other hikers who can accompany you on  the way up and help you when the climb seems to be too steep again. Earlier than expected you can share the wonderful view with your new friends. You take lots of pictures and you have the time of your life. However, time flies and you have to take the lift to get down again. You have to say goodbye again, this time to your fellow travelers, and the things that last are the pictures, new friendships and the useful things you have learned during the climb.

My experience as an Erasmus student in the Andalusian pearl Granada was about the same. Five months full of new experiences, new friendships, talking Spanish, parties and being at a totally different university. Before I left I could not have imagined that it would be this great and that time would pass so quickly. The day of my departure I felt kind of lost, and I wondered why I wanted to leave everything behind for such a long time. Luckily, Granada turned out to be a city where it is almost impossible not to feel at home. Unfortunately, I didn’t really get the chance to settle down. My world seemed to be turned upside down by an earthquake when I had to go back to Holland for the funeral of a family member. I was torn apart by my wish to build up something new in Granada on the one hand, and to be with my family on the other.

Under the circumstances, my short stay in the Netherlands felt “good”, and returning to Spain felt as a fresh start and Granada as my new home. Maybe it was a coincidence, but during my second journey to the south of Europe I met my two best Erasmus companions. The three of us have been almost inseparable for five months. As the three musketeers of Granada we experienced a lot of new, crazy, wonderful and awesome things. For them the time to take the lift down to the foot of the Erasmus mountain came way too soon, and during the last part of my descent I was just a lonely musketeer. Fortunately, the bond between the musketeers cannot be broken easily: “One for all, and all for one!”

Climbing the Erasmus mountain makes you experience new things, like another university. The University of Granada (UGr) turned out to be totally different from my familiar University of Amsterdam. For example, the idea of an oral exam did not correspond to my ideas about that. It was my professor who was talking nonstop and the only thing I had to do was agree with the mistakes I made. It was a unique experience, passing an oral exam without really talking myself. Another striking difference was the apparent lack of paper at the UGr. Some professors had to dictate their questions during the exams. One of my exams started ten minutes early, as a result of which a wave of students coming in too late, forced the professor to dictate the questions over and over again. I am sure the vocal cords of the professor in question suffered a lot because of this. Therefore, my advice would be to include a course to learn how to tell the time in the “developing aid program” I hereby request for the University of Granada.

Climbing the Erasmus mountain is a temporary thing, which makes you accept challenges you would never accept at home. As a student you may be a bit lazy, there are more parties than you are used to, you cut your hair, you go hitchhiking or you spend a night on the beach, and those are just a few examples. It is a perfect moment to think about yourself and the things you want in life. Everything seems more intense. Pain goes deeper, but beauty is even more beautiful and my Dutch home felt like a completely different world. I learned that happiness and grief are very close related. Something sad can be the start of something beautiful. My Erasmus mountain was shocked by an earthquake, but that made the experience on the top even more intense.

Therefore the only advice I can give, is to grasp chances like this when they come by in life. Do not hesitate, do not think too much, just DO IT! It is unforgettable, useful, awesome, sometimes hard, but most of all fantastic. Five months pass in no time and you will come home with a lot of new experiences. In the end, the beautiful memories, the pictures and the new friendships will last. Ask those who experienced it themselves, they know I am right. “Quien lo probó lo sabe”[2]

Lotte Dieleman (University of Amsterdam)
February – June 2009 University of Granada


[1] Lope de Vega, Varios efectos del amor.
[2] Lope de Vega, Varios efectos del amor.

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