The semester is over and, if we were to describe it in one single word, it would certainly be Online. It was a challenge for each of us to adapt to the new circumstances: online courses, online exams, presentations and even graduations. Not everything was so bad, though. We were able to enjoy the comfort of our own home and forget about the effort to walk to college every day. But what happens when all the enthusiasm of an Erasmus experience is limited by the drastic measures taken by the authorities during the pandemic? The plans and expectations are turned upside down, and adaptation seems to remain the only solution. We had many questions about such a special (and undesirable) situation, and Alexandra, a Romanian Erasmus student who went to study in France, gave us all the answers. And it's interesting!
How did you expect the Erasmus experience to be and how did it actually turn out, describing each situation in three words?
Alexandra: Expectation: discover, study, travel. Reality: washed my hands. Ok, ok... it was actually eye-opening, humbling, better.
What was the most difficult aspect you had to overcome?
Alexandra: Honestly, my selfishness and the need to be selfless were at war. On the one hand, I was disappointed and upset that my long-awaited trips were cancelled, that my overall plans tooka 180 degree turn, and the Erasmus experience I had thought of was not going to happen. But I had to remind myself just how good I had it in this worldwide crisis: I had a shelter and everything I needed, kind people who made sure I was safe and doing well... what else could I have wished for in such a time?
What were the little things you could still enjoy during the isolation period in a foreign country?
Alexandra: Spending time alone has never been an issue for me, so I really enjoyed the hours spent reading, studying, playing my music, exercising (subtle term used for dancing- heheh!) Also, little picnics in the dorm’s yard with my friend. April’s flowers bloom. Spring sunshine. Staying in touch with dear ones. You know, the simple joys of life.
Were there any fun facts regarding an Erasmus expericence during the pandemic?
Alexandra: My life is rich in twists and turns, so I’ve taught myself to find the humor in each situation. I laughed at the thought that I had moved to a different country simply to pay rent for a small room where I was going to spend each day doing the same things I could have done at home... for free, while being better nourished! But I have to admit that it was quite exciting to me to think that I was stuck in another country. I like some risky adventure in my life! I also had to laugh when during an online lecture, where everyone’s cameras were turned off, my stupid computer decided to display my face FULL SCREEN, stealing the professor’s spotlight, and interrupting his stream of thougths as my camera kept switching on and off, on and off... He looked perplexed as to what in the world this stupid student was doing, while I was debating whether it was the laptop that I wanted to throw out the window or myself. I could go on, but the point is: there’s already enough trouble in the world; we might as well laugh when we have the chance to.
How was the overall university experience for you?
Alexandra: I loved it! It did seem overwhelming at first due to the large number of courses I had. But as the lockdown began, I found myself missing the early morning walks to the university as the sun was rising, rushing down the hall class after class, only to return home after the sun had set. Our schedule was PACKED and it didn’t help that the French are generally so punctual! If you are two mintues late for the class, you’d better be prepared for the walk of shame! But I really enjoyed the courses and there was so much to learn and apply, even outside the class!
How was the overall university experience for you? What were the most important things you have learnt during this semester?
Alexandra: Never underestimate things, places, and people. They may teach you more than you’d like to think. As introverted as some of us may be, human interaction and connection are essential to our well- being. With the right mindset, you can enjoy anything, anywhere. Look for the bare necessities!
What did you like most and what did you really miss in the last months?
Alexandra: I loved being exposed to the different languages at the beginning of the semester. I’ve grasped any opportunity to speak French, regardless of how funny I might have sounded. Even more, I had the chance to learn some Portuguese and Italian as they were taught in French. Connecting all these languages was indeed brain-stimulating and a real treat, since I am keen on Linguistics, so I surely missed being in those classes once university closed. Apart from that, probably like everyone else, I missed being able to freely roam the city’s streets and take in the beauty of the surroundings. But the memory of walking around the nearby French neighborhoods as nature was coming back to life will always be a self-reminder to enjoy the little things wherever I am.
What do you want to do first once you get back to Romania?
Alexandra: Eat a plăcintă or three, go on a hike, and once it is safe, give a tight hug to the lovely people that stayed so close to me in these times of distance.
Written by: Cristina-Elena Talpoș