To my old self before leaving for Erasmus: there’s a million things I’d like to say but let’s just start with me telling you this was the best decision of your life!
My dear pre-Erasmus self,
This comes to you just before you depart for your semester abroad. It’s the day you boarded the plane and started the greatest journey of your life. You’re wearing a yellow coat and you’re trying to take the perfect “Insta story” photo of your passport while waiting in the airport of the city you know too well by now, the city you’re desperate to escape from.
It’s February, and there’s not a glimpse of worry in your eyes as you count the hours until you land in a place which seems so unknown, yet so welcoming. Very soon you will look around the city from the back seat of the taxi and you will take photos of the frozen river - you’ve never seen anything like that before! You will move your stuff into your new room, and you will not miss home at all. You won’t be afraid. I’m so proud of you for not being afraid. You know nothing about the city, you know only two words in the language, and you have no friends there - yet - but you won’t be scared of anything.
The view from your window on the 19th floor will be amazing, and as the hours pass by, the street lights will bring out the magic you felt in your heart the second you stepped foot here. You will fall asleep peacefully, and the next day, you’ll take the tram downtown. You will feel your steady heartbeat and the cold breeze on your face while walking through the main gate of the University.
During your first few days, you will join some other Erasmus students for lunch. Please, pay attention to this: that’s when you will meet one of your closest friends. He will be the one to ask you if there’s something wrong when you’re trying to conceal it from everyone around you, the one to share your passion for the English language, the one who will send you funny memes about grammar and excitedly share a new word he learned. One evening, he will meet you at a coffee house and you will open your heart to him and he will listen, even though he has no reason to care. His heart is golden so please, please, show him how much you appreciate him every chance you get.
And by the way, make sure to notice the French girl and her bubbly personality. You will want to be more like her later on in life. She likes to dance like nobody's watching and she always radiates positivity. You will end up sharing moments, thoughts and feelings with her, and her brutal honesty will make her an incredibly valuable friend.
When you first enter your flat in the dorm, you will meet the redhead girl who stays in the room next to yours. She’s the most hardworking person you will ever meet and you’ll spend evenings drinking tea with her, chatting about life, before she runs out the door to her busy lifestyle. She will seem so confident but make sure to show her some extra love on the days she’s down. She will become your sister, your friend, your sarcastic companion. One day, she will bring you a cake from the bakery she works at during the weekends, out of sheer desire to do something nice. So, I’d like you to know, she’s very special. I didn’t think of it then, but you should bring her a small gift from each of the places you travel to. It will mean a lot to her.
It’s the Welcome Week, and you join an event alone. While waiting for people to gather, you will start a conversation with a young man who has the sweetest smile. In the months to come, he will become your best friend. It’s never been so easy to talk to someone, so please try to spend time with him as soon as possible! You see, once you’re gone, it will never be the same. While you still can, memorise the way he moves his hands while he talks, the sound of his laugh, the tightness of his hugs and the comforting scent of somebody you can lean on. One day, you’ll spend hours watching a TV-show and by late afternoon, you’ll feel bad for wasting the day. You’ll text your best friend and ask him to go out to dinner with you. You will go for pizza, talk for hours and then he will take you to the best cocktail bar in town. You will order crazy cocktails and talk some more and before you know it, it will be well after midnight. You will catch the night bus together and this night, which started out as a lazy day, will become one of your fondest memories. I know you can’t plan these things, but please try to do that more, because not a day goes by now, that you don’t cherish that moment.
It’s April, and you still have quite some time until you leave but you’ve already started having nightmares about coming back home and they happen more often as time goes by. You’ll wake up scared and you’ll look around to make sure you’re still here - and it’s okay. Sometimes, when it’s cloudy and foggy, you won’t be able to see anything from your window and it’ll feel like you’re floating on a cloud. You will find that feeling very comforting.
It’s May, and this month you’ll travel a lot! Don’t worry about money that much, you’ll get by just fine. Just go to that place, visit that museum, take the fast train to wherever your finger lands on after spinning a globe. If you don’t do this now, when do you think you will?
Take my advice and study more of the local language. You’ll be so proud to speak a bit of it by the end of your Erasmus! Buy more of the chocolate you like because you won’t find it back home. Buy souvenirs from your Erasmus city. You’ll be grateful for that one day.
It’s June, and in less than a month it will all belong to the past but calm down and make some extra effort to be around your favourite people. Your departure is getting closer and you will feel your sadness increasing every time you cross out another day on the calendar. It’s your last week, so go to all the parties, hug your friends as tight as you can, write down their addresses to send them letters, take more photos, play more music, ride your bike along the river one more time, go and chill on the Student Island and watch the stars all night long.
Looking back now, I wish you could understand then how important these months were and will always be for you. You achieved something incredible and I’m here to tell you something you will soon realise for yourself: this was the happiest period of your life. It will feel like a dream for a while, but when it does, look at all the photos and the videos you took. They are proof it was real. Hold on to these memories. There will always be ways you could’ve done it differently - maybe better. But you will have this Erasmus experience which cannot be put into words. It will change you forever, it will bring tears to your eyes every time you think about it. Your Erasmus was amazing and I wish there was a way for you to understand how lucky you are to be there, while you still are in that place. I wish I could grab your shoulders and shake you and tell you to seize every moment, even though I know you will try your best to do that. So, while taking your first steps in your new city, do me a favour and memorise everything you possibly can. From the sound of the elevator when it reaches your floor to the exact time of your first and last sunrise in the city. Once you’re gone, you’ll be thankful for every detail.
So, my dear pre-Erasmus self… are you ready?
your post-Erasmus self