two months since leaving solid groundKategorien erasmus diaries
There should be a word for this familiar yet curious feeling of losing track of time. At one hand, it is forever ago that a certain thing has happened to you, on the other hand, it is still standing right next to you, having one hand on your shoulder to constantly remind you of what an impact it had and still has. While I again smell the chill, smoke-speckled air at the nightly bus station of my home town, whereas I can still recall every single of these very first seconds of my journey – mostly spent crying and staring out the window in search of stars I didn’t find- , while since this night there have been days as long as years because of everything that fit into them, time.has.flown. The night of smoke-speckled air and a sky without stars lays way behind me and slowly lets its hand glide from my shoulder. It’s been two months since I left my home to find a new one, in a place I have never seen before. Welcome to your very own adventure, the erasmus-life whispered, as I had finally turned my head from the bus window towards the darkness of the night.
back to the start
My very own adventure started in an… interesting way. After having carried my two suitcases to the agency of my flat through half of the city, I hated a) my obsession for too many, heavy books and b) every single decision that lead me to being here. Like why in the world? My life at home was perfect! Funny how being homesick contains having a whole new brain who refuses wholeheartedly to accept that actually, once upon a time, you actively decided to go abroad. I signed my contract, took a taxi to my new home, stepped into my room and started packing out my stuff, meanwhile my head took a deep breath and wouldn’t stop convincing me of the disastrousness of my whole decision to move to this city so grey and full of flour, and of the necessity to take the next bus towards home as the only thinkable solution to this misery. Imagine this – for five days nonstop. That is how the adventure began.
There was exactly one thing that kept me from following the wise (desperate) words of my inner voice: I know me. I know how longing for being home in the first days happens to me at almost every journey I step into, and how I just have to breath and wait until the unimaginable happens and I get better. When you go on a journey, the soul follows later, my aunt told me when I later talked with her about these first days. I couldn’t have put it any better, and eventually my soul did find me in Padua after a while, but unfortunately, that just meant that me and my soul found ourselves both having a hard time together. And it lasted like this. Until freaking five weeks have passed.
Writing this, I am already doubting myself. I don’t want to be so negative. How can I complain about something as precious as having the chance to live and study abroad, something that others will forever only dream of? How could I feel so lost and disconnected from my home while there are people in this world who need to leave behind their lives at home forever knowing it will be bombed in days or minutes while I consciously decided I would need a few months in Italy to improve my language and drink aperol spritz?
But if I look back now, the hardest part was not missing home and having covid, falling asleep in every single lecture because of general exhaustion (and lack of sleep, maybe), feeling alone in the middle of a crowded bar, cursing the public transport system of the city every single day, understanding around 1,2 percent of my italian lectures and experiencing a huge relapse of my mental health condition. The hardest part was being convinced I was doing everything wrong feeling like this, being the only erasmus student in the whole wide world who didn’t take off into a five months-long flight of happiness and excitement and intercultural exchange. You should have the greatest time in your life, the trees were shouting with a slight hint of taunt while I was sitting on a bench desperately trying to enjoy the sunset instead of feeling nothing. It was the echo of all the stories of people studying abroad I have listened to before, but it was also what I, all alone, had wished for so deeply back when I decided to leave my life in Germany behind. My way of thinking: I sacrifice and dare so much, it MUST be worth it. To sum the whole mess up: my expectations have been awfully high. In fact, people did tell me it wouldn’t always be easy – I just didn’t want to believe them. And so I had to learn that one important thing the hard way: don’t have any expectations – so you will only be surprised.
about the speed of growing flowers
Be prepared for some commonplace – calendar-instagram-quotes at this point. I also hate telling them, but, surprise, they’re still true. After two months I can officially say: in every crisis, there’s a change. (Add here: no rain no flowers, stars can’t shine without darkness, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and okayyy, I stop). And so, in the pace of the aforesaid flowers growing from seeds to blossoms, I started seeing the stars in the darkness, got stronger from what didn’t kill me and – all of a sudden – felt genuinely happy again. Yes, there were setbacks. Again and again and again. I’m not sure if this will ever stop. But then – it’s life. I moved to Italy, not to the moon or into a dream. Of course there are problems. Maybe some more than I would be facing if I had stayed home. But after these first five weeks, I arrived at a point where I could finally handle them again.
Moving abroad is like losing solid floor and jumping from cliff to cliff for a good amount of time before finally, slowly, finding a place where to sit down, and then, further in time, a home. And I did. Finding a home is meeting people for the first and the second time, and at the third time it seems like you’ve known each other for way longer. The most beautiful thing of Erasmus is that you can meet new people everyday, and while they’re so different and interesting, you’re still connected through the bond of experiencing the same emotional rollercoaster and the desire of making the most of the limited time you have. To my erasmus first day-friends: thank you so much for being here! Finding a home is also knowing what gives you strength and consequently following it, building yourself a routine that fulfills you. It is electing your favorite streets and riding your bike past an ancient-you wandering through an unknown world with googlemaps, having no idea where to go. Finding a home means coming back from a weekend-trip and having the strong desire to hug the whole city, because you’re so overwhelmed by the familiar warmth in your throat.
Padua was grey and full of flour. Until I understood it was actually stardust. That was the day I had found home again.
I could talk on and on about the good days I had since then. There have been plenty of them. In two months, I have seen not only Padua, but also Venice, Vicenza, Chioggia, Sottomarina, Verona, Sirmione, Lazise, Trieste, Ljubljana, Bergamo and Milano. I drank at least 20 aperol spritz, raised my level of understanding italian to at least 50 percent, made less and less mistakes speaking, started dreaming and thinking in italian and fell in love with the poetry of Rebora, Foscolo and Ungaretti forever and ever. It is true that since I left my home, I lost a part of myself. This has hurt so much. And I still wouldn’t say I completely found myself again. Maybe that is how it has to be. I still have a good three months of time to find it again.
To come to an end
This has been my very personal experience about erasmus so far. I am pretty sure there are people out there who struggle way less than I did in the beginning. That we are all so different is what makes us human the most, I guess. For instance, I have always been struggling with changes and my general mental health condition contributed a lot to how these first weeks went.
But still, to give this whole chaotic something a meaning – I hope this reaches someone out there, someone having seen and felt similar things. The more I opened up about my feelings, the more I learned I have been, by no means, the only one struggling. So please, whoever you are, never believe you are alone. You.are.not. Talking helps, so so much. I can’t even tell how grateful I am for my friends back home who never got tired of listening to me, comforting me, reassuring me I can do this. Some of them even made their way to visit me, and it have been, by far, the most precious weekend of this year. Thank you.
Other from that: you don’t need to anything else but to endure it. Please, please, please stick it out. For yourself. Things will eventually change. They always do. And this time, it’s in our favor. There’s no better feeling in the world then realizing how free you actually are, having moved to another place and managed to create yourself a happy life out there. And then, on the other hand, please be kind to yourself. You don’t have to feel home there. You don’t have to be happy. You don’t even have to stay there. If it is better for yourself, you have all the right in the world to go back home. If I could turn back to this bus station two months ago, this would be the only thing I would tell my younger self: you are allowed to listen to yourself. Always. And then I would pass the word to my erasmus-life, awaiting me, whispering: welcome to your very own adventure.