An amazing summer with beautiful memories: my Erasmus story
May 25, 2023

An amazing summer with beautiful memories: my Erasmus story

As social beings, we have always been influenced by other people and experiences throughout our lives. These experiences can alter our perspectives and stimulate our personal development. Erasmus+ has taught me so much about myself and life. Having personally experienced Erasmus+, I can attest to its profound significance in both my personal and my professional life, including my future career. Through my Erasmus experience, I have developed, enhanced, and demonstrated abilities and skills that have benefited me in my academic and professional life.

I was 19, a third-year student who was especially interested in the Erasmus programme, when, while scrolling through Instagram one day, I happened upon a post promoting an Erasmus opportunity and decided to apply. This application sparked off my first Erasmus+ experience, a double-stage training course in Georgia about “Strengthening local capacities for community development” in which I took part alongside other young people from the Netherlands, Türkiye, Georgia, Armenia, Hungary, and Azerbaijan, my home country. 

The training helped me to improve my ability to conduct research and analyse data. I gained a deeper understanding of my community’s problems and of potential solutions, thanks to the programme’s focus on strengthening local capacities for community development. I had the opportunity to delve deeper into a variety of topics throughout the training, as we discussed them in pairs or groups. In the first part, we were asked to discuss the issues we consider critical in our country. In the second stage of the training course, we had to present the results of the survey and research we had conducted. Through this training programme, I gained a better understanding of how to write, report, and present data effectively, skills which have helped me to write academic papers in my academic life. At the same time, the experience of  working on team projects with a group of people improved my communication, problem-solving, and teamwork abilities. 

But apart from the advantages for my career and education, these training sessions were also instrumental in my personal development. I overcame my social anxiety, I became more communicative and at ease in sharing my personal experiences, I was more receptive to criticism. Most importantly, I was able to maintain a better relationship with people.

I returned to Baku after the first stage of the Erasmus+ training in Georgia, and a few days later in June, I received an email inviting me to an interview for a European Solidarity Corps project in Romania. I had been accepted as a volunteer at the “Youth Centres UP 2” project at the Timis County Youth Foundation in Timisoara, Romania for three weeks over August. This was a programme that brought foreign and national volunteers together for solidarity activities with the communities of Timisoara and Lugoj. As part of the project, we organised, promoted, and facilitated cultural, educational, and recreational activities and events for the people of Timisoara and Lugoj. This project also helped me to acquire important new life skills. For instance, we received a certain amount of money for two weeks, and it was up to us to decide how to spend that money during that period. The money was calculated to cover our basic expenses, so wasting money on unnecessary items was not an option. This process taught me a lot about money management and finances, and how to spend more efficiently. Living in the same building with hundreds of other people was not easy, since we shared a room, were on the same team and travelled together all the time. As we all lived in a common space, each of us had a limited amount of time to use facilities like the kitchen or washing machine. Therefore, we were all expected to respect one another’s boundaries. As someone who has never shared a room before, it was a fantastic opportunity to learn more about time management and empathy. It helped me to advance the way I communicated, and to be more understanding.

Nonetheless, we have to acknowledge that life is not entirely made up of enjoyable and memorable experiences. At first, leaving the country on my own and spending time in a foreign country without family and friends might seem exciting. However, the experience proved to be as challenging as it was rewarding. Yet even these difficult situations have helped to shape my personality. I remember having a common key with my roommates, and once we had a problem due to having different schedules. I had to wait outside waiting for my roommate to come back. It was an experience that forced us to have better communication about our schedules and to inform each other if anything unexpected happens. Even minor concerns like this require understanding, sensitivity, and patience. Using our common key required us to communicate with each other more and to build stronger friendships. Another example is related to health. Coming from a country with a different climate, I experienced problems such as fever, coughing, and headaches. I remember that I had to go to the pharmacy to get all my medications. As a result of this experience, I became more attentive to what I eat and drink, and I also became more responsible for my actions. For the first time in my life, I understood the importance of having a healthy body.

Erasmus+ is one of the most exciting experiences anyone can have as a teenager or a young person. If you have any doubts or hesitations about participating, just ask those who have done it before. Even though not everything works smoothly and flawlessly all the time, these experiences can teach you ten times more than you can ever imagine. Erasmus dramatically altered my perception of people and my outlook on life. Since Erasmus, I have grown more sympathetic, understanding, and gregarious. The experience has taught me everything from basic skills like cooking and cleaning to more advanced ones like conducting research for our community. All of these have given me a greater sense of self-confidence and determination, and I would not exchange them for anything else. The Erasmus+ programme provided me with the opportunity to step outside my comfort zone, and become more independent and self-confident as a person, while also teaching me the value of collaboration and co-dependence. I learned how to be more tolerant, sociable, understanding, and empathetic by travelling alone. I attempted to fit in with an international group of teenagers, sharing my culture, and discovering more about others. My favourite memories of my Erasmus experiences consist of cooking together in the same kitchen, playing games, dancing to each other’s national music, learning the basics of foreign languages, and having fun while doing all these things.

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