Last year couldn’t have been a wilder rollercoaster. I had to finish my semester quickly before traveling to a foreign country for Erasmus. Then a train and plane journey abroad, completely by myself, in the middle of a very severe winter. I couldn’t have arrived at a more representative time in Norway. Although it wasn’t my first time there, I felt like Norway was telling me “you know nothing, Jon Snow”. And just like that I was immediately slain by illness during my first week as an exchange student. Dealing with Norway physically was physically difficult but one can definitely overcome that fast. The thing that is harder to overcome is the mental barrier. Of course, if you happen to have one like I do.
You usually hear about the amazing stories on Erasmus: making friends, partying, travelling. What if you are not good at any of these things? What if you are introverted or mentally ill? I didn’t have any problems in Poland because of these things, therefore, it didn’t occur to me that it could ruin my experience in Norway. But well, yeah, it kind of did. And looking back at it I could have done better.
What were the things I could have done differently even though I’m not outgoing?
I did make friends. Great friends. I have to admit it was fairly easy, as Norwegians are good-natured and helpful people. They do cherish their privacy and personal space but they also understand the importance of integrity. So why do I think I could have done better? I made such a small number of friends and I met them so rarely, I feel guilty now. I was in a weak mental state and I felt isolation was a solution. Because I didn’t go out on my own and ion the rare occasions of classes with a small number of people (not many students choose to study humanities at MA level) I did not have the opportunity to meet people by chance. When I have no other choice than to spend time with people at university, it turns out I’m not so bad at finding topics to talk about with people and consequently becoming close. Norway lacked that aspect, so my natural way of making friends didn’t work. However, it was an excuse. There were Facebook events every week, I could have just gone to parties, game nights and meetings. But I didn’t.
Now I know what you’re thinking. Erasmus is all about travelling! Well, I was that naive girl who thought she was going to achieve her academic goals abroad. I devoted all my time to studying and writing my MA thesis. It don’t regret that decision. But I could have cut myself some slack. I was so uptight and focused on saving money, I didn’t allow myself to have fun. As the prices of everything are very high in Norway in comparison to extremely cheap Poland, I was scared to spend every Kroner. My ability to economise turned out to be so great that I didn’t spend much money during my stay at all. I am not saying I should have used it all on travelling. I am saying I could have travelled a bit more. I travelled 2 times, both in the same direction and I wish I had gone to places I haven’t been to before. If I wasn’t such a scaredy cat with Grinch syndrome.
I have mentioned that I thought I would be studying on Erasmus. And I did. A lot. I studied much to overcompensate the lack of other activities and mainly to get a hold of my mental state. I cannot say I regret the progress I made at that time. The learning experience was mind-opening and the progress I made in my MA thesis was significant. I could, however, have not stressed so much about my education. Nobody else did. That’s what Erasmus is all about. I don’t say you shouldn’t study at all. I say you should find a good balance. Only, of course, if you are the type to put you education on the highest level most of the time. If you’re the type to dismiss your academic duties than GO STUDY NOW! … I’m jk.