My name is Hina. I am an undergraduate student studying at Abdullah Gül University in Kayseri, Turkey and have recently come back from my Erasmus exchange study program in Athens, Greece. Indeed, as my University (AGU) and the Piraeus University of Applied Sciences are official partners, I had the opportunity to go study in Athens for a semester as part of the Erasmus Program. In this blog, I would like to share with you a few things about my experience.
People say “Erasmus is not one year in your life; it’s your life in one year”.
Before going for Erasmus, I thought that it was just a random saying and that it did not hold true, but after I went on exchange, everything changed. Erasmus is truly your life in one year. The things that you do as an Erasmus student, you can never get the chance to do in your entire lifetime.
My Erasmus experience in Greece has been wonderful and one of the best experiences of my life.
I stayed in Greece for about 4 months and in those 4 months, I have experienced so many new things, met various people from different countries and regions, overcome my fears and become a more confident and experienced person.
In Greece there is an Erasmus Student Network (ESN) of particularly any university in a big city. The ESN arranges a buddy for you, who helps you with all your paperwork and guides you around the city.
They also appointed a buddy for me. He helped me with everything I needed in order to enroll at my new university in Athens and whenever I had questions regarding academics or non-academics, he, without hesitation, answered all of them. He was more like a friend to me, helping me in every aspect of my Erasmus life.
Apart from appointing a buddy, the ESN arranges several events in order to get the best of our Erasmus life.
In the first week of my stay in Athens, they had arranged a few sightseeing events and “getting to know each other” events.
Then, there was a trip to Santorini (one of the most famous and beautiful islands of Greece). It was a wonderful trip. We met Erasmus people from different countries and regions, explored the beautiful island of Santorini and islands close to it and visited the volcano and the thermal baths. It was truly a wonderful experience.
Within two weeks after the trip to Santorini, the ESN had another trip to Aegina. It is an island that is located close to Athens. It was a day trip. We took a 2-hour ferry to the island and visited some archeological sites and museums. It was a day well spent, experiencing the beauty of the Greek islands.
My studies in Athens were not as challenging as my home University (AGU). Universities also tend to be more flexible with exchange students in order for them to have plenty of time to enjoy their life in a new country. Therefore, I had the chance to go to another 4-day ESN trip to Kastoria (a city in Northern Greece). On our way to Kastoria, we visited Meteora (a hilly area that contains several monasteries that are worth visiting), where I had the chance to visit the really beautiful St John monastery.
After staying at Meteora, we headed towards the very beautiful Kastoria. The city is very beautiful. It is surrounded by Limestone Mountains and is located on the western shore of Lake Oresteia. We can see the lake from almost everywhere in Kastoria. The view is really nice and relaxing. In Kastoria, we had the chance to visit the cave of the dragons and even went to a shelter for endangered species, such as wolves and bears. It was a remarkable experience.
Life in Athens is also incredible. The city is quite big, with a lot of historical sites and museums, the most famous one being the Acropolis hill and the museum. Almost all the sites and places in Athens are easily accessible via the bus, metro and tram systems.
Being a foreigner in Athens, one of the greatest advantages of living there is that you can easily go around the city via the public transport. If you get lost, you can simply ask the people there for directions, even if you don’t know their language, because most of the people in Athens have at least some basic understanding of English and so you can communicate with them quite easily.
Some of the places that I liked most in Athens, and often visited, were the city center (Syntagma Square) and Monastiraki Square (a place close to the city center that contains several nice cafes, bars and restaurants).
Apart from that, the Lycabettus hill and the acropolis were also nice places to visit, as we could see the entire view of the city from their top.
During my stay in Athens, I had the chance to learn Taekwondo (a kind of martial art). It was taught in a gym close to my apartment where I lived. They had other kinds of Martial arts like karate, Kung Fu and kickboxing, but I was more interested in Taekwondo. That was the first time that I practiced it and within 4 months, I achieved my first belt (yellow belt). It was a wonderful feeling. A feeling that cannot be described in words.
Close to Athens is an Adventure park. I even had the chance to visit it with the ESN. The visit to the park was a good way to overcome our fears of height, as we had to go from one tree to another with the help of some equipment. Before going there, I was afraid of heights, but visiting the park and doing things that I had never done before greatly reduced my fear of heights. It was a stunning experience.
With the ESN, I also came to know about the way the air traffic and control works. We visited the air traffic control tower at Athens International airport. Over there, we learned a few things about the air traffic control and went to the top of the tower, where everything was controlled and monitored. The experience was unique.
The four months that I stayed in Greece passed within the blink of an eye. I have had so many amazing experiences that cannot be fully described in words. Erasmus was ending and with only a few days left in Greece, my friend and I decided to visit Delphi (a famous historical place in Greece). We took the public bus to Delphi in the morning and came back in the evening. The stay at Delphi was wonderful. We got the chance to visit 2 archeological sites and a museum. They were really beautiful. It was a day well spent.
My last day in Athens and in Greece was a sad one, as Erasmus was almost over and it was time to say Goodbye to my friends. I was very sad and didn’t want to leave my friends or leave Greece, but then someone told me that it’s not a “Goodbye”; It’s a “see you soon”.
It was very hard to leave my friends, with whom I had spent the best 4 months of my life, but deep inside there was a feeling that I will see them again; someday, sometime, some place.
Erasmus has given me so many amazing and unforgettable memories. Now that I am back in Turkey, I really hope that I can go for an Erasmus exchange again, because Erasmus was the best thing that ever happened to me.
If you need more information about the Erasmus experience or the Abdullah Gül University, feel free to contact me here: firstname.lastname@example.org
Written By HINA NAJAM