15 days ago I was almost heartbroken. Mad that my Erasmus journey ended. Scared that the best days of my life are over. Insecure whether I’ll be strong enough to carry on with what’s in front of me. Almost speechless and too numb to write.

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Without any doubt, I can say that the previous 5 months have been the most precious, the most treasured and the most special time of my life - so far. There is nothing that I can compare to you with the Erasmus exchange. I traveled enough to say that I have seen some world, I volunteered abroad for a short amount of time and I have studied in a city where initially, I didn’t know anyone. Those experiences had many hardships and amazing moments, but it doesn’t come even close to this.

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When you go on your Erasmus, you are leaving behind you everything you know and love. No matter the thrill and excitement, it is damn hard. Of course, I am mostly talking about those who go on exchange alone, without any friend or colleague and not to a neighboring country. Because that’s how Erasmus should be, trust me. Almost 6 months later and my belief didn’t change - you will only experience the real and unique Erasmus exchange if you completely bare yourself by jumping into the unknown without any familiar soul and into a country you can’t come back home for Christmas or Eastern. That’s how you challenge yourself, that’s how you break the safety zone and grow, grow into an independent, strong and self-confident adult. I don’t want to minimize the experience of those who did the opposite, but even they will admit that they were still lingering in the familiar and safe.

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This is one of the threads that make the exchange stand out. Nevertheless, you are still protected on your exchange even if in the beginning it doesn’t look that way. You get a scholarship or your parents help you, you probably get to live in a dormitory or a home with other students. You are surrounded by people who were selected just like you which means that no matter how different, there is something similar between you that you don’t share with the people at home. These people are also alone, brave enough to go abroad, curious about other cultures and free spirits. You also have a coordinator and if you are lucky, a buddy network. You are protected by both your home and receiving university, the insurance company, the locals and other Erasmus students. But you still get to be free, to do what you want, to spend the money how you want, to be reckless or serious, whatever your soul is aching for.

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Sooner or later, you will form bonds and friendships, even if it happens in the very ending. You will get emotionally attached to your new city, to the customs of your new country and the energy of her people. You will get used to different products, language, phrases, face physiognomy, smells, streets, architecture, and vibes. Whether by choice or need, it will become a part of you and at one point you will start to feel that you are one of them.

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There will be a lot of parties, many of them dedicated to you, your group of people - Erasmus students. It might be cheesy, but on a basic level of the human need to belong, you will feel special. You will travel at least once, but on Erasmus, the travels are pretty frequent which sometimes makes you feel like you are on a semester-long vacation that you are also getting paid for. New skills and behavior patterns are inevitable, so here you will build a new version of you while the people you left in your country, will mostly stay the same.

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Once that this kind of experience ends, you feel ripped out of your reality. You knew how long it lasts, you know that nothing ever lasts forever, but still, it’s like someone is violently taking your life from you. Then the goodbyes come and the lump in your throat becomes a constant you can’t get rid off. You need to leave your friends, your home, ‘’your’’ country and the way of life. Back at home, you get to experience a new cultural shock. Then you start to think and worry - what happens with my life now, where do I go after the best time of my life?

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Relax, you are supposed to feel that way, this is a part of your life now. It was intense, deep and life-changing, but this is just the adventure number one. Hey, this opens so many doors for you - you are more informed, more prepared, more brave, more grown-up now. Your CV is richer and you have proof that you can survive abroad without anyone. Your network is bigger and your mind is wider, so the number of pathways you can choose is now much better than if you didn’t go on the exchange. Even the discovery of your next adventure is an adventure, and it might be a struggle, but it’s just a transitional phase. I have already started my next adventure and it was very hard even before it started, but I am not backing off. I also know that this not that next adventure that will make me feel happy as Erasmus did, but it’s a stop on a way to the next great adventure.

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Post-Erasmus state (unfortunately, probably better known as depression) is real, but it’s an inevitable part of that experience. When something amazing end, you are bound to cry and to feel lost. But you are also bound to stay strong and to chase the new thrills and adventures that will change your life. Use the skills, friendships, and experience you earned to discover your next path. Follow your gut and go where you feel you belong. These experiences remind us that life has so much to give us and that we just need to get into that market of life experiences and chose the next one.

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