Long Distance Relationships

My experience, thoughts and advice

I remember googling »long distance relationship« when I first got into it. We all search for answers on the internet in this century, so I’m writing this hoping someone might benefit from it. It feels weird to write about it because it’s not some city about which I can make a list of pros and cons, neither can I tell you how much maple syrup to add to make it sweet. It’s something very personal, and yet it’s something that I feel like sharing. So, with the boyfriend’s permission, here’s my honest experience in a long distance relationship.

Parque del Retiro, Madrid.

How did we meet

There’s a big chance that you already know that because you’re my friend or you’ve read my previous posts here and on Instagram. In case you’re not and you didn’t, I’ll very happily tell this story again, as it’s my favourite. We met on our Erasmus exchange in London, in a shitty neighbourhood called Cricklewood, in dodgy old student halls. At the beginning, we were just friends as we both belonged to a group of exchange and international students from all over the place. We got along, but nothing much more than that. I thought he was cute, but at that time everyone was flirting with everyone, and we both had other interests, let’s say. Until something clicked, as it always does, and we became something more than just friends.

The group of exchange and international students from all over the place (well, a part of it).

How did we agree on staying together

We only defined ourselves as together days after we had left London. In London we behaved like a couple, but we never said we were one. That goodbye was the hardest in my whole life. What scared me the most was that I didn’t know what we would be when we’d see each other again. We agreed on me visiting him in the end of summer, and him visiting me in the end of October, but it wasn’t enough for me. I didn’t understand whether that meant that we’d be with other people or not, whether we’d keep in touch, whether he’d forget about me in a couple of months. Luckily, we both wanted the same thing. It only took some texting to confirm that we were together and trying this whole long distance thing.

The reactions

The reactions, at least on my side, were pretty bad, to be honest. I could count the friends and family that were optimistic about us on the fingers of one hand, and I don’t know if I’d get to five. Some were somewhat optimistic, but in the sense that it was a good experience and »worth trying«. What they really meant was that it was a nice temporary thing, and I’d get over it eventually because it was impossible and wouldn’t last. My mum was sceptical, my close friends were sceptical, not to mention my grandmother, of course. I wasn’t, though, at least not much. And here we are a year and a half later.

How do we do it?

Well, we spend a lot of money on plane tickets, a lot of time texting and many hours talking via Skype. We try to visit each other at least every month and a half to two months. The longest time we spent without seeing each other was three months (right after London), and the shortest was about 3 weeks. To be honest, time passes quickly, especially if you’re busy. And you get used to it.

I think communication is key: we’re in touch through WhatsApp throughout the day, and we skype about two times per week. We don’t do many phone calls, but I guess that’s because we belong to the generation that stopped using phones for that. We tell each other about what we’re doing, about the problems we have and the good things that happen to us. I guess we do what normal couples do, just that most of the time we can’t tell it in person.

Why is it somewhat easier for us

I’m not saying it couldn’t be easier; he could’ve been from Venice or something, and then we’d see each other every couple of weeks. Valencia is further away; it’s too far to travel to by car, train or bus. And yet, it’s not that far. The flight only takes two hours, and I don’t live too far from Trieste’s airport, neither does he from the one in Valencia. The tickets aren’t that expensive if you buy them in advance, and you aren’t picky about dates. Sometimes Ryanair cancels a flight and you can stay longer, haha. Plus, we’re in the same time zone which makes things a lot easier as well.

Would I recommend it?

When we had just got together, I talked about it with a guy who used to be in a long distance relationship (at the time he was still in the relationship, it just wasn’t long distance anymore). He said that he wouldn’t recommend it to anyone. That you’re simply not there when something’s wrong. I have to agree with that. No hug for you when you need it. He also told me that I should be prepared to move, and I can’t say this isn’t true either. It’s in the back (and often in the front) of my mind every minute of every day.

I would only recommend getting into a long distance relationship if you really love the other person. If you’re in love with them, you think they’re the one for you, you think it’ll never be as good with anyone else. I felt all that, and that’s why it made sense for me. But I knew the guy, we lived in the same flat for nine months. I doubt that you can feel that for someone you’ve known for three days, but who am I to be the judge of that. Not living ten time zones apart also increases your chances and makes it more worth trying in my opinion.

My advice

If you feel all the right feelings (and the other person does as well, that’s obviously crucial), and you get into a long distance relationship … You need to trust them. You need to believe that they’ll wait for you, and you can’t panic every time they go to a party. Trust is fundamental in every relationship, but it’s absolutely necessary in a long distance one.

The second important thing is to plan ahead and make sure you’ll have enough time and money to visit your boyfriend/girlfriend. It’s fair that you visit each other more or less equally, even though that’s not always possible. That’s okay too, you just both need to agree on it.

The third key point is, as already mentioned, communication. You won’t see each other after work/uni or in the evening, so you’ve got to text, call, skype, ask and answer. You need to plan cool things, like watching a film together while skyping, send songs to each other, record audio messages and write nice texts.

In front of a garage, apparently, Valencia.

Final thoughts

I’m usually pretty down after we’ve spent time together, and then one of us must go back home. It’s not that difficult to adjust later, but the actual goodbye is dreadful. That said, I’m absolutely thrilled when I’m about to visit him or he’s about to visit me, so that makes up for it.

The thing is that a long distance relationship is not only a romantic story of lovely messages, getting to know another culture (at least in my case) and seeing new places. It is all that, but it’s also a lot of waiting and missing, some severe phone addiction, lots of staring at each other through a screen, many hours at airports and a lot of tears. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret anything about my relationship, and I’d do it all over again any time. But it’s not because of the long distance relationship itself. It’s because of the guy with whom I’m in it.

In somewhat kind circumstances (as in not living on different sides of the planet) long distance relationships are possible. And they can be pretty damn great. If they don’t work, they probably don’t because the people who are in them aren’t fit to be together, not because of the distance itself. The distance is manageable, and it’s temporary. Getting yourselves to the same location, you leaving your home and family or he/she leaving theirs, is a whole different story, worth another blog post. I’m into travel and living abroad, and I’d obviously like to eventually live in the same place as my boyfriend, but the future and leaving home scares me shitless. I suppose that’s normal, and I still have time to deal with it. We’ll deal with it together. 😊

Home?

The places that influenced me the most: Koper, Ljubljana, London, Valencia

I’ve been thinking about this scary thing called future quite a lot lately. I know why that is. It’s because I’m finally finishing my studies. This is my last year as I’ve got four subjects and the thesis left. Once that’ll be done, I’ll have to put my life together, as they say. The location is just one of the things that come with adulting, but it’s the one I want to focus on today. So, here are some thoughts about the four cities/towns that influenced me the most.

Koper, my home

Before I went on exchange, home was a simple and clear notion for me. It was the small coastal town I was born in, Koper. It lies on the coast of Slovenia, near the border with Italy, as well as the one with Croatia. I spent the first nineteen years of my life living here. It’s where I went to primary school, to high school, where I made friends, where I had my first kiss and my first party. I’ve always loved it: the weather that is better than anywhere else in the country, the proximity of the sea, its smallness and simplicity. Most of all, I probably loved the fact that basically anyone I had ever cared for lived here.

Koper is very small and there isn’t much going on, especially during the winter. A consequence of its size is also the amount and diversity of options when it comes to studies and work. I wonder how I’d feel about it had I stayed here to study, without trying to live on my own and without experiencing a city with an actual student life. Would I have been bored? Probably.

A typical evening in Koper.

Ljubljana, my second home

When I had to go to university, there wasn’t much choice in my small town. So, I went to the capital, like almost everyone did. I have friends who come from the same town as me, and who grew to love Ljubljana, who will probably move there permanently at some point. Personally, I never liked it there. I think the old centre is very pretty, and it’s a fact that there’s much more going on in the capital than in Koper. But that’s just not enough for me. I hate the weather, which is colder and rainier than in my hometown, even though they are only 100 kilometres apart. Waking up to the fog isn’t out of the ordinary either. You often don’t know what the weather’s really like until midday.

I could go on with listing the things that made me a Ljubljana-hater: the accent of its residents, how everyone’s rushing all the time, the public transport that never works like it should, the traffic jams. But I also have to acknowledge the fact that I’m stressed whenever I’m there, as it’s always all about uni and uni-related work. It’s not like I’m suffering, though. I’m not. I have many friends there, and especially during bachelor’s we used to go out often. The various events made my student years interesting, which they probably wouldn’t have been had I stayed in Koper. They just weren’t enough to make me want to live there.

Ljubljana’s Congress Square and castle.

London, my Erasmus home

Perhaps I’ll sound like a paradox now. I, on the contrary, absolutely loved living in a city that is also famous for rushing, traffic jams, rain, cold and fog. But it’s London; its level of coolness makes up for all of that, including the fact that it’s not a coastal city. London’s night life, the number of concerts, festivals, various other events, restaurants, bars and shops can’t compete with anything you can get in Slovenia. We’re just too small. I love its internationality, its architecture, the fact that it’s a city that never sleeps, the New York of Europe. I’ll stop here because I’ve expressed my love for this city enough in the previous posts.

The coolness of London also has its negatives sides, though. Its size makes it hard to meet anyone. As good as the transport system is, going somewhere can take ages. Then there are the crazy prices of accommodation, transport and everything in general, and the lack of any real nature. Luckily, London’s parks are amazing, and they make for a great escape. They’re huge, and you can really pretend that you’re not in a city anymore. When I lived there, I felt great whenever we took a trip, though. When we went to Dover, and I saw the sea after months, I felt relief, somehow.

The walk from Camden to Regent’s Park.

Valencia

Just when I was enjoying my life in London to the point of becoming confused about where I’d like to live, the only thing that could have made me more of a mess happened: I fell in love with a Spanish guy. And that’s how Valencia came into my life. I’ve travelled there many times and spent last summer working and living there. Valencia has its disadvantages, of course. It’s too hot in the summer months, huge cockroaches taking walks on its streets (or in your kitchen) is a regular thing, and life’s a bit slower than in most of Europe, probably. The jobs situation isn’t ideal either.

Otherwise, Valencia is pretty much perfect. It’s next to the sea, but it’s a proper city with many interesting things going on. It’s still small enough to be manageable, and you don’t have to waste your life in a metro or in a bus. The weather’s perfect if you can handle the heath in the summer and the absence of snow in the winter. Spanish people are lovely: open, friendly, direct and funny.

Playa de la Malvarrosa, my happy place.

And now what?

I’ve always been into travelling, but London was the first city that made me think that I’d perhaps like to live somewhere else than in my hometown. That it’s possible to have different homes in one life. Valencia did just the same.

I guess the normal thing for a person like me, who’s from a coastal town and dislikes the capital, would be to try to find work in the hometown first. And if that didn’t work, to suck it up, move to the capital and find work there. To continue the student life and come home every weekend. Or perhaps drive there and back every day and be tired all the time. It would make sense because it would allow me to spend more time with my family and friends.

But as much as I love them, I wouldn’t stay, at least not right now. Koper’s too small, I’ve explained Ljubljana, and I’d never consider living anywhere else in Slovenia. Of course, a big reason is the boyfriend abroad, and the fact that long distance relationships aren’t meant to be long distance forever. But it’s also the fact that there’s too much left to see and experience out there, and not just by travelling. I want to spend a couple of months living in Italy, some time in Russia, and a part of me wants to return to London, or at least to somewhere in England. And then there’s Valencia where I definitely want to return.

Worries

If living abroad has taught me anything, it taught me that it’s possible to find home somewhere else. That I enjoy it, that it’s possible to make friends anywhere, as it is to survive without being physically close to my loved ones. As long as there’s Wi-Fi at least. The very real possibility of moving away makes me feel guilty and worried whenever I think about it. How do I leave everything behind, even when I know I want to go? I keep telling myself that I wouldn’t go that far, that Europe is small, that nowadays it’s easy to stay in touch and to visit. That they’ll survive without me being there all the time and I’ll survive without them. That I’ll do my best to come back often and that Koper will always be my home.

Writing this didn’t make me figure out where I want to spend my life, or what the “right” decision would be. I still don’t know which city I’ll call home in the future. It did help me understand that it doesn’t matter, though, that I don’t need to have that figured out just yet. As for you, if you actually managed to get through this post which probably turned into a rather confused diary entry at some point, I hope it was somehow useful to you. 😊

The Best of London

My relationship with London

How it started

I don’t know where my obsession with London came from, but I suppose it had something to do with Harry Potter, Love Actually and the British accent. I just know I liked it more each time I travelled there. At some point I decided that I’d like to spend some time living there in the future, and I had this thought in my mind until the day I applied for Erasmus. The strange thing is, though, that I’m generally someone who likes summer. Thames is quite a lousy substitute for sea, and while it doesn’t usually rain heavily in London, the weather changes quickly, and it’s often cloudy and wet. Also, London is enormous and crowded. It can take ages to get somewhere and walking around the centre at weekends can be a nightmare. Not to mention the fact that it’s ridiculously expensive.

Views from Parliament Hill, Hampstead Heath

And yet…

none of these things made me dislike it. I spent nine months there having a laugh and enjoying every minute of it. I loved every part of the city; even the dodgy Cricklewood where I lived sort of grew on me. Of course, there were times when the slow traffic made me nervous, when the amount of people in Primark made me leave everything and walk out, or when I was shocked by the price of a glass of mediocre wine in some random club (8 pounds). But all that was nothing compared to the times when I walked London’s streets, lied in a park on a sunny day, or visited one of the markets. I was happy to be there all the time: I liked travelling by tube, going to Co-op and sometimes I even liked the rain. Moving there all alone didn’t scare me, and I was next to depressed when I had to go home. But there’s a good reason for all that: I was an exchange student.

Erasmus

Erasmus life is like living in a bubble; it, sadly, isn’t real. Everything’s temporary, and you’re aware of that. Consequently, you try to make the most out of it while you can. I had few classes and didn’t have to work, which meant that I didn’t have to commute to another part of the city every morning. Loneliness wasn’t something I struggled with either, as common as it might be for a foreigner in a big city. I had my Erasmus flatmates, and I basically forgot what it was like to be alone. I don’t think I watched two films by myself in the entire year. And then I had the scholarship. I paid my rent in advance, and whenever I was running out of money, my mum and my grandma would help me. I was free as a bird, and I didn’t have any real worries.

London itself

The cons of living in London therefore didn’t affect me as much. I enjoyed the good stuff, and I’ll focus on these here. I’ll leave out the main tourist sites because I’m sure you already know everything there is to know about Buckingham Palace and Madame Tussauds.

The best things about London are the mixture between old and new architecture, the many enormous parks, the amazing markets, and the fact that there’s always something going on. There are so many events, concerts, clubs, pubs and restaurants that it’s hard to run out of things to do or places to go to.

Views from the top floor in Tate Modern
Views from the top floor in Tate Modern

Parks

It’s no secret that London is full of amazing parks. It’s not all about Hyde Park and Regent’s Park, though. There are many other ones! I had Clitterhouse Playing Fields and Gladstone Park near to my residence, and I often ran there. The first one is basically just lots of grass and some benches, while the second one is more park-like. Neither of them is very special, though, while the ones listed below absolutely are:

Hampstead Heath

There’s a hill, a forest, small lakes (in which people actually swim during summer; I guess they’re just that desperate), an amazing old palace called Inverforth House (you can walk through a part of its garden), rich people’s houses and Parliament hill (a very cool viewpoint).

Golders Hill Park

Basically, a zoo. You can see various kinds of birds and other animals, including squirrels, like in every London’s park.

Richmond Park

Enormous: be prepared to walk a lot or rent a bike. You can see deer, though!.

Holland Park

A big pretty park that includes a Japanese garden. Pretty special.

Battersea Park

Next to Thames, has an adventure park, and is right next to Battersea Power Station, which was on the cover of Animals by Pink Floyd.

The usual ones which are definitely worth a visit too: Hyde Park, Kensington Gardens, Regent’s Park (from here you can walk to Primrose Hill, another amazing viewpoint), St. James’s Park, Victoria Park, Green Park, Greenwich Park, etc.

Richmond Park

Cemeteries

It might sound bizarre, but I really like cemeteries. I prefer older ones with interesting tombstones. I think it also has something to do with the fact that cemeteries in England differ a lot from the ones in Slovenia. For one thing, there are a lot less candles and flowers, and I find that reasonable. There are lots of them in London, and I have only visited two:

Hampstead Cemetery

Near Cricklewood. There’s a path that goes through it with a fence on both sides. People run, walk and cycle there. It’s beautiful, the tombstones are surrounded by trees, and it has a creepy gothic vibe to it, especially if you walk through it when it’s getting dark. It’s free of charge.

Highgate Cemetery

It’s divided into the West and the East Cemetery. I only visited the Eastern part. For the Western part you must book a guided tour (around 12 pounds). I only had to pay 4 pounds for the East Cemetery, which is where Karl Marx is buried. Douglas Adams is also among the people buried in the East Cemetery. The West Cemetery is supposed to have amazing architecture, and George Michael is buried there, but his grave isn’t visited during the tour.

Otherwise, London has the “Magnificent Seven”: seven big private cemeteries, all established in the 19th century because there wasn’t enough space in the existing ones. Highgate is one of them, alongside Kensal Green, Abney Park and Brompton, which are also supposed to be worth visiting.

Hampstead Cemetery
Hampstead Cemetery (a very bad picture, but a good representation of its creepiness and of English weather)

Markets

Markets are among the things that make London such an amazing city to live in. They are just screaming London as they are crowded, you can buy/eat things from all over the world, they are loud and there’s music everywhere. Keep in mind to check the opening times online before visiting them: some are closed on Sundays (Borough Market) while some er only fully open on Sundays (Brick Lane). I’ve been to the following five markets several times and I really can’t decide which one I like best: Borough Market, Camden Market, Brick Lane, Portobello Road Market and Covent Garden. There are also other famous markets in London but I either haven’t been to them or have only been once and don’t really remember them, so I won’t write about them (Old Spitalfields Market, Greenwich Market, Broadway Market etc.).

Borough Market

My first memory of London. It’s near London Bridge, it’s full of amazing food (they sell fresh ingredients and ready meals, but nothing except food and drinks) and you can eat sitting by the Thames because it’s so close. It’s a nice stop when taking a walk from Tower Bridge towards Tate Modern or vice versa. As already mentioned, make sure not to go there on a Sunday and try to go between Wednesday and Saturday because not all traders are there on the first two days of the week (you won’t be hungry though). My all-time favourite dish is a mix of veggies from the Ethiopian stall.

Camden Town 

Another old memory and simply a classic: full of tourists, music, graffiti, crazy shops and various food stalls with all the possible junk food you can imagine (you can find healthy stuff too though). Camden Market is open every day from ten to six. ​You can buy everything, from T-shirts, to hand-made jewellery and paintings.

Brick Lane 

Probably one of the best markets I’ve ever been to. There are always amazing street performers, there are various food halls and they sell a lot of art work. Perhaps because of the bagel shop, but I swear I sometimes felt as if I was in New York when walking through it. Brick Lane is officially only open on Sundays from 5 to 10. There are things you can do in the lane also on other days and there are some stalls, but I would definitely recommend going on a Sunday at about twelve or so (if you don’t mind the crowd).

Portobello Road Market

Located in Nothing Hill, where the film with the same name was filmed, and where you can see cute colourful houses and majestic white ones too. It’s where I ate the best falafel in my life (I can’t remember which stall it was, but I’m sure I’d find it again). Portobello is open every day except Sunday, the hours differ slightly, and the best day is Saturday.

Covent Garden

A covered market that’s slightly posh. It’s adorable during the holidays and great to wander around when the weather sucks. Otherwise, I don’t think I ever bought anything there or ate in any of the restaurants (I’m not rich enough). Covent Garden is open every day.

Brick Lane and chocolate (the shop is called Dark Sugars)

Free stuff to do

Parks

Needless to say, but anyway: all parks are free as far as I know. Sometimes there are also special events with not entry fee. Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park, for example,  takes place around Christmas. It’s free to enter, but you’re naturally going to have to pay for taking any rides, or if you’re going to buy some junk food from the stalls. It’s worth just seeing it as it’s enormous and colourful. There are also various other events in parks, like concerts, and one thing you can always do on a sunny day is having a picnic.

Markets

You’ll probably be tempted and buy something, but there’s no enter fee, and markets are fun to just look at, as there’s so much art and so many street performers. Plus, the food is cheaper than in most restaurants.

Wandering around

If you like walking, you’ll enjoy losing yourself around London, finding a way from wherever you’re staying to the centre. For me the most interesting parts are Soho, Brixton and Camden Town (these also have many pubs and clubs and a very lively nightlife).

Sky Garden

If you book online in advance (you can do it three weeks before), it’s completely free and the views are amazing. If you’re too late to book it, you can still reserve a table and have a (costly) meal.

Museums

Most of the museums in London are free (minus the special exhibitions they are holding at the moment). Among those are: Natural History, British Museum, National Gallery, Science Museum, Victoria and Albert Museum, etc. I would really recommend Tate Modern if you’re into art. I didn’t understand anything when I first visited it, but the thing with contemporary art is that you got to read the description. When I went there the second time, I found it a lot more interesting. The best thing for me is still  the top floor and the amazing views of the city.

London's Victoria Park in the spring.
Victoria Park

London is an amazing place to visit as a tourist. It’s also a great destination for an exchange or for studying. It’s the best place for outgoing people because it really offers a lot of basically everything. More than a year has passed since I left it behind, and I miss it daily. Luckily, I’m going there for a few days in November to catch up with some friends, and I’m really looking forward to visiting the same old spots. London just never gets old, I guess.

My Erasmus Exchange and Internship

Exchange in London

I’m writing this during my second Erasmus experience: an internship in Valencia this time. The fact that I’m here is a direct consequence of the year I spent in London. I came to Spain for a guy I met on my previous exchange in England. I met a whole bunch of cool people from various parts of the world in London.

How it started

I always knew I would take part in an exchange at some point. I just didn’t know when exactly that would happen. There was always something making me stay: a boyfriend, my family and friends, the comfort and simplicity of living at home. And then, on a random December day in 2016, I had lunch with a friend who had recently returned from an exchange in China. She got me so excited that I decided to apply, even though the deadline was in two days. I thought: if she could do China, I sure as hell can do London. I spent a day preparing the documentation and writing motivation letters, and then I applied. And that changed a lot of things.

Erasmus, Tower Bridge at night

How it was

I went on exchange because I had this vision of myself becoming a proper Londoner, getting some British accent, travelling the whole UK. None of that happened, though. In the whole nine months I spent there, I haven’t made a single British friend, I haven’t acquired a trace of British accent, and the only proper UK trip I did was to Edinburgh. And despite all that, I had the best Erasmus experience I could ever wish for.

I met people from different countries with whom we partied a lot, and more importantly, became great friends. I’d still say that my exchange was a classic, nothing I haven’t heard of before. I believe most people have an amazing time studying abroad and experience similar things as I did. Except for falling in love, maybe, but that’s not out of the ordinary either: roughly one million Erasmus babies were born since 1987, they say.

How it changed me

The point is that it was a great year: the most special, different and interesting so far. It also changed me in many ways. Before I left, home was an easy notion to understand and describe, but it isn’t so anymore. When I’m in Slovenia, I always feel like it’s temporary, like it’s just a period I’m spending there before I pack my bags and disappear for a few months again. And truth be told, it doesn’t just feel like that, it is like that. The past academic year felt like trying to get the uni stuff over with just so that I can spend the summer working in Spain.

The new friends

The best part of my first Erasmus were the people. I love London, but to be honest, we would’ve had fun anywhere. I’m still in touch with the friends I made there, and we’re trying to get ourselves in the same country at the same time every now and then, even though that’s easier said than done. It’s hard enough to organise trips with friends from my hometown; imagine doing it with people from Spain, Italy, Poland, Finland, Greece, China and so on. But hey, from time to time we succeed.

Internship in Valencia

You can do 12 months of Erasmus during your bachelor’s and 12 during your master’s. I haven’t used any of the months during my bachelor’s but decided to use them all during my master’s. After 9 months in London, I still had 3 left, and where else would I spend them if not in Valencia, the place where my boyfriend lives, a beauitufl city, and an opportunity to improve my broken Spanish. On top of that, I found a translation related internship (that’s what I study).

The differences

It’s safe to say that it’s nothing like London was, and I don’t mean that in a good or in a bad way. The place is completely different, it’s summer, and I primarily came here to be with someone I already knew. I’m working from home most of the days, so I don’t see my co-workers every day. The interesting part is that most of them are Erasmus interns too. That’s not a rule, though, it’s an exception. We’re quite lucky when it comes to that, as we always have people to hang out with, and the gang is great this time too. I think the biggest difference is that I don’t have flatmates, except for my boyfriend. That changes a lot of things. Some of the greatest and funniest memories I have of London happened in the kitchen, in the hall, or in one of our rooms.

The biggest difference is the amount of time: one summer is nothing. Two and a half months are over in a heartbeat, and here I am wishing I could do it all over again. The work isn’t exactly what I was expecting; I’m not learning as much as I thought I’d be. The co-workers, though, were a very positive surprise. When you put a group of exchange students from different countries in the same place, amazing friendships and funny memories are bound to happen. I thought I’d just be spending a cool summer with my boyfriend and his friends, so making international friends was a big plus. As for Valencia, if you’ve read my previous post, you already know I love it here.

So, study exchange or internship?

The exchange

I’d say study exchange is the one that’ll give you the proper experience. Studying abroad as an exchange student usually isn’t that hard (it was very easy in my case). You have less classes, and you don’t have to work if you don’t want to (and if you have enough money; the scholarship won’t make you rich or anything). All of this means a lot of time for all the nice things: parties, trips and hanging out.

The internship

If you want to go abroad for a shorter period and get some working experience, an internship might be the right option for you. It’s harder to know what to expect, though. You might find it harder to meet people, as you may be the only Erasmus intern at the company. But you have Erasmus groups on Facebook, WhatsApp, as well as Erasmus organisations and travel agencies, so no worries.

Getting accepted

As for applying and getting accepted, it’s easier to get accepted for an internship. That’s just because you find the employer after you’ve been accepted. For the study exchange, on the other hand, you apply to three universities in order from your first choice to your third choice. The places are limited for the study exchange, but they aren’t for the practice. At least that’s what I’ve been told.

For how long should you go on Erasmus?

As for the internship, that’s completely up to you and your employer. I found mine, or better said, he found me, here. You can go for anything between a month or two and a whole year. An exchange is usually for one or two semesters, some are for a whole year. I’d recommend going for at least half a year or one semester, because that’s roughly how long you need to really get to know the place, the country, and the culture. Two months is cool, but they’ll pass faster than what you think. For me, nine months passed incredibly fast, not to mention the summer that’s coming to an end.

Where should you go?

That’s a completely personal choice, of course. I went to London because I love it, and because I like the accent and the culture. You should think about any possible languages you’d like to learn, any culture that interests you, or place that really appeals to you. The scholarship does vary according to the country, but, for example, you get the same amount of money for Italy and the UK, and the latter is much more expensive, especially London.

The money

I got around 500 euros per month (80% of the whole amount right away, and 20% after I came home). The scholarship depends on the country you come from too. That’s what Slovenian students get for the »first category countries«, so the more expensive ones. In general, you will need more money than what the scholarship gives you, so if that concerns you, you should go to a cheaper country. You might get some money from your employer if you’re an intern, but that’s not a rule (it’s more like an exception). It’s also very unlikely to happen in the south of Europe and much more likely to happen in the north.

Student residence or private accommodation?

Student residence forever. This way you’ll meet people! It’s even possible that they’ll put you in a flat or block with other exchange students. That’s what happened in my case, and I wouldn’t be able to be lonely even if I tried. If you get private accommodation, it’s possible you’ll end up living with people who are older and working full-time. Or just with people who, you know, already have a life and don’t need you in it. In case you’re going to England, you’ll get a single room, and I think that’s the case in many other countries too (not in mine, though).

Conclusions about Erasmus

Erasmus will give you more than it will take from you, that’s for sure. Your friends, family, boyfriends and girlfriends will wait. You’re not going for that long. Your independence will increase because you’ll have to find your way around in a foreign country. Your mum won’t be there to wash your clothes or cook your meals. You’ll learn how to communicate in a foreign language with ease, and you’ll meet people from all over the place. That also means free accommodation in the future, wink wink. People who participate in exchanges are generally open-minded, into hanging out and into travelling, so you’re bound to find people you have something in common with.

Basically, you’ll feel like you’re on a long holiday. You’ll party like you’re back in high school, uni won’t be that demanding, you’ll take random day trips, and you’ll have fun, I bet you will. And really, have you ever heard of anyone regretting Erasmus? Me neither. So, just apply before you get old, because the only thing you’ll ever regret is not doing it.