My first encounter with the Erasmus project was a very positive one. After three years of being in a long distance relationship with a boy from Italy, we were finally united, living in the same city, under the same roof. Many people have to say goodbye to their loved ones when they go on their year abroad and many meet new loved ones. Erasmus brought us together. We appreciated every moment, grabbed every opportunity and broadened each others horizons, whilst training our brains through constant translation and interpretation. It was no ordinary Erasmus. Edinburgh was not a new city for my boyfriend, but it became a home. Despite having already been in the city for two years, my eyes opened anew. Leaving the city and our poky little cosy wee flat was traumatic. We drowned our confusion in a fleeting trip to unknown territory, Iceland, where differences and landscapes made us forget. It softened the blow but did not fully remove its effect.
On the 21st June we flew to Italy. I shed a tear for the life I had been living thanks to somebody else's Erasmus. I considered how fortunate we were that it existed, this programme which connects countries which otherwise are doomed to be kept apart. Borders, stereotypes, patriotism and other sorts of meaningless pride stop us from creating this peace, which takes a lot of motivation and courage to achieve.
After a summer of distractions I headed for France on the 28th August, reluctant to embark on my Erasmus year. Whereas previously I had associated Erasmus with closeness, I came to accept that it also meant distance, as is the case for most other people with partners. I expected loneliness, language difficulties, I missed the other Erasmus year. After being trusted with the keys to a flat by a nice Italian guy from couchsurfing, I moved into my accommodation on Sunday 1st August. I was desperate. I had no internet as I had no user login details. I had no food or bedding as all the supermarkets were closed. After using the wifi in a café with nothing but an espresso coffee, I headed home tired and frustrated. I met a girl from Senegal on the tram, who felt sorry for me and invited me to her house for mango juice and food. She ended up giving me sheets and a pillow case too. An hour later, and my tandem partner turned up to give me a pillow and towel. I gave them nothing, and they didn't expect anything.
As the week progressed I realized that making friends wasn't so difficult. I have quickly made friends with people from Germany, Colombia, Nigeria, Brazil, France and England, though our lingua franca is almost always French (with the occasional word in English). People have offered me food, drink, invited me out, helped me with computer problems, provided me with company. I didn't really need reminding, but Erasmus serves as another big reminder that borders are useless, and only testiment to power. We are all people and we all want the same things: love and intimacy. We are all curious to a certain extent.
Erasmus helps break down these abstract labels. English? Yeah, because that is what my official documents say. I hate hearing about people who struggled to get a visa, who would like to stay here after graduating but are legally obliged to return to their home country. I live on this planet, and so does everyone else. We are earthlings, and restrictions which tie us down and tear us apart are cruel. They infringe our most basic human rights. I want to feel able to see the people I love without fear that we will be forcibly ripped apart. It would be great to be able to walk and keep on walking without eventually being told to halt and show my documents. So that is England and this is France, so what? Who decided to put a line right here? The EU is gradually eradicating these disgusting abuses of power, whilst still protecting the diversity which naturally unfurls with distance (and time) from any one point to another. My hope is that the Erasmus programme will continue to make people rethink insignificant categories such as race and nationality. Because all of those political devices are just that, political constructions. And we are the human race.