Greetings from the future and the past. Before you left you were feeling stressed, excited and a tad terrified! OH MY SQUASH (yes you do that, let’s hope that got lost in translation). Please see below meaningful & life enriching targets which you better have completed! Guuuuuurl.
1 – Make at least one bosom friend and kindred spirit.
2 – Become a regular in a shop or cafe so that your presence is acknowledged with that solemn acknowledging nod.
3 – Do something that’s just really cool.
Good luck chum,
Love from me, xxx”
This gem arrived arrived about half way through my year abroad. By that point I had finished my time in Grenoble and had moved to fair Verona, so it was a pleasant reminder of home sweet home. I had not long moved into my Veronese apartment, which was no where near as glamorous as it sounds. My neighbours were nuns and we had 3 cockroaches. Please note that hoovering them up is not a long term solution, they come back. Air con hadn’t reached us yet and sleeping in 40 degree heat was a nightmare. However, I was happy, I mean how could I complain when we had a tv with the MTV channel, a veg shop across the street, a perfect cafe on the corner and a flat that was a 5 minute walk from university. I think I was so happy because life was so simple, ‘should I get two flavours of gelato today, or just one? Though I always get chocolate, I should I go for crema della nonna today or stracciatella again… why is life so hard???!?!?!’.
Back to my goals… I did indeed make several bosom and lifelong friends during my time away, despite thinking upon arrival in France ‘I don’t need anymore friends, grumble grumble, I already have some.’ Some of them even came to Italy to visit, and one of them I met up with in Lithuania. (Remind me to mention that in the ‘did a cool thing’ section.)
As you may have noticed from previous blog posts, I tried with earnest to find a local cafe, where my presence was noted with recognition. I tried, but you can’t always be a winner. Italy was better, they definitely knew my face in the veg shop and the cafe, but sadly first name status was never achieved. Though, once, the guy in the pizzeria gave me an extra slice because I was so loyal, so that almost counts.
Finally, did I do something ‘really cool’? That’s a tough question, personally the coolest thing that I think I did was spending a week living on a farm in the middle of nowhere, digging up onions and running away from snails. That counts. I think when I wrote the postcard I had in mind bungee jumps and deep sea dives, but being abroad really changes your perspective. Yes the Erasmus life (#lovelovelove) was about as dramatic as that, but I just wasn’t interested in the thrills of the European ESN (Erasmus Student Network, probably) party scene. I wanted, and hope that I achieved, something more authentic and genuine, an experience that could only be achieved in France and then Italy, not a generic Erasmus pool party kind of scene. Don’t get me wrong, it sounded fun, I just felt, well, over that I suppose.
Ah yes, I went to Lithuania, the coolest thing about that was probably the spontaneity of it, the thrill of popping to Eastern Europe to meet a friend, “See you in Vilnius, darling!”. The reality was nowhere near as pretentious but the excitement was real. At midnight on a chilly March evening I rolled up to the adorable airbnb apartment to be greeted by my long lost bosom pal. The next few days of gorging on Lithuanian cuisine and walks through the chilly and richly cultural Lithuanian capital were sheer bliss.
And so, even though I didn’t necessarily complete every objective written on my postcard I hope that I managed to transcend checklists and must-see-must-do experiences to have a fulfilling year abroad.