Have you ever heard about Erasmus? It is the European Union student exchange programme established in 1987. There are more than 4000 higher institutions participating in the Erasmus program across the 37 countries, and 3 million students had taken part in the programme has established. The most popular destinations are Spain, Germany, Italy, and France, but student always ends up satisfied anywhere they are sent.
Have you ever thought about taking a semester abroad, meet amazing people, have extraordinary experiences and make memories worth sharing? Erasmus is the perfect program that will push you outside your comfort zone and improve you as a person!
We had a chance to meet Van, a student from Brussels, Belgium who participated in Erasmus and spent a whole summer semester in Varaždin. He was working in digital marketing company as an intern where he improved his skills in the field drastically. Right now, he’s interested in e-commerce and we hope all his projects will lead him to a huge success.
Are you interested in cultural and student exchange programs like Erasmus, but you’re afraid to go alone, or you simply don’t know what to expect? We know that struggle, and we’d like to share Vans’ Erasmus experience from Erasmus with you so you could get a first-hand insight how’s it like to spend a semester outside your country and comfort zone.
Keep reading to know more about this amazing person and friend who decided to share his story in the hope that it will help someone to make a critical decision of going to Erasmus!
Q. Hi Van, hope everything is going well in Belgium! Thank you for accepting to do this interview. It’s honor to hear your story. So, let’s start! We already know each other as you’ve been participating an Erasmus program last summer semester and we know you’re outgoing and confident person who always smile and ready to help. Can you tell us more about yourself, your hobbies and passions?
A. Hello, my name is Van! I am living in Belgium, but I am Asian. I am 24 years old, and my hobbies are martial arts, more exactly Vietnamese martial arts, and I like to dance. My profession is digital marketing, networks, and lately, I am interested in e-commerce. Oh, I forgot that one of my biggest passions is traveling, of course.
Q. We’re following your journey and saw beautiful places you’ve traveled to. How and when you realized that you’re passionate about traveling? Can you tell us more about your first trip abroad?
A. My first trip was when I was three years old. That was a long trip to California, and I have some memories of me being on the plane. It was so exciting, and since then I am passionate about traveling. Of course, not only because of the airplane but because of that special feeling that everything changes when you come to a new destination. When you arrive at the new place, you change some of your opinions, the way of thinking, and it makes you better as a person. Also, the air is changing, the climate is different, and if you are a passionate traveler, you know that’s inside you, and that will never change.
Q. What was your first independent trip without parents, how was it?
A. Without parents… It was a trip to Spain with my friend. I was 19, and we went to Tenerife. It was one week vacation, and it was very nice.
Q. As we’re living in a globalized world, traveling becomes much more sophisticated and cheaper than 10 years ago. Many people start to travel for some reasons and we’re curious about your reasons to travel. Why do you find traveling an important part of life and do you think traveling changed you as a person?
A. When you are traveling, you meet new people and new cultures. Same thing happened when I was in Croatia, with you guys. You always have some stereotypes about other people, but when you meet the real people in real life, stereotypes go away, and when you travel, you can see things with your own eyes. All bad things I heard about foreign people from media or other people end up as a false alarm when I entered in foreigners their real-life.
Q. There is a huge difference when you have a vacation to someplace and when you’re living abroad, right? Where did you hear about Erasmus program and how did you decide to participate?
A. It was at college. We received an e-mail from the international office, but we didn’t get the lists, so since I am passionate about traveling, I applied.
Q. Was it expensive to apply for ERASMUS? What were the standards to qualify for this particular program?
A. There are low standards. In Belgium, everybody can go on ERASMUS, because the state is giving scholarships for ERASMUS. That means everyone can participate.
Q. How is the process of picking the destination looking alike? How did you decide to go to Croatia in a small city of Varaždin?
A. We had a lot of choices, but for me, I didn’t really care where would they send me. The process included picking 4 countries where I would like to go. After that, we had interviews, and then, based on what you want to do later in your life, they choose the destination for you. My university has a partnership with your university, so they decided to send me to Varaždin.
Q. When you returned to the homeland, what was the first thing that you told to your colleagues from university?
A. The first person that I met was the coordinator that sent me to Croatia. I saw him and said: Thank you for sending me there. Later, I said to my friends that people from Croatia are totally crazy, but so opened, and so welcoming. We should organize a trip to Croatia together.
Q. When you first arrived in Croatia, what was the biggest difference in the culture that you’ve noticed?
A. The biggest difference is that in Croatia, you have a life! In other western countries, you don’t have a life. It is only work, work, and work, while in Croatia, you have a great balance between work and fun times. Another thing that I mentioned is meal time. In Croatia, you can eat whenever you want at student’s restaurant, while in Belgium you have strict rules about breakfast, lunch, and dinner time. They give you one time, and you must respect it.
Q. Also, Croatia is known for different regions and delicious traditional food. Did you have a chance to explore other places than Varaždin during your stay? Did you try any traditional food you’d love to have it in your hometown?
A. Čevapi! Man, I miss those čevapi. I am going to try some here in Bruxelles this Friday! I found one restaurant that has them, but I don’t think it will be as good, as in Croatia, or even Bosnia. Also, I’ve tried fish! There was a special type of fish when I went on the coast, to the city of Rijeka. It was very nice, and also other places: Budva, Montenegro, with you guys! Also, I’ve been to Zagreb, nightlife! I went to Bosnia to see Banja Luka. And I forgot to mention Plitvice Lakes! It was beautiful.
Q. In Varaždin, you were doing some kind of professional work, right? Did you find that experience helpful and beneficial to your career and skills? What’s the biggest and most noticeable difference between Croatian companies and foreign companies you’d have a chance to work for?
A. I learned so many fields, because digital marketing is something that you learn from experience, and not in the school. In Croatian companies, there is some kind of flexibility that I liked. Also, I found that companies are always going to resolve the problem they have, even if they are breaking the law (hehe). In Belgium, things are more strict.
Q. You said that you are working as a digital marketer. What are you doing for a living in digital marketing? What is your usual day at work?
A. I have some different projects. Most of the time, I am writing content for travel agencies, and hospitals. I also do search engine optimization, for example, link building, and much more.
Q. When reflecting on your Erasmus experience, what were the highlights and would you do it again?
A. The highlights…. Elektrijada! It was such an awesome experience, and it is something we don’t have in Belgium. I liked how students from Balkans came to the same destination, and have contests at different fields, and of course, have parties, and fun. I would definitely try it again.
Q. There are many young people in Croatia, especially students who would like to participate in cultural exchange programs, but want to hear the experience from someone they know. The problem is that not many people have a friend who went abroad to work or travel, so the majority of people just give up the idea. Did you have a friend who was participating Erasmus before and did you go to Croatia alone?
A. Actually, I had one friend who went to ERASMUS, but I didn’t ask him for his experience because it would be kinda spoiling. I wanted to go to ERASMUS without any knowledge about it. Another thing is that each ERASMUS is different, and you cannot know what is expecting you.
Q. Where do you live right now and what are the plans for the future?
A. So now, I am in Bruxelles. My plans for future is to travel more. First, I need to finish my degree and find some job. At the long term, I am thinking about starting some business.
Q. We see that you had a crazy time in Croatia meeting so many interesting people and having amazing experiences during Erasmus. We’re more than happy to say that Croatians are great hosts! Could you give advice and motivation boost to people who’re thinking about participating in Erasmus?
A. My advice is to go on ERASMUS. When you go to ERASMUS, you evolve. After this experience, you are a different person. There are not many chances in life to participate in the program like this one, and if you are able, you should try it!
Q. Did you hear anything about digital nomad lifestyle?
A. No, not really. I saw some articles that you posted, and all I know about this trend is that you travel the world, and the only thing you actually need is your laptop, for your work.
Q. That’s true. Do you like this idea, would you like to try it? What do you think about freelancing, and traveling that way?
A. Yeah, definitely. It is a great lifestyle. I think that freelancing is great for being free, and you can travel, even without high-income.
Q. Do you want to try yourself in freelancing, and digital nomad lifestyle?
A. Yes, I am interested! If you teach me, I am in.
Okay, we will think about next destination, and call you with us!
If you’d like to know more about this positive person or talk about Erasmus experiences, you can reach out Van on his personal Facebook profile.