Our journeys | Our stories
Alicja Menżyk, PhD
Erasmus+ | Spain | Alcalá de Henares
Erasmus+ | Italyy | Turin, Genoa
Fot. private archive
Alicja Menżyk, PhD (probably suffering from an incurable addiction to trips abroad, number of months spent on internships under the Erasmus + program: fourteen)
If someone asked if there was anything I regret that would be related to my Erasmus travels, I would say yes without hesitation. Without a doubt. I would say that Mark Twain was right in advising to untie the ropes and leave the safe haven so as not to complain about what we didn’t do. That I should have lost sight of this Polish panorama much earlier and much more often.
I left for Erasmus for the first time after completing my second-cycle studies, not as a student, but as a fresh graduate – it is worth remembering that the possibility of internships also applies to university graduates. The first stream of uneasy thoughts had already started in the plane taking off for flight, when while nervously fastening the seat belts – tightening them more and more, completely ignoring my right size – I wondered what I had done, going to a completely strange city on my own. Reality, however, quickly wiped out all my fears. Concerns that were not entirely unfounded – in the end, on my way from the airport in Madrid to the university town, I missed the right stop, which made me a lost passenger on the bus that had just finished its route. These fears, however, did not take into account the most important variable in this Erasmus equation – completely selfless, open-minded people at every step abroad. The driver of the aforementioned bus, not knowing foreign languages, turned out to be fluent in a non-verbal language. So he quickly realised that his passenger – who was as fluent in Spanish as he was in English – was in a difficult situation and so he decided to give me a lift directly to the student town. The next two months spent in Spain provided more and more overwhelming evidence that leaving my uniform of Polish monotony was the best possible decision.
Therefore, as soon as I started my PhD studies, my hand did not hesitate to fill out the next application forms. This time, I did not waste any opportunity to use the scholarship offer and spent the full twelve months of my Erasmus internship, which I am entitled to at every stage of my studies – be it the first, second or third degree. During these foreign trips – which this time took the Italian direction – I conducted my doctoral dissertation research, drawing the enormous knowledge and experience of world-class scientists. The scientific network of contacts, built with the help of multifaceted threads of communication, turned out to be extremely durable and continues to this day. However, it will be an understatement to say that Erasmus is just science. It is much more than that. These are the people mentioned above, it’s a recipe for a real Carbonara, it’s a bottle of homemade olive oil, these are hands covered with potato mass while making gnocchi according to the de la nonna recipe, it’s a sunset over the Ligurian Sea, it’s a view of the Western Alps on the way to the university, it’s a feeling of satisfaction when for the first time – when talking to a local – you don’t have to shake your head explaining Scusi, non parlo italiano! It is a stuffed bag of memories that will keep you warm from the inside for years.
There is only one real danger of these scientific journeys: severe cases of post-homecoming depression. Treatable with consecutive doses of foreign trips. Despite this, distancing yourself from Erasmus is a madman’s mistake. Do not make that mistake!