#firstly, can we get to know you?
I am Ömer Emre Aka, 25 years old. I am currently doing a master's degree in International Relations deparment at the University of Bologna in Italy. I graduated from the same department at AYBU in 2019.
#how did you participate on erasmus program?
I have participated on Erasmus for about 5 months in the 2016-2017 academic year at the University of Alcala, which is 40 minutes away from Madrid, Spain. Since there was no International Relations at the university, I was in the Faculty of Law.
#how did you decide to apply for erasmus mobility?
I saw an advertisement in the cafeteria. It was the last hour of the application. Since I was in freshman year, I did not think that I could accepted, to see my chance, I ran and applied. And surprisingly, I was accepted.
#what were the difficulties during the application phase?
The visa application, preparing learning agreement document and the waiting process at that moment were tedious. You say, “there is no need to panic” after things are done. My advice is: be comfortable.
#how was the process of choosing the place where you will go on abroad?
Although there are options such as Poland and Italy, I wanted Spain the most, because I learned Spanish. It was my first choice and I was accepted.
#how was the lecture selection process?
My lectures were quite irrelevant. The Learning Agreement that I already prepared in Turkey completely has changed in Spain. So don't pay much attention to the Learning Agreement before you go. I think it would be fine if you wrote something just to show.
#especially in Europe, most of the erasmus students study in the International Relations department and use the mobility as an opportunity. how was your experience as a Turkish and AYBU student in this regard?
Frankly, I am not sure that most erasmus students study International Relations, but it is very true that this is an opportunity for us. Erasmus was a start for me. I travelled to 8 countries, made friends from dozens of different countries (we are still seeing each other with some of them), learned Spanish, gained a lot of experience. I didn't stand still after this experience. I'm still hanging out with erasmus students in Bologna :)
#considering your department, what advice can you give to the people who will participate in the erasmus program in the future?
Whatever you do find a way and join erasmus or similar exchange programs and learn a language other than English if possible.
#can you share with us your master program journey to Italy?
If I did not have Erasmus experience, I might not have the vision and courage to pursue a master's degree abroad. I chose Italy because I love Italy, the language and history very much. Easy access from Turkey and learning Italian is easier when you speak Spanish. Proximity to Turkey and Italy scholarship opportunities have convinced me.
It is very attractive to do a master's degree at different universities in different countries, depending on the area you intend to focus on. It is necessary to think about the future and plan well. Frankly, I have not experienced much of the quality of school and education due to COVID, but in general I can say that it is much better after AYBU and I have a looot of fun :)
#can you tell us about the place? :)
I was in Alcala de Henarest. Although it is a small, historical and safe city, it has a large and historical university. It has the advantage of being 40 minutes away from Madrid by train. It is cheaper because it is a small city, for example, I was renting a single room 150 euros per month, and because it is near to Madrid, you can go the big city atmosphere whenever you want. I did not encounter any problems with the locals, but to be honest, I was mostly hanging out with other Erasmus students.
#can you evaluate erasmus experience in Spain?
Spain is a very beautiful, warm country. I can say that the only problem for our people is food. It's hard to find something to eat right on outside. Thank God there is kebab everywhere.
#how was the erasmus student profile in your context?
There were many Italian and German people. Italians in particular were hanging out with each other often. I guess that there were 100-150 students in total in our term. We were a small community in a small city. As such, there was very intimate atmosphere. I would recommend relatively small cities for those who will participate on Erasmus. You may never see the person you saw in the big city again.
#people with erasmus experience often mention that Spanish people always spend time as a group. Does this situation change in Spain when you are erasmus student among the Spanish people? what can you say about this? :)
Spanish people really hang out together in other countries. In Spain, on the other hand, Italians usually hung out together. I hardly had any Spanish friends or groups. We, as Erasmus students, were hanging out amongst us.
#how was your social environment during your stay?
My two roommates were from southern Italy. We haven't had a single argument for 5 months. They were very comfortable and funny people. I've met probably hundreds of people at events, school, Spanish course, etc. I was especially hanging out with the Greeks, Germans and Italians more often. We are still in touch on social media with about 20 of them. In fact, my two Slovak friends came to Istanbul in 2018, I hosted them for 4 days and showed them around. One of those two Slovaks is currently married and has a child. She invited me to her wedding in the summer, but I couldn’t join them due to pandemic, unfortunately.
#what was the hardest part of living in a foreign country?
Nothing was hard besides the food.
#what was the best part of living in a foreign country?
Discovering, learning the language and culture, having absurd experiences and being not recognized by anyone.
#can you tell about one of the absurd moments? :)
When you start living in a foreign country, you learn from scratch how to live there and you constantly discover. Very different things come up, especially with locals. For example, I went to the barber last week (most of them are unisex barbers in Europe) there were two women who cut and wash my hair. During the whole process, they talked about Turkish TV series and Can Yaman :)
#what did you do during this process that you haven't done before?
It was my first time on abroad and had a lot of new experiences. I can write book about it: D Let me summarize by saying that I fell in love for the first time, I had the most full and crazy period of my life.
#we know this question is quite difficult to answer. what kind of contributions would you say this experience have made for you? :)
It raised me in every sense. My horizons are broadened, I discovered that I have feelings, my self-esteem incredibly rose. I can say that I owe the things I have lived and where I am now to Erasmus. The rest might not have come if I hadn't taken that first step.
#would you like to share a memory that you think you will not forget?
Well, the most unforgettable memories are too special to be written here, unfortunately :)
Nevertheless, I cannot forget that we traveled all over Italy illegally without a ticket, that I got my money back by threatening and blackmailing in Paris, getting my money back by threatening and blackmailing, sleeping night illegally in a gondola in Venice, joining Barcelona's champions league match for free by chance and watching the match on VIP.
#was the erasmus funding enough? did you spend extra money?
It was not. About amount of 200-250 euros per month that I would spend in Turkey normally, I added the grant. I was spending about 600-650 € per month. I spent the most on rent, Spanish classes, food and travelling.
#is there any information that useful for you and do you have any suggestions?
Join erasmus groups on Facebook and Whatsapp, there are many useful things. Before you go learn the language of that country.
#finally, do you have any messages you want to convey to those who read this interview and to the ESN AYBU family? :)
Anyone can reach me on Instagram (@omerxemre) for more details about Erasmus and other international experiences. I like to help as I went through the same paths myself :)