Going on Erasmus is always a big decision, let alone during a global pandemic. Nevertheless, students of our Faculty are still choosing to go and live the best life they can in this situation. Just as Talita Cristina da Silva, who is originally from Brazil, but decided to complete a BA program in International Relations in the University of Pécs, and who is now on Erasmus in Warsaw, Poland, after having had to cancel her previous scholarship in Krakow during the spring semester. Talita Cristina was kind enough to tell us about her experience as an Erasmus student during COVID.
Nowadays people barely leave their own houses, let alone their country. Still, you went on Erasmus, to live abroad for 5-6 months. What was your motivation, why did you go despite the pandemic?
In the past semester, I went to Krakow but I could only enjoy the free Erasmus life for a month, and then they closed everything, so I thought I would like to try it again. As next spring is going to be my last semester, and I am completely in love with Pécs, I would love to be there, with my friends in the end of my studies. So I decided to come now to Warsaw, whatever happens, because this is my last chance before graduating.
Did you follow the news about the pandemic situation in Poland before you left? Were you afraid of what was happening there?
Yes, of course I checked everything before coming. Then the situation in Poland was okay, they were very strict earlier, so the numbers were fine. Although you know sometimes I don’t even know if I believe in this virus or not, all in all I just don’t want to get it, so of course I am a little bit afraid now. I travelled a lot in spring and summer but then I was not scared at all – maybe just in Japan. However, once I have returned to Hungary I became more cautious, as I am now too here in Poland.
What difficulties arose in connection with your travel, problems you did not have before, while traveling?
Travelling to Warsaw this semester was a bit more complicated than before. In a normal situation I would have taken a flight from Budapest to Warsaw. However, the flights were super expensive and they cancelled my Flixbus, so first I had to get a car from Hungary to Vienna. From Vienna I had to take a bus to Krakow, and from Krakow I could take a flight to Warsaw. It was such a long trip, and much more expensive than normally. Originally, I would not have paid more than 10.000 HUF, but I spent almost 80.000 HUF on this trip. So now of course I don’t want to leave and risk not being able to come back. The good part is that I did not have to go to quarantine when I arrived and I did not have to do any tests either.
Had you received any preliminary information from the University about your courses and what you can expect? How education is currently done in Warsaw?
Yes the International Office always updates us about everything via e-mails, and they are also very helpful – anything you need, you can send them an e-mail and they try their best to solve the situation. They notified us before that the lectures will be online, but I could go to the university to get my papers done when I arrived. They also organized us a tour, to see the university, and its beautiful library. The university building really is amazing it looks like a five star hotel to be honest.
So the courses are online from the beginning, but the teachers are very well-prepared, they use technology quite well, and they have a really high level of English. They are trying to make the classes interactive, and constantly give us exercises where we have to work with other classmates, which keep the courses interesting and exciting, even though we are sitting in front of a screen.
So you cannot meet your professors or other students now?
No, I have never met my professors in person, only my classmates at the beginning, when we had the tour and orientation, but now I am only able chat online with them as well. I know it sounds a bit lonely, but I am actually enjoying it. Normally, I travel a lot, so I have a lot of friends and now I finally have time to talk to them. On the other hand I also have time for myself that I have never had before, because I was always too busy. I am taking this time to learn new things, to work on my thesis and to do some exercise. Also I am talking to my friends online, while we are cooking or drinking wine together. I always say if life gives you lemons, make a Hungarian lemonade, because that is just the best.
Erasmus is not only about lessons and learning inside the classroom, but also about international parties, gastronomy and traveling. Do you have any opportunities at all for these?
In the beginning of October when I came here the bars and restaurants were open, I could try some very nice food, and meet people. The museums were also open; which made me happy, because they have lovely museums here in Warsaw. Now everything is closed, but I am trying to get the best out of this situation. I always go to the market on a different way, enjoying the landmarks, and watching the buildings. I bought a bike, so I go cycling a lot. Sometimes I check on the internet what historical place is in the area and try to visit it. I know that there are some programs organized by ESN but I am a bit afraid to join those, so I prefer to do it on my own. Traveling within the country is restricted but not forbidden, however earlier I had travelled so much, now I just want to stay. Everything is so unpredictable now; I don’t want to risk it.
Looking back on the past few months what would you say to those going on Erasmus during the spring term?
Well, as I said everything is unpredictable now, but you should not give up on it. First, you have to know yourself and think about what you can do if you are on your own in such a situation. Then take your time and do a research about the country where you are going, see what restrictions are there, make sure you know what is going on in your destination city, and be prepared for it. Try to live the experience whatever happens and never give up!