Erasmus in Ioannina, Greece

When Florin asked me to write this post I was very excited. Then, as I was selecting the photos to post here, came the sorrow. If I had to sum up my Erasmus experience in just a few words, the conversations I had with my best friend who was waiting for me at home is representative: “Aren’t you happy you’re coming back home?”

“I am. But I’m also sad I’m leaving.”

The other half of my response earned me a good scold from her because she had the impression I didn’t miss her or something. I don’t know for sure if this happens with all Erasmus countries, but Greece is and will remain something special in my heart.

The university I went to was University of Ioannina, in the small city with the same name. It has a huge campus that is sometimes lonely. The first impression I had was not actually good. The university has tons of graffiti and maybe because my country is rather conservative about painting every public wall, I was not able to appreciate its beauty in the beginnings. After a while I got used to them and even looked for them subconsciously; walking around became a game because I was curious what they could mean.

The campus had a canteen which had in my opinion very good food. The fish there was one of the best I ever had. And the perfect part is that it was free for Erasmus students. I still remember how there would always be oranges on my window sill because we often received them. The campus is very large; you can take long, beautiful walks. There is also a sports field where I often ran and I hate running, but there were many friendly people there and you know, guys who did sport.

If you have a fear of dogs, than you should really try to surpass it because the campus and the entire Ioannina is full of them. Don’t worry, they are extremely friendly and too fat to attack you. They can give you little shocks when it’s night and you find one on the halls or the way to your room, but fear not, they are just sleeping.

The city also has stray dogs, but they are harmless. Despite the fact that the city is small, you find enough shops and nice coffee shops. There are a lot of colorful and rustic details everywhere. The lake is great for walks and you can also take the boat to a small island nearby which has fine sweets and jewelry. The main points of attractions are the castle and Aslan Pasha Mosque. Another place, where we often met because everyone knew it is the Clock tower, right in the middle of the city.

The student session made the campus a swarm. There is a huge library with many books and it’s a gift for foreign students because they could find many books in English. I wouldn’t count on the computers there. They were one of the reasons I bought a laptop. However, before the exams I would get up early and if I got there by 8.30 am it would still have been hard to find a seat with an electrical outlet for the laptop. 

There were two types of rooms at the student residence: single and double for 65 euros and 50 euros if I recall correctly. The double rooms are large, have private bathrooms and a perfect balcony to drink your coffee and hang your clothes for drying. Speaking of clothes, you can wash it at the basement of a cafeteria nearby. It is a spooky place and you have to open the washing machines with a knife, but it’s okay. 

The Centre for the Study of the Hellenic Language and Culture is where you have to bring the payment proof for your room and where you can resolve all your problems regarding accommodation. There is also where I took a Greek language class. The class cost 50 Euros, including studying materials. You get to learn Greek with foreign students and often end up learning words in other languages as well. It was great experience, of course, I learnt how to have a decent conversation and the alphabet, but there is something about this language that makes the person speaking it more appealing. It is a sexy language.

Erasmus Student Network Greece was something that made my experience in Greece even better. They are extremely friendly and organize all sorts of events. Even though I didn’t participate in every one, the ones I took part in were perfect. Beginning with Corfu trip which gave me a better glimpse of Greece and ending with a rafting session on Voidomatis river which gave me a better glimpse of my adventurous side, there were moments I will never forget. 

Corfu is a beautiful island, but then the whole Greece is beautiful. We visited Achilleion Museum, house of Empress of Austria, Elisabeth of Bavaria, also known as Sisi and it made me feel like a princess for a short while. It is truly a very beautiful place. Of course, we also had fun to the beach and I was surprised how a big bus like ours could move on little streets like that.

Rafting on the clearest river in Europe was an exciting experience, despite the cold water. The instructors were both professional and funny (you can see what other things they organize here. After that we went to a small village called Papigo where we ate and rest. You see, the thing about Greece is that it isn’t all about beaches and parties, it also has green and beautiful natural parks surrounded by glorious mountains and small quite villages. It’s really made for any kind of tastes.

The trip to Thessaloniki was very exciting. We took the bus from Ioannina and then the skill to read in Greek proved its importance. There we visited the White Tower and statue of Alexander the Great. It’s a full of energy and people city, where I first drank from Starbucks, but we’ll leave my love for coffee for another day. You can’t visit Greece without drinking iced coffee, that’s the idea.

Then we took the train to Athens. One of the preconceptions I took with me when I began studying abroad was that my country had the worst railways possible. However, Greece proved me wrong; see, Greece can also bust your confidence or your country’s confidence. The only thing perfect in the Thessaloniki train station was the place where for a few Euros you can leave you luggage. After almost a hour and a half delay and a crazy numeration of the wagons (gladly a kind man approached us and knew from the start what was the problem and showed us the right wagon), we were finally good to go. We traveled by night so it’s a pity I couldn’t see more of the landscape.

Athens was magical. The goddess in me felt like home. We could talk hours about it and still can’t be able to capture its true magical essence. So let’s start with something more practical: the public transportation is easy to use and you can find hotels and hostels of all kind. We had free entrance at the Acropolis, which was a bit expensive, but if I think about what I’ve seen and felt, I would have paid the ticket without regret. When you see the tall and gorgeous flag dancing in the wind, you feel how proud and beautiful this nation is.

You can try to describe Greece, but this country will tell more about yourself, blind you with her beauty and leave you confused. With Greece I discovered that the other part of the coin of happiness is regret; regret that I can’t visit this country more often.

I know Erasmus can be so stressful, give you a lot of black thoughts and anxiety, but don’t ever think it won’t pay its price. You will love your experience, it’s a fact.

This article was written by Alexandra, a future PhD student of Finance and my best friend. You can follow her cosmetics blog here. Did you find her article interesting? Have you experienced your own Erasmus journey? Feel free to contact me and I’ll make sure your story gets heard.