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Katerina’s Story – Dare to Challenge Yourself

Give yourself the most valuable gift having an amazing adventure – the unforgettable challenge and privilege of getting to know the world through Erasmus Plus programs

Hello, dear colleagues – current and future ones,

My name is Katerina and I am a student who accepted the challenge to study the laws, procedures and methods of legal protection, in order to no longer “hide my head in the sand”, but to defend the rights of the wronged people in a dignified and well argumented way, in other words – I am studying law.

This summer, very shortly after the exams ended, I have been informed that there is an opportunity to join a short-term mobility under the “Erasmus +” Program in Romania for an intensive blended course on cyber-security, artificial intelligence and protection of our digital rights.

The Erasmus coordinators from both South-West University and Romanian-American University gave their full support and quick organization, helping me to meet the deadline.  Literally in minutes, I was able to book a round-trip ticket to Bucharest and back, using the promotional prices from Flixbus.bg at the last minute, thanks to which I was able to save a lot on transport costs. Having in mind the extremely high temperatures in July this year, I decided to travel at night, when it is less crowded and it’s possible to take a nap for a few hours.

When you arrive, I advise you to use the Uber app to your campus and order a car from there rather than being scammed by taxi drivers who charge 5 times more than the normal rate.  I’m telling it from my personal experience, don’t make my mistake!

You know, Bucharest also is called “little Paris” because of the city’s Arc de Triomphe and the boulevard resembling the Paris Champs-Elysées. The organizers from the American-Romanian University had taken care to prepare an interesting program for us with a guided tour of the main tourist attractions in the city already in the first weekend.  We visited the central part of the city, the remarkable street “Calea Victoriei”, the National History Museum, the Square of the Revolution, the Rebirth Monument with the statue of Iuliu Maniu, the National Art Museum, the Palace of the Deposits and Consignments, the wonderful park “Herastrau”, the unique National Village Museum located in the open air,  by the lake. We also looked around  the Old town with the Residence of the Wallachian princes and the monument of Vlad the Impaler Dracula, remarkable buildings in 19th century architectural styles, the Roman Athenaeum, which is an active Concert Hall and cultural center even nowadays, the Central Bank building, the Odeon Theatre from Roman times, ancient  preserved restaurants, the 1724 church of the “Stavropoleos Monastery” in the famous Brancovenesc style, and one unforgettable bookstore over 100 years old – the Carturesti Carusel (Carousel of Light).  Our tour guide was a young man majoring in Tourism at the same university, great practice for him.

Apart from the group visits, we had enough time after the lectures to explore on our own sights and various places that vividly appeal to us – such as the Arc de Triomphe, the remarkable building of the Romanian Parliament – the largest public building in Europe and the second in the world, after the Pentagon in  the USA, the remarkable parks and gardens of the capital, as well as enjoying the charming color show of the 44 fountains on weekend evenings. Near to our dormitory is the very new Bucharest Reptiland and the unique atmosphere of the Hard Rock Café.

Our group included students enrolled in 2 courses(IT and Law focused) with some shared lectures and consisted of about 40 people from 17 different countries and from 4 continents (Europe, Asia, Africa and South America).  At first it seems strange to you to hear such a variety of languages, then we began to communicate more and more in conventional English, and where we could not guess of a word we each helped each other using gestures, French, German, Russian and even Chinese language. I am an English-speaker, but I have attended classes in both Chinese and French, and in this short-term study, I had the opportunity to communicate with a guest teacher from China in English but also in Chinese, and with a colleagues from Belgium  –  in French.  It was great to see the smile and genuine joy on the other side that someone was speaking their native language.

In fact, taking stock of my entire trip, one of the biggest pluses of this incredibly well-designed Erasmus Plus program turns out to be the opportunity to not only contact and make friends with people from all over the world, but also to practice your language skills, and  not only in the now mandatory English language.  To relax and talk without worrying about getting a grammar or lexical rule wrong.

The other huge advantage of such short-term courses is that in a very short period of time, you have to build a team with your colleagues from other countries, with other cultures and another way of education, to discuss and solve your assignments in the lecture course or  for homework in teams.  This unites, creates lasting contacts of interests and at the same time is an interesting challenge.  There one relaxes, the learned words start to come into regular use and somehow you yourself gain some self-confidence that you can, that you know and manage to actively participate in discussions and arguments.

However, for me personally, the biggest advantage of these mobilities is that, in a very short period of time, you have the opportunity to get personally acquainted with practitioners in a given field, not just with the theory from textbooks, but with real examples and applications in life.

When else will you have the opportunity to speak with the Minister of Justice of a foreign country, or with diplomats, or with prosecutors investigating the most serious and highly classified crimes, involving far more than just one country, but organized in intricate and hard-to-trace international networks?  Where in your home country a high-ranking prosecutor, criminal investigator or ambassador will talk to you on an equal footing, will not interrupt you, avoid uncomfortable questions, but on the contrary – will encourage you to ask questions, look for answers, non-standard conclusions and  unusual decisions?!  This for me is the biggest plus of the Erasmus Plus Program, it is really a valuable added value to your studies, your perceptions, international culture and prestige.

Therefore, dear colleagues, do not miss these chances, try hard and travel as a reward for your knowledge and efforts!

A wonderful end to the wonderful summer school was the organized trip to the Castle of Peles, the city of Brasov and Dracula’s Castle (better known in Romania as Bran Castle).  Even during the bus ride, a specially hired tour guide carefully prepared us for everything we will see on site.  They gave us some time to walk independently around Brasov, around the castles, to buy souvenir cups, t-shirts and book dividers for ourselves, loved ones and relatives – a nice memory of an unforgettable experience.

Dare to accept the Erasmus challenge!

Ride the wave and learn to master yourself and the events raging around you!  Believe in yourself and conquer seemingly unattainable peaks!

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