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Aylin Ahmedova: My Erasmus story – exploring the world inside and out

Within project 2022-1-BG01-KA131-HED-000052717 of SWU, our Aylin Ahmedova studied one semester at Pavol Jozef Šafárik University, you can read her thrilling story. Enjoy!


My Erasmus story: exploring the world – inside and out.

My name is Aylin Ahmedova – a psychology student at SWU. I spent the winter semester of my second year in Kosice, Slovakia. I’m grateful to have the opportunity to share my experience with someone who is considering to go on one of our fantastic mobility programs. I want to be as honest and authentic as I can in order to show you more of the nuances of this journey. Hence, the unconventional format in which I’ll be doing it.

If I could write a letter to myself six months ago it would sound something like this.

Dear Aylin,
It works out. I know you harbour fear within you. That’s okay. As long as you breathe through it and still pack your suitcase, then get on the bus, then get on the plane, it too, shall pass. The fear turns into a forest fire of excitement! You know this is worth it.

So, please, hear me out and do it with less mistakes this time.

First, pick three universities when applying. I know you did your research and you found the one that looks like a perfect match for you. Or more so, you think you’re the perfect match for them. And that may be true. But have you considered you might not like the place you get accepted into when more information is revealed? What if they tell you the courses are not actually taught in English? You need a plan B.

Secondly, don’t trust everything written on the website of the receiving institution. If there is something you want, write them an email to see if it’s possible. Sometimes the information is simply outdated. For example, I didn’t apply for a dormitory because on the website was stated that only students who were there for the whole year can use the dorms. So I opted for a rented apartment in the center. It was only after I met other Erasmus students that I learned I could have been accepted in the dorms even though I was staying for 6 months. A side note, the grant you receive can cover most of your expenses but I’d recommend having some money saved up, especially if you want to travel.

Expect change. Be ready to let go of the courses you have picked and be ready to select new ones. More often than not, it happens that the schedules clash and you have to adapt. For me this was a blessing in disguise because I was offered courses that were not displayed initially like the Rorschach Method and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy. I’m honored to have studied Master’s classes I was curious about such as Organizational Psychology and Research in Clinical Psychology. This allowed me to dive into the reality of a student at the end of their degree and see if what I thought I wanted feels right for me. Don’t worry – as long as you study you will pass.

Something else I found helpful was the Counselling Psychology class. We had the opportunity to conduct 5 sessions with a client. This was essential in building my confidence as a future practicing professional as well as the workshop focused on understanding the counselling process. Now I’m aware of the responsibility I carry and I saw that I’m quick to adapt and analyze a situation. There’s nothing more rewarding than putting what you know to practice.

Enough studying. I don’t want to leave you with the impression that it’s the only thing you can do. Quite the opposite. This was the first time I realised socialising and exploring don’t have to cancel out studying. In fact, I had enough time for all. The ESN Kosice is a great organisation of volunteers who host events so that you can get to know other Erasmus students! Yes, you go to parties. Yes, they’re actually fun! During the events I got to know others and ended up befriending ‘the French girls’ (plus friends from Poland and Romania). We clicked and when we didn’t feel like going to the events, we planned trips for ourselves – exploring the Tatras and famous castles in the area. But I want to be transparent with you on this – the adaptation in the beginning isn’t the most pleasant thing when the euphoria wears off. And that’s okay. You still have your buddy from the ESN to talk to when things get hard. What you should remember is that once you start classes it gets so much better. In the meantime, get out of the house, explore the city! It’s so beautiful and easy to navigate. There’s an app that allows you to pay your tickets directly – UBIAN. With the student discount it’s quite cheap. Not many of the locals speak English so I’d recommend learning some Slovak phrases beforehand. Otherwise, just try speaking in Bulgarian. Somehow I ended up finding a middle ground. Also, try accepting euro prices as they are. Don’t torture yourself by converting it to leva <3

The trains are free for university students. You can find out more about that on the website of UPJS. Point being, it’s never been easier to visit Bratislava! And Budapest for that matter! Flixbus has your back and for the humble price of 11 € (with the ISIC discount) you can pay a visit to that mesmerising capital! Now, Vienna is more pricey but if you have some birthday money saved up, go!  If you’re feeling adventurous, you could go even further. For example, I took a bus to Budapest and then a flight to Paris! Kosice also has an airport and lucky for you, sometimes they have cheap flights to London or Prague! Everything is at the palm of your hands, all you have to do is take it! Kosice is the second largest city in Slovakia, often considered its cultural capital. Sounds familiar? If you’re wondering what it’s like to live there, well, if you’re looking at how big it is, it’s similar to Plovdiv. So? Everything is located at a reasonable distance! And I’ll say it again, it’s so pretty –  pending winter there was a fairytale! Though, keep in mind – this is winter in the mountains, pack warm clothes.

Honourable mentions: I went to cold exposure (during October and November – for the brave – you can go to the city lake and, well, dip in the water for about 10 minutes), I went to ballet in that gorgeous opera they have, visited some museums, tried Tatratea, Borovička and Trdelník, visited the Christmas market that lasts the whole month of December and much more. There are so many cute cafes you can go to do your uni works, but Saint Coffee is still my favourite. A perfect spot to work or to do a debriefing of what happened the night before with your friends. I am eternally grateful for the experience and friendships I’ve gained during my stay. Make sure you go with a somewhat clear idea what you want to get out of the Erasmus experience and believe me, you’ll get it and so much more! People working in administration are on your side, the language barrier is something that can be worked around. Everything you’re telling yourself in favour of not going is only an excuse. Don’t underestimate it just because it’s a Slavic country. We are similar but we are also different. There’s so much to learn from each other. And don’t forget, no matter the country  Erasmus is an international experience – in Kosice I met people from Spain, Italy, France, Poland, Turkey, Latvia, Romania and Germany. All in one place.

With love, from your blissful future self!


Disclaimer:  Views and opinions expressed are however those of the author(s) only and do not necessarily reflect those of the European Union or the European Education and Culture Executive Agency (EACEA). Neither the European Union nor EACEA can be held responsible for them.

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