I am old-fashioned; a grand-mother’s soul lives inside my heart and there is nothing I can do about it. I listen to crooners and waltz with the utmost pleasure. I have read Jane Eyre more than twice and enjoy poetry. I like the silence and long walks in parks during autumn. I have no idea which celebrity is which and what is trendy or fashionable. But I am happy the way I am and I wouldn’t give up things I like for the sake of looking good.
That is why an entire semester in Erasmus is not what would appear as my cup of tea. If you, reader, are just a tiny bit the way I am, then you will understand me. It is not the fact of being abroad that I fear, nor the unexpected situations that anyone can meet in a new country. Missing my family is also not something I dread (I do know how to use Skype, thank you very much). I have already been abroad a few times and I know when to expect the homesickness blues and how to react. A clue: chocolate.
No reader: what I fear, are my peers. Those strange individuals, who call themselves the Erasmus generation. Their habits are fascinating. None of them has the same attitude and it is truly disturbing. Some of them live entirely by night. Some don’t, but will look strangely out of reality during the day. Some will look decent enough and suddenly turn crazy if given the opportunity. The Erasmus herd have very strange way of rejoicing. They gather in very small rooms, such as what they call the 5th floor kitchen, and make an awful lot of noise while drinking throat-burning liquids. Some will never stop travelling around and some will try to convince you that the moon does not exist. Whatever it is, none of them will entirely be like you.
It might sound judgemental but trust me, when I say it is not. I know I am the weird one; not drinking, not clubbing, not doing things the way usually people do. It’s not the only thing that my companions in this adventure do - thanks God! – but it takes a big part of the normal day-to-day life. However, I know, at least I hope, that I am not the only one on the face of Earth to react the way I do to people my age. So here are a few words of advice:
Stay the way you are
One may look at you in a bizarre way the first time you break the news to him/her but eventually everybody will know and just get along with it. If you don’t want to, you don’t have to be a totally new person. Adapting does not mean erasing your personality.
Stand for what you are
Don’t let people walk over you. You have every right to be different and to live like the true grand-ma you are deep down. If people laugh at you, don’t stay with them. There are a lot of people in the world, you will find other friends.
Find people who like who you are
It takes time and you might feel a bit lonely during the first weeks but keep looking. There are people who share interests with you. When you’ll find them, it will be wonderful. Quick example: I have been here two months and I have just started hanging out with the most amazing girl. We both like coffee and jazz. It took time, but it was worth it.
Sometimes, try to be adventurous (but just a little bit)
You know, I would have never said that a few months ago, but I can start to see the appeal of spending time with people who are nothing like me. You learn a lot about your own limits when you push them. I still don’t enjoy loud music and alcohol, but I like spending time with people, laughing with them and joking about totally random things. I love listening to divergent point of views on the same question and being able to share mine. I love debating and talking, and gathering, and hugging, and complaining, and rejoicing. Truth be told, I love caring about those strange beings, that are nothing like me, and so much like me at the same time.