Louis-Nicolas Eloy wins the "Share the + of your Erasmus +" contest

Louis-Nicolas' account of his Erasmus experience in Poland won over the panel.

Louis-Nicolas was a BLOC 3 student when he travelled to Poland. This is his story:

First you see a long list loaded with destinations. You think, "Wroclaw? Poland? Why not?" It may be the hope for a fresh start, just because the name is funny, or because it's not too expensive. You don't really know, you're just adding another city to the list. It is only after the surprise of being selected that you start to ask questions. You keep asking yourself questions until you arrive in country and meet your first Erasmus strangers who will have only three questions: "What's your name? Where do you come from? Why Wroclaw?" Why Wroclaw? Many answered, "because I love the cold," everyone laughed, and we avoided the question. The killer question: hardly anyone knew how to answer it at the time. Now I'm anxious for people to ask me that question again today after my Erasmus experience. I'm eager, but the person who would ask me might not be as eager or might be patient, very patient indeed.

In my case it was in Wroclaw, Poland during the first school quarter of 2016. Living in a foreign city, this was the challenge I took on like many young people have done before me and will continue to do so.

Before leaving you don't know too much about the Erasmus experience. You're not quite sure what you're getting yourself into. You don't really know where to go and you end up latching on to subjective criteria, which may be sunny weather for some or the local language for others, but it doesn't matter. Deep down you have this thought "What the heck! I'll do it!" No matter where I land, I'll do it.

Once we're there, we don't always know what we're doing. Life moves so quickly. We experience so many things and meet so many people that we don't have time to ask questions. We move into an apartment without really settling in. There are so many things to do outside that we never unpack our suitcase. This same suitcase will serve as a cupboard and storage unit throughout our adventure and will dominate the room during these endless (but fleeting) months. We pass what little time we do spend in our apartment telling our family how great Erasmus is over Skype or posting more and more souvenir photos from the day before on our wall.

That's what Erasmus is: encounters, moments, a story, a culture, a world, journeys, tours, parties, a state of mind. The Erasmus experience means going to yet another party and wondering, "How am I going to get myself up tomorrow morning?" No, the problem does not just relate to the next morning's classes but the next afternoon's tour, too. Tour? Yes, a tour of this city you had never heard of before, a tour that you have planned or rather improvised the night before with perfect strangers.

My own tour, the one that affected me the most, was in Cracow or rather "Kraków" as I should call it now. It was the first city-trip of my Erasmus experience and no one really knew each other. We boarded the bus which took us to this city as strangers and we left a few hours later as friends. The journey is just as important as the destination. There we walked around and toured during the day before eating a typical Polish dish on the main square, the Rynek. That night we went out for drinks in Cracow's bars before mingling with Polish locals at a night club if we were not tired enough yet. I can't tell you what I liked most about this city-trip, but one thing is for sure - before going on my first Erasmus city-trip I never thought I would spend these five months with the people there and have them become friends for life. Because that's what Erasmus is, too, one day other people are strangers and the next day they are your friends.

And today, one year later, I am only just beginning to appreciate Erasmus and its timeless quality. If I didn't wake up each morning to my smartphone ringing with a new message received from my American friend and fall asleep each night after having one last chat with my Indian friend, I might think that my Erasmus experience never actually happened. Because that's what Erasmus is. The Erasmus experience means living a dream, taking a flight into the unknown without ever really coming home because part of us stays there forever.

Louis-Nicolas Eloy, Erasmus in Wroclaw 2016-2017

The contest was organised by the Erasmus Agency + the "Fédération Wallonie Bruxelles"