Erasmus alone or with a group?
Doing Erasmus alone, with a group of friends or with your partner are very different experiences. I would like to share with you my perspective of the issue, as a Hungarian student having her second Erasmus semester in Aveiro.
I spent a 5 months on Malta as my first Erasmus experience and heard the question several times: So whom did you come with?
Now in Aveiro, on my second Erasmus, people are surprised too that I do not really know any other Hungarians in Portugal. Most people have someone coming at least from the same university as them or they get to know students from the same nationality on their first weeks. It is also common to go together with friends or with a girlfriend/boyfriend. On the other side, it is also usual to go completely alone, living with foreigners, who are strangers to you until you start sharing an apartment.
I went completely alone to Malta. It was a huge step for me; I had never even lived outside of my family house before, not even in Budapest, where I am from. I remember my parents worrying about everything that could go wrong and some of my friends asking how I had such courage. This was in 2021 autumn, after everyone spent almost a year at home, our social lives were dire and I did not have yet the chance to have a face to face class at my university in Hungary. In spite of all this, I did not feel terrified up until the previous night. I started to really regret being so adventurous. Luckily, this feeling was fading fast as I took my first walk around the neighbourhood in Malta.
On Erasmus, you form deep friendships a hundred times faster than at home. You might be alone until your flatmates arrive or until you realize that there are events happening almost every day held by Erasmus organizations, like Erasmus Life Aveiro for example. Then you find your type of people and feel like you have known them forever after getting to know them better.
There is so much to explore in a new place, and so many students are in a very similar situation that you end up bonding naturally over struggles with university, public transport and funny habits of locals. It is easy to make connections when everybody around you is open and looking for them too. I suppose the Erasmus spirit hits you almost as hard even if you come with a group of friends. I do not have such an experience like this but I think having loved ones around you during these fearful new experiences can be comforting. Those friends will be your second family after being there for each other for a semester or two. However, it is important that you also open up to new people from other countries. Erasmus can be a life changing experience if you really submerge in it and not just try to stick to what feels familiar.
Having said this, I have to admit that I think every Erasmus is different based on the location, the time, your personality, etc. In addition, not everyone needs that huge self-realization that is almost the key word of the Erasmus world. If you would rather take it slow and a bit safer, I think it is okay to view it as a huge vacation with your loved ones. In my experience, going alone to Malta and then to Aveiro was the best thing I did for myself. I changed in ways that I did not know possible. It gives me a huge boost of confidence to know that I can find my type of people and free time for activities abroad while feeling like myself thousand miles away from home.
As a closing thought, going on Erasmus is amazing no matter how you do it. Alone, you can challenge yourself in every way possible; in a group, you can have a safe haven to return to when you need it. There is no universal best solution to everyone; the only thing is that at the end of the day, do not feel like you missed out on something important to you!