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Copenhagen didn’t live up to fairy tale

Life in the ‘real’ Copenhagen turned out to be much harder than in the Erasmus bubble

For Greek student Vasia Moragianni, an Erasmus exchange semester in Copenhagen made such an impact that she decided to return as a full-degree Master’s student.

But neither her home country, nor the post-Erasmus Copenhagen lived up to her expectations. On her return, she found it very hard to resume her life in Greece:

»It was really hard. I was here from January to May and I had a great time in Copenhagen, so the moment that I landed at the airport and I met my father, I just said ‘I want to go back to Denmark’,« she explains.

»My father said to me, ‘just think about it for a while’. Of course, he did not want me to leave Greece, but in the end it is not up to him « she continues.

Sought ways to return

Back at her home university in Athens, finishing her bachelors degree, she attempted to keep up the Erasmus lifestyle.

»I really changed a lot during the five months in Copenhagen. I really missed meeting people from all over the world, so I tried to meet international people in Athens, and do what I was doing here, but it wasn’t the same.«

Faced with a feeling of claustrophobia, Vasia sought ways to return.
»I was sick of Greece. It was on my mind all the time. I constantly tried to find ways to come back to Denmark.,« she says.

Vasia took an unpaid internship and a paid job at the Hard Rock Café in Copenhagen to pay the rent. However, on returning to Denmark, Vasia met a similar sense of alienation to that which she had experienced on her homecoming to Greece.

»I thought it would be the same as when I was an Erasmus student. But it was not the same,« she says, with a weak smile.

»I hated my job from the first day. I studied Danish and went to work so I had no time to make friends. It was winter. I was lonely. It was just really hard.«

Lack of support

Coming back to Copenhagen, Vasia was unable to recommence the easy and free Erasmus lifestyle that she had missed so much. Now, she was faced with the ‘real’ Copenhagen.

»My time in Copenhagen changed my view of Greece. But I didn’t really experience real Danish culture. I only met other exchange students. I didn’t know how it really was until I came back the second time,« she explains.

»It was a culture shock to come back. I tried at first to do the same things I had done as an exchange student, like the international night at the Studenterhuset, but it was completely different. I felt old, and like I didn’t belong there anymore. Everyone else was young and on exchange, and I was in a different place.«

Vasia did not receive any counselling from her home university during her re-entry phase as an Erasmus student.

»Maybe it would be good if there were events for people who have done Erasmus, so we can meet and talk about our experiences. But Greek universities do not organise events other than seminars, so it is not realistic.«

Students fall for Erasmus dream

Vasia knows that she is not an isolated case. Most Erasmus students who are about to leave, dream of making a life in Copenhagen, she says.

»Most Erasmus students I knew here were sad to go home. They all say they want to move back here. But it is the Erasmus Copenhagen they have fallen in love with, not the real one. The real one is really hard.«

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