Our brand new episode of Erasmus in Kyiv is about Sabrina Schauer, a student from Vienna, Austria who did her Erasmus at the Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv in the spring semester, 2019. Before we learn about Sabrina's experience, it is good to know the storyteller, right? So let's meet Sabrina!
3 words you would describe yourself with:
Energetic, engaged, lazy (yes, energetic and lazy go very well together).
People that make you laugh the most:
people who tell ordinary stories but manage to find funny parts in it. I mean, they make me relive old adventures all over again.
3 things you took home from Kyiv:
new jacket, friends, experience
When did you know Santa wasn’t real?
People kept telling me that it was all about parents buying presents. But I refused to believe it for very long. So I was 11 when I finally gave up.
Favourite Ukrainian singer:
Alyona Alyona because of her energy, and Stasik because her music does something to people.
The place to be in Kyiv:
Podil and Trukhaniv Island. They are really peaceful.
Now that we know Sabrina, it's time to hear her story of being an Erasmus student in Kyiv!
Q: What your first day in Kyiv was like?
Cold. So cold. I have never felt so cold in my life (laughs). Well, I don’t actually quite remember what I did on my first day but I have a memory that stuck in my head. First of all, dormitory Internet is really tricky and I had to somehow organize it. Let’s just build the story around how I’ve got the Internet because it’s how everything fell into place. So I haven’t eaten anything that day and Liza and Sasha (ESN volunteers) who met me in the airport got me into Domino's across my dorm. It was the only place that was open that late. Suddenly Liza sees the people from my dorm so she simply goes over there and makes a whole investigation on how the Internet thing works and organizes me a phone number of one of those girls. I was just so lost, I didn't know anything. I couldn't even eat because I didn't have a plate. I told this to my new friend who turned out to be my direct neighbor and she was like “No problem. I've got you.” She went with me to the market that day, found everything I needed and told me where to go to get the Internet. So I went there and I met these super nice, super lovely and super crazy people who immediately invited me to a party. It was only my first weekend there! And it was fun! So I found the Internet, I found a lot of new people in the process and it was all set up. They were the people I spent months with. That was great.
Q: What was the cultural difference that surprised you the most?
There is a lot of stuff but I remember that I had an ATB (supermarket) near my dorm and there were only 3 aisles. One of them was just mayonnaise. They had a bigger selection of mayonnaise than they had of alcohol, can you realize now how serious things were? I still got the picture of this mayonnaise aisle and even brought Ukrainian mayonnaise home. You know, the one that is called EUROPEAN!
But jokes aside, I was impressed by how different Ukrainian attitude to nationalism is, how pride you are of your country. It`s small things like seeing the Ukrainian flags everywhere. We don`t have anything like that in Austria. I’ve read about it in books but coming here and experiencing it was a totally different thing.
Q: What did you enjoy about Taras Shevchenko University the most?
I studied at the Institute of International Relations and the organization was super easy for me. Usually, Erasmus people have these huge organizational problems with applying and going to courses. But for me it was super easy - the university did literally everything to make my life easy. They took care of everything - I could attend everything I wanted even though some classes weren’t the part of my major. Even when I came home they sent me all the documents I needed even though no one was in the office already. It was really surprising and very nice.
Q: What was your favorite ESN Kyiv event?
I think it was the language café. Ukrainian guys were explaining words in English and we had to speak Russian or Ukrainian and there were some rules I don’t remember... but I remember that it was fun! It was a fun night in general, very cozy, very comfortable. I’ve met a lot of people; it was really nice.
Q: What cities did you visit in Ukraine?
I went to Chernihiv with ESN, then Dnipro, Odesa, Kamianets-Podilskyi, Khotyn, Lviv, Zhytomyr and Chernobyl. It’s very unfair to the other cities but if I were to make the top 3, it would be Odesa, Odesa, Odesa. It was my first time seeing the Black Sea and the city has its very interesting charm. It feels a little bit like Italy, like the Mediterranean. It smells like the ocean and there is an archeological museum underneath the water. This is such an amazing idea! And the architecture there is so nice. I actually liked architecture everywhere, and in Kyiv as well. It’s so mixed. In Vienna everything is so structured, everything fits together. In Kyiv and Odesa, it’s like you see the concrete building next to a very imperialistic one with all the decor and big windows and it is a usual thing. I find this really great, I love it.
Q: What coming back from Erasmus feels like?
I really missed my people. And administration got worse again now that I didn’t get any special treatment as an Erasmus. However, I still knew that I was coming back to Ukraine for my archeological excavation. So when I got back home for good, it was a real cut. It was like "Breathe. Breathe. I’ve got back home and I’m not enjoying it".
Q: What is your advice for people coming to Kyiv?
Enjoy it! It’s a wonderful place. In general, every time you go abroad you discover people but you can also discover yourself. How do you react to new surroundings? How do you work with frustration? I mean, things are frustrating: sometimes you feel alone, sometimes you feel sad, not everything is sunshine and unicorns. But life is a playground, it’s playing with a safety net. You can find out how you will behave in this new world. It is really interesting - how will you deal with the challenges you face with? Discover yourself. Enjoy.
Interviewer: Anastasiia Mykytenko
Photos: Sabrina Schauer's personal archive