Erasmus has thousands of love stories. Some of them result in 1 million Erasmus babies, and others have no happy-ever-after but a very sweet in-between. Yet, every single of them is precious and lovely.
To celebrate the holiday of love and affection, we have gathered 3 stories about love that Ukrainians experienced during their exchanges.
Married Couple in Bilbao, Spain
Our first story is from a student of Taras Shevchenko National University who went on the Erasmus+ exchange in Bilbao, Spain.
We met on the evening of January 31 when I arrived in the city. He texted me a few weeks in advance because housing service said we were roommates. He has lived in Bilbao for 2 years already and worked there after the Erasmus Mundus Joint Degree.
I arrived in Bilbao at about 11 pm. He met me at a bus stop on the main street. As he keeps saying, "I wanted to give you a hug, and you just started walking”. In reality, I was just scared and terribly tired from the first flight on a plane with a long transfer.
He was very hospitable and friendly, explained everything, and brought my suitcase.
He seemed too friendly to me then. I don't know anyone like that in Ukraine, so it was annoying at the beginning. I was wrong about him though: he was the one who helped me feel at home in a new city.
Living as a married couple
Although I heard that everyone on Erasmus "falls in love", I decided that I didn't need it. I just wanted to study, travel and become friends with the Spaniards.
Two weeks before the quarantine we went to a party that I did not like at all: I am not a party animal, I just wanted to experience something new. In the middle of the party, I said I wanted to go home. We left the party, bought wine and decided to dance at home. I was then engaged in bachata, so I taught him how to move.
Then we began to watch TV series together, go hiking in the mountains, he introduced me to his friends.
I said that I did not need a love adventure on Erasmus but then… I gave up. Because of quarantine, we have already begun to live as a married couple.
This is not a romantic story that everyone wants to hear. I was convinced that no one needs that honeymoon phase. I just saw that I could trust him and so it went.
He was the embodiment of everything you can dream of: hospitable, friendly, gentle, wise, masterful. I remember how he treated me all he could and knew when I needed to, while the hospitals were closed.
He is the one you look at and think: "His future wife will be lucky. He is the only one I can completely trust."
He is beautiful as a person and a friend, and this is the strong foundation for a relationship. For me, it was shocking to meet someone like that: I have not yet met such people in Ukraine.
The most painful thing was that he was from a country where religion and tradition did not allow him to marry a person from another religion. So he said, "If I could, I would marry you right now. But my family will renounce me. I can’t do this." That's why we were secretly dating. Nobody knew anything.
As soon as I got back home, it felt like the end of the world. All these Erasmus stories are tragic in their own way. In half a year a person becomes yours, but then there is the distance between you. It is difficult to make it work. Even though we text and call each other, nothing is the same as it was when you were still on exchange.
Our second story happened on the other continent, namely in America. After his bachelor's degree, Stas decided to go on an exchange abroad. He saw that he could go to the States for six months, living off duty, travelling. So he ended up in Charleston in South Carolina, where this story began.
The First Meeting
The path to the first meeting was in no way simple and straightforward. I lived in a dormitory, and on the ground floor, there was an open space with a billiard and tennis table, coaches and a few TVs. Once I was reading a book downstairs and two ladies entered and started to play billiards, but they were putting too much strength into hits, so I kindly offered my help to show basic shot rules.
After that, we started a conversation, and they invited me to join one of their women’s rights organisation meetings. This was a perfect opportunity to meet new people, so I was down.
I met her there. She approached me first after meeting and asked if I was a freshman. I told her that I am an exchange student and am from Ukraine. She replied that she’s been studying Russian for a while. She asked if she could reach out to me if she needed help with Russian classes and I agreed.
It was not love at first sight. She was a cool person to spend time with, and it felt great to talk to her: we had a lot of laughs, talked about the US and European culture, how systems work here and there, of course, I was explaining the difference between Ukraine and Russian Federation. We also did presentations for each other and, as she’s feminist, I told her about the greatest (in my honest opinion) woman in Ukrainian history - Olga of Kyiv. Sometimes we went really deep in conversations, personal stories and struggles.
We were texting a lot, then one day we went for a walk and decided to watch a movie together. That was when we had a heart-to-heart chat. I value other people's feelings a lot due to my personal unpleasant experience, so I wanted to avoid breaking the heart of a great human bean (that’s what we called each other). It was important for me to know (and as it turned out for her too) that we both liked each other as people. I wanted to date her but at the same time, I could not promise her anything: I was going to come back to Europe and it was not going to be pretty.
"Are you okay with that?” sounded like dozens of time during that evening, but it was extremely important to talk this through for both of us.
We’re both nerds, so we were studying together all day long. A few times, I cooked dinners for her, as this is my a way to show I liked her. I loved moments when she was very focused on some study material, and I always tried to capture those moments. You know, I valued spending time with her a lot
There were a lot of small romantic moments, but the one, when we went to the Atlantic ocean coast, was special. We took some food and blankets and drove to the beach, fooling around, chatting, having fun, and taking a lot of photos. A few of them are in my room.
I think what I loved the most is that both of us are very stubborn and we were ready to debate about a variety of topics for hours, googling and proving our points of view. Usually, it ended up with us having the same opinion, but it’s good that we figured that out. In a way it was sweet, but you have to feel the boundary.
She is an extremely strong person. I loved her energy and passion, her bright mind. She seeks knowledge, she is an explorer with sparkling eyes, she is a true leader and looks at you and her friends with love and affection. She’s gorgeous inside and out, and I love to see her with a smile.
Even if you know that you will only date for a while, you cannot promise that it will not hurt to say goodbye.
May 15 was our last day together as a couple. We woke up, had Callie's Hot Little Biscuit breakfast and talked. About us, about her plans coming to Europe and our travelling goals, about everything we only could in the last hours. I was not sad or emotional at that moment. I got used to saying goodbyes to the people I love and care for. It’s tough, you may not like it, but this is life.
We met again in a month when I was visiting her in another state, but at that time we already decided to stay just friends. When I came back home, I started to miss her a lot as a person. I think that’s the feeling of missing someone important in your life.
We’re staying in touch with her and trying to have Zoom calls once in a few months to talk. A long-distance relationship is not for us: despite the great variety of activities you can do at a distance, physical presence is essential for both of us. As for now, she’s planning to come to Europe. We will see how both of us have changed since our last meeting and we will go from there.
My love story happened during the most chaotic time of 2020, and I am blessed to have met this extraordinary human bean, and I would never trade this with devil deal to have “normal” exchange time.
I am very grateful that I met her. She will remain a very important person to me for the rest of my life. It is important for me to know that she is happy and safe. I appreciate all the good that happened between us, all the lessons she taught me, all her kindness, patience and warm love. No matter how much time has passed, even in 5-10-N years, I will always do my best to help her.
3 Thousand Kilometres Apart But Still Together
Our final third story is from a fourth-year student of the Faculty of Philology. She went on Erasmus to the University of Sofia, Bulgaria. What happened in the sunny city? Read and find out!
The Beginning Of The Story
On the first day of school, we gathered in the assembly hall to listen to a presentation of the university and discuss organizational issues. I was choosing the seat where I can see and hear everything for a long time. But when the presentation began, three tall guys entered the hall and sat right in front of me. One of them was constantly chatting. Consequently, I didn't see or hear anything at all. "I hope we don't meet at the lessons”, I thought then. Guess who I met at my first class?
So yeah, the first meeting was terrible.
I saw him often in the English class but we did not speak to each other really. At one of the Erasmus parties, we had a small talk and he asked for my number. The next day he suggested we go grab a cup of coffee together.
My friends said that it was a horrible idea but I went with it. We did not part ever since.
It was not scary to admit my feelings. We were invited to a party with a clear dress code: those who are in a relationship - wear red clothes, who are uncertain - yellow, in active search - green. I just asked, "What colour should I wear?" And he said, "Red."
We had a lot of romantic moments. However, I always warmly remember our joint trip to Kalamata (Greece) where we rented a motorcycle and went to various cool beaches, and in the evening we bought snacks and drinks and were sitting by the sea.
As for cultural barriers, there are many. He is Spanish, I am Ukrainian. I clearly plan my day to make the most of all the time, and he lives in the moment and goes to bed at lunch sometimes (for me, it is the worst thing that can happen).
For a long time I was annoyed that he didn't open the door in front of me, so one day I stubbornly stood in front of the door until he opened it.
As it turned out later, he was afraid to offend me, because Spanish women, who are overly concerned with the ideas of feminism, find such gestures humiliating. Now we try to discuss such things so that there are no misunderstandings.
The End Of Erasmus
I felt miserable when I had to go back home. I remember how we were in the taxi on our way to the airport and we could not believe that the exchange was over.
He felt worse than I did though. He changed his tickets last minute so he could drive me to the airport. All his friends were already gone and I was too. He came back to the empty apartment that reminded him of everything that was over.
We are still together. He visited me two months after the exchange was over and really liked Ukraine. Now that it is the pandemic, it is almost impossible to meet. So we wait till it is over and we can see each other and make new plans together.
This acquaintance taught me to accept people as they are, and also, given that we are separated by more than 3 thousand kilometres, I learned patience.
To love and be loved is a great gift, an incomparable blessing. So, take care of your loved ones and save the eternal flame between you. Let no difficulties prevent you from being happy.
Happy Valentine’s Day, dears!