by Michela Turrina
To us, travelling around Europe, booking a train ticket for a city close by or for a city at the other side of Europe is equally easy: just a couple of clicks. However, it has not always been like that. Nowadays, we can enjoy this easy way of travelling thanks to the Schengen agreement. This agreement was signed in 1985 by 5 members of the European Economic Community. Their meeting point was rather peculiar, the Princess-Marie-Astrid boat, on the river Moselle in the little town of Schengen. Such agreement draw the bases of the freedom of movement agreement. The agreement is focus on the freedom of movement, which entails the right to live, study, work and retire anywhere in Europe. Such agreement is considered one of the hugest successes of European integration, second only to the long lasting peace that the continent is witnessing since 1945.
To better understand the impact of the agreement on everyday life, I want to share with you Marta and Frans experiences.
Marta is a Portuguese girl passionate about Italy and Italian language and culture. She set up her language school in Porto to teach Italian to local people. She decided to give it a try and move to Italy for a summer to experience working abroad, travelling, living in another country and improving her Italian. She agreed on sharing her experience with us.
- ‘I had an amazing time in Italy. I loved the food, the weather, the people. I got the opportunity of experiencing another way of living and working. I improved my Italian skills and I found love.’
-‘Marta, did this abroad experience affected your lifestyle somehow?’
— ‘Totally! It helped me thinking about the type of life I was leading back home and I realized it was too stressful. Teaching was absorbing all my time and energies. Being abroad helped me seeing my life from another perspective.’
-‘What about now? You live in Greece!’
-‘Yeah! After I finished my seasonal job in Italy, I went back to Portugal, but I understood that my time there was over. Therefore, I moved to Greece, where I am working in a hotel with my partner, the same Greek guy I met in Italy in summer 2015.’
The other person that decided to share his experience with us is Frans. Frans is from Sweden and in 2014 was a student of psychology. He decided to write his thesis on human behaviour, focusing on what makes people who live in Europe Europeans. To do so, coming from the very north of the continent, he needed to go deep down to the south to find out how Mediterranean people live and behave. He chose to travel with the Erasmus program to Madrid. He had the time of his life there, he could experience the advantage of living and studying in a country far away from his homeland, but still enjoying the same rights he had in Sweden.
-‘How was moving from the very north to the very south of Europe?’
-‘To be completely honest with you, I had a bit of a cultural shock at the beginning. Everybody was very cheerful and interacting with me, even though they did not know me at all. I found it fascinating how Spanish people connect among each other and their way of getting along together. They are always there to help and friendship feels like brotherhood. I appreciate this feeling. I also really like the fact that Spanish people shine, they have the sun inside. I had a nice time also travelling around the country, with my bad Spanish, which was improving day by day, though. I could see the landscape and the architecture that the beautiful Spain has to offer. It overwhelmed me seeing how Christian and Islamic culture blended each other over the centuries.’
-‘From your enthusiasm I understand that you had an amazing time in Spain. Would you recommend the Erasums adventure to future generations?’
-‘I definitely would. To all of those that will read the post, I strongly recommend to go for an experience abroad. Would it be Erasmus, European Voluntary Service, European Solidarity Corps or whatever other project promoted by the European Union, go for it. Going abroad, especially when you are young and you are still figuring out what to do next, is of great help. Travelling will help to grow and understand yourself better. And who knows, you can end up like me, 3 years later enjoying cervezas y tapas con mis colegas en Madrid!’
We are extremely grateful to Marta and Frans for having shared with us their experiences. They are just two of the many people that facilitated by the Schengen agreement decided to travel and discover what Europe has to offer.
And you, is your backpack ready to set off for the next adventure?
Feel free to share your #Europeanexperience with us!