Studying abroad is a life-changing experience for many students, it expands your horizons and opens a whole new world of possibilities and opportunities. It’s also a great way to meet people from all over the world and learn new cultures.
“We made a lot of friends, made great memories, went on a lot of trips like ESN Sea Battle, Russia and Lapland, which was the best trip of my life”.
August 2016, the very beginning of the Erasmus period at Linnaeus University in Kalmar, Ana who was 19 years old from Spain passes Mark, 22 years old from the Netherlands, at a university welcome luncheon. Young and excited for their Erasmus semester in Sweden, little did they know they were going to meet the love of their life.
“Mark saw me already the first day, the first day at the university when we got free lunch, he looked at me, but I didn’t see him”, Ana laughs proudly.
“I saw Ana the first day walking past me, it was on a Friday, then that night there was the festival that I went to with all the Erasmus students, everyone was there, but the Spanish girls, they were not there”, Mark says.
It was only 3 days later that they had their first real encounter at the Castle Tour that was arranged by ESN Kalmar.
“Us Spanish girls went over to the Dutch boys, because we are nice and one of my friends told them they could join for drinks, but that’s the Spanish way, we didn’t even remember inviting them and then they showed up and then we started hanging out. I thought Mark was handsome, but he talked very fast English, so I didn’t talk to him a lot”, Ana laughs.
Neither Ana nor Mark had planned on meeting anyone. They were both very settled on going on Erasmus to learn, travel and meet new friends, both had a strict policy of not starting anything with anyone.
“To be honest I broke up with my ex-girlfriend 3 months before that, so what I had in mind was that if I would kiss any girls then that would be fine, because I wasn’t looking for anything. My plan was: don’t come back with a relationship, don’t come back with a relationship, because I wanted to be single for 1,5 yearssomething”, Mark says while laughing.
“And I was talking with the Spanish girls and told them: girls, we are here to enjoy, I’m not interested in boys at all, I was really not interested in kissing or anything, I just wanted to enjoy my time, learn and meet new people”, she laughs while repeating, that she was not at all interested in meeting boys.
“I think I fell in love with Mark because I didn’t plan it, because it’s not something that you were looking for, it’s something that found you”.
Ana and Mark started spending more time together and got really close during their Lapland trip with other friends through ESN Kalmar in November 2016. They spent over 18 hours together talking and getting to know each other, and even though they made the trip with other friends, they felt like it was only them. They started developing a stronger connection and feelings for each other around that time.
“After Lapland, we went on a city trip alone together before Ana was going back to Spain for Christmas for two weeks, and then I realized; this girl is not coming out of my mind. She was in Spain, and we were still calling or skyping 3 hours a day or whatever, it continued and then I realized that I’m stuck in this”, he says while laughing.
As time flew by and Mark’s Erasmus semester was coming to an end, while Ana was going to stay for another semester, they were spending every second together. It was not until one day before Mark’s departure back to the Netherlands that he specified the relationship.
“We were at Mark’s place and were going to have some pasta with some friends, and then he says: Ana, what about us, and I said I don’t know, and he said I don’t want to be with any other girl if it’s not you, those were the words. And then I said OKAY let’s try it then”, they laugh while talking about it.
“Yeah, cause before, I really had in mind that I didn’t want a girlfriend, I didn’t want to go back with a girlfriend, especially not a long relationship, because I always thought that was for losers”, he laughs. “But then I realized, when she went to Spain, that I didn’t care, I was in love and I wanted this girl, and when she came back that was all that was on my mind, and we spent every day and every second together, and then I had to at least make it exclusive and had to know if she at least thought and felt the same thing before going back to the Netherlands”.
Ana and Mark embarked on a 4-year long-distance relationship, each taking turn to visit each other every 4-5 weeks. Now, in 2021, 5 years later they are finally living together in Amsterdam and enjoying each other’s company, to see and talk to each other first thing in the morning and last thing at night before sleep. They are happy they could take this step after 4 years of struggle with making travel plans and missing each other, especially when Covid-19 happened, they explained that they could not see each other for 3-4 months, which made it even harder. Their love for one another is stronger after 5 years and they see each other as soulmates and plan to buy a house together in Spain in the future.
When asking the couple on recommendations to students contemplating whether they should go on an Erasmus exchange and what their tips are, here is what they said:
“For sure visit Lapland, I think it’s a pity for anyone that goes to Erasmus in Sweden and doesn’t visit Lapland, because it’s truly a waste of experiencing something really beautiful”.
“Take a lot of fikas”.
“Talk to everyone, don’t mind how bad your English is, because that’s how you learn and don’t mind what people think, do all the activities and go on all of the trips, join ESN and go to university don’t be lazy”.
“Enjoy as much as possible, because it’s a once in a lifetime kind of experience, because it will feel like a dream and that’s exactly how I think and feel about it still”.