My Erasmus Experience During Corona Pandemic 2020

Hello everyone. In this post, I will share my Erasmus Experience During Corona Pandemic.

What is the Erasmus+ program?

Erasmus program is the student mobility program that allows university students in EU member states to study one or two semesters in another EU member states, Turkey or Switzerland. This is to encourage young students to go out of their comfort zone and experience new cultures and countries.

It’s my final year and I had planned to do my thesis as an Erasmus exchange student. Unfortunately, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, things are not as straight forward as before and nobody knows what will happen!

The Erasmus committee has decided that if all the classes are online then there will be no financial aid. Only if students physically go to the destination country, financial aid will be paid. This seems logical to me because the whole purpose of Erasmus is to encourage young students to experience new environments and countries. yet, a lot of them cannot do it without financial aid.

My Erasmus+ Program

Tu-Darmstadt university.

My Thesis will hopefully be at the University of Darmstadt. Darmstadt is a city near Frankfurt. I have not been to Germany and I know there are many great companies there and, as people say, Germany is the paradise of mechanical engineering! One great thing about the University of Darmstadt that I noticed even before going there, is that it seems very organized. They have a very informative and well-structured website and they answer emails quickly. They also have a portal for available research projects in which students can just choose from and start working on them.

Due to uncertainties related to the Erasmus program, Some chose to postpone their Erasmus mobility to the second semester and It seems a good idea. I wanted to do it as soon as possible in order to avoid waste of time, however, it seems unavoidable.

It is extremely hard to get an appointment from the German embassy in Rome because of limitations due to the Corona pandemic. I hope I can get one in the next few days because otherwise, I will not be able to go to Germany at least for the winter semester 2020-2021.

(Update – 02/09/2020)
My documents are signed and almost everything is ready for me to go and start my semester as an Erasmus+ exchange student. However, I am stuck at the very final step which is getting German Visa! I have tried to get an appointment from the German embassy in Rome several times but the online booking system says there is no availability! I contacted the embassy via Email and they said due to COVID-19 their working times have been reduced and I need to check the website every day. That is what I am doing for almost 20 days now! I hope I can get an appointment.

(Update – 16/09/2020)
Hoooraaayyy, I got an appointment from the German Embassy in Rome! It was a big hassle! If you also need an appointment in super crowded times, you know that it is not an easy task due to some facts. First of all, although the German embassy answers all emails, they do not tell you any useful information. They imply that due to corona the working hours are limited and that new appointment time slots will be available on regular basis. So you check their website every day for more than a month, but You cannot spot a time! what the ***! Then you think, I will go there and ask what should I do, but when you go there, they do not even let you in! So how can you possibly get an appointment?! I will tell you in the next paragraph. This information is not given by the embassy or anything like that, these are just the way that I could get an appointment after almost 1 month of struggle and stress. I believe everybody should be provided with the information on how things happen so I will tell you all I know.

How to get an appointment from the German embassy in Rome during Corona Pandemic:

Firstly, the new appointments are being available at midnight every day at 12:00:00. The reason I put zeros there is because they are important. As of now (16/09/2020) all the slots are gone by 12:00:10! It means that you have less than 10 seconds to choose a time, fill the form and captcha, and then submit. Wait what?!! is it even possible?? a simple answer would be No and Yes.
If you try to fill the form one by one it will take around 30-50 seconds and then, when you submit the form it will tell you that the slot is not available. So here is a way to fill the form in less than a second!
1. Search and install Autofill extension for google chrome.
2. Familiarize yourself with the extension by reading its help.
3. Now you need to save the form. go to the appointments website at exactly 12:00:00. Choose a time slot and wait.
4. Fill the form but not Captcha validation. DO NOT SUBMIT the form.
5. From the upper window click on generate autofill rules. Assign a Key combination the Autofill to execute it quickly. like (CTRL+Space)
6. Now your Autofill is ready! Come back the next day at the same time, quickly choose a time slot, press the key combination. Your form should be filled now.
7. Carefully and quickly write the Captcha validation and press enter.
That’s it! If you don’t make a mistake with captcha, you will get an appointment. Hopefully, there will be more than enough time slots so that people would not need such a long and stressful procedure.

(Update – 19/09/2020)
In Germany, every person needs to have health insurance. This applies to Erasmus+ students as well as workers and basically everyone. The price of insurance varies greatly. It ranges from 30 to more than 200 euros per month. Luckily I found an insurance company called Mawista, which I find very convenient. I registered with their website and opted for their student plus tier which costs about 40 euros per month. Then after submitting the form, a message popped saying that they will process and send me the insurance in a week. Since I needed it sooner, I wrote an email to them and they sent me the documents in only 1 day. The support was great so I recommend this company.

(Update – 28/09/2020)

So I went to the German embassy but they asked for a document which “clearly” shows the amounts of funds that I will be getting from the Erasmus+ program. I asked the university for this and they provided a document but it was not useful. So I emailed them again and they said I have to wait until the 30th of September so that they can give me another document. Hopefully, the new one will be accepted in the German embassy. I wish all this paperwork, which is required only from people who are from third world countries, could be easier. Let’s wait and see what happens next.

(Update – 14/10/2020)

Finally, I am in Darmstadt! I have to say that Germany is so different than Italy. It’s greener and people have accepted bicycles as a part of their life. I saw old people using bicycles and I really like this culture. Also, google maps shows cycling routes that were not available in Rome. I brought my bike with me here. Because I had 2 suitcases, I locked it in Frankfurt and went to take it the next day. The weather was nice so I thought I will go to Darmstadt by bike. I got a route from google maps and I followed, then I found myself between a big forest.

My bike and a big forest near Frankfurt.

I enjoyed the fresh air and had some fun, but it was getting cold. I was going with the suggested route then I saw the narrow road is blocked and there is no way to the other side of the river. Luckily I could hear a nearby highway and I cycled towards it. Then I found a bus stop and a young man who helped me to find a way with public transport to Darmstadt. This was my first real Erasmus Experience During Corona Pandemic.

(Update – 14/11/2020)

I have started working on my thesis. I did all the paperwork and got a visa and now I am living in Darmstadt. I realized that during the pandemic and especially in Germany, The best thing to do is to get a bike and cycle through beautiful forests. I am glad that it is autumn and I can enjoy the attractive colors of it. These photos have been taken today during cycling near Oberwaldhaus in deiburgerstra├če.

(Update – 09/04/2021)

My return journey was very tiresome! I booked a train ticket from Frankfurt to Rome because Felix bus was not operating at that time due to the pandemic. My train was at 5 AM, but my friends were so kind to take me to the station even at that time. My ticket had two changes from Frankfurt to Munich, from Munich to Bologna, and from Bologna to Rome. My train from Munich to Bologna got canceled and I was stuck in Munich. Finally, I had to take the Flix bus from Munich to Rome. Overall my journey took about 26 hours!

My Erasmus came to an end with a lot of great memories. I was lucky to know great people and improved my German language. I also finished my thesis. Although the Pandemic canceled all the bars and festivals, I could find some alternatives. I cycled a lot through beautiful forests in Germany and we were able to have small parties with 4-5 people, sometimes more! I am happy that I took this opportunity.

Thanks to all Erasmus+ organization for giving me this opportunity.

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