This post is also available in: French
This morning, I sit in this tiny café. In this tiny street of this town that has become so tiny. I’m vaguely trying to do my work. This coffee I’m drinking, I do not think it is good; in Paris, I would have hated it. Yet here I love it. Like this chair wobbly, uncomfortable, and those passers-by who became friends, ye I do not know them. At home, we ignore the people that have crossed; we certainly don’t invest the time to sit and admire them. It’s strange, but I needed to love the people who live here; those who have always lived here, been here three months, arrived yesterday, those who will depart tomorrow and those who will remain all their lives.
Et ne m’en veux pas si je te tutoie
Je dis tu à tous ceux que j’aime
Même si je ne les ai vu qu’une seule fois
Je dis tu à tous ceux qui s’aiment
Même si je ne les connais pas »
That morning, I think I expected it and feared it. That morning, when we understand that Erasmus is over soon: time is accelerating and there is nothing to do to change that. I’m still in this town that I learned to love, and I already want to return. That morning is inevitable, it is almost that of nostalgia, and you know, or have known, too.
The day I arrived, this town was a vast desert; today it is tiny. I got to know this city, and she accepted me: the names, sounds, smells, lights. Forced to lose myself, looking for landmarks, eyes wide open, on the lookout: relentlessly admiring, I acclimatised. I had never been able to see both the beauty, diversity, coherence and complexity of a city. Why has this place so quickly become my home? Here I have to look too hard, to imagine, to understand, to not forget it as soon as I return. I feel at home here. So much so, I’ll have the feeling that I no longer belong to that place where I had always lived, at least for a few days.
I love this city I arrived by chance, where I knew no one. Just as you love, or loved, the city of your Erasmus exchange. You may also like your roommate, your room, living room or the terrace. The first time you will put your bags on this new bed, you will find this mixture of smells and presences, such as pieces of lives, those of all the other people who were passing through here. These people that you will never ever see have left an imprint of this narrow place and unknowingly you will do the same. This succession of people, cultures, backgrounds, is found in the walls of this room and throughout the apartment. When you arrive in this apartment in the unique atmosphere you’ll come across your roommates. These strangers in strange languages and customs so different from yours. But you soon understand the greatness and beauty of this illogical and haphazard grouping of individuals with conflicting destinies. And for all that my roommates gave me, I want to thank them. And I believe that all Erasmus flatshares are alike, all roommates are alike, a common atmosphere emanates from these apartments. If the places and people differ, all Erasmus flatshares will make you live a similar experience.
I propose then a non-exhaustive list of roommates that are found in all Erasmus roommates.
The organized roommate:
This is not the leader, but has in its nature something that he never leaves anything to chance. It was he who wrote on the fridge planning chores which also seems particularly unfair. He thinks of topping up the toilet paper stock before he buys provisions when the roommate organizes a barbecue on the terrace. At the same time, he calculates, organises, and takes notes on his phone: at the beginning it is not known why he was doing this. One quickly understands that every Saturday he will enter our room by telling us simply: “Do you have my 18 euros? For taxi, barbecue, toilet paper, cigarette I gave you …” Basically, we know that without him, the flatshare could not function.
The invisible roommate:
It will long remain a mystery roommate. We discover his presence two weeks after his arrival. Sometimes crosses into the kitchen in the middle of the night when you go to the bathroom. Then say hardly a sound that means hello, he answers softly. One day certainly he will go, without saying he will leave to new adventures. We notice a little later he is gone, and the few exchanges that we had with this roommate are missed.
The roommate who lives the night:
He knows all the nightclubs, bars, people, the town. Every night we meet him, he puts his shirt and feel the fragrance. He then asks: “What are you doing tonight? I’m going to a club with friends, are you coming?” During the day, very little chance of crossing unless he fell asleep exhausted the previous evening in a chair and a cigarette in hand.
He is not noisy but knows to be heard. He is quiet but knows how to capture attention. He is not imposing but he’s always there when needed. We immediately trust that person, he exudes a special serenity. And the unforgetable nights that we want to re-live, where we try to piece the night together, the confidante’s door is always open.
The roommate who never sleeps alone:
He is very beautiful, and she is very beautiful. He has an incredible ease with everyone he meets. We envy him a bit at first. Thanks to him, we discover a new person every day: one with whom he slept the night before. All the roommates every day eagerly waiting to find out who is hiding in his room this time. And when the person comes out, all eyes are set on her, everyone says hello, and waits for a response back: some strike up a conversation, others shyly pronounce a “hello”.
Whoever is not roommate, but lives here anyway:
This person is a friend of a roommate came to see him for a few days. At first he answers with a smile: “I’m here for two or three days!”. But the days go by and every morning we find that person asleep on the living room couch. Of course it does not bother anyone, simply, he is there.
The roommate who does it all:
The roommate will save your life many times during your Erasmus. We do not know why, but he does it all: smart, hard-working, handyman, musician, cook, translator, sportsman … It is he who will explain a math exercise that you did not understand, as he repairs the leak in the shower and baked a pizza.
The noisy roommate:
He is active in the life of the flatshare: always there to tell things about life, play music, make jokes … Everybody likes him. Yet we dream to teach him the existence of headphones when watching a movie, at four in the morning to ask him not to slam the door and sing when he gets drunk at the apartment, and not vacuuming Sunday morning, if-you-please.
The sad roommate:
Often when we spent a wonderful day full of happiness and he sits down next to us on the couch. He asks how it’s going, he was told “super, you?” An hour later you go to bed crying and wanting to go home.
This beer on the coffee table that we never drink:
One day a flatmate took out this cheap beer can, opened it, then forgot about it on the coffee table. Thinking it was empty, another roommate threw his cigarette butt in it. The next day another roommate had a craving for a beer, tasted it, then almost vomited. Each time, the can stood there on the same table. One week, then two, then three months. So we all knew it was the can’s place, it was now living here, and we had to find a name. No one will throw it, it is a benchmark for us all, a symbol.
To all these roommates, I want to say a big thank you. Despite all their faults, you may like your flatshare and your individual roommates, and feel a void when you no longer see them. These people leave with lessons and we learn their cultures and personalities. You will take from each of them a piece of their ideas and principles. You understand that you have created a group of friends from scratch, despite all barriers and contradictions encountered initially. You will feel that you have changed, grown, because in you there will be a little of each.
This is the same principle of potluck “There are what brings it and sharing with others is lived to the extent that we are willing to give and receive.“