Monthly Archives: December 2008

I Remember

I remember, it was Valentine’s Day when I got the first notification from the HEEM Programme.

I remember receiving the final notification from the University of Oslo two days before my last day at work and flying to Norway two weeks after getting married.

I remember buying grocery items good for one week upon arrival in Oslo and converted the total amount in Philippine Peso. Surprisingly, it was equivalent to my whole month grocery in Manila!

I remember the difficulty of explaining to my friends and relatives about my course and why I’ll be studying in three different universities.

I remember the initial reactions of people about European Master in Higher Education. Most of them thought that I’m intending to become a professor.

I remember the need to go home immediately after class because I have a “Skype date” with my family or husband.

HEEM study trip to Brussels

HEEM study trip to Brussels

I remember how my batch was able to organize a trip to Brussels and visit the European Commission and agencies such as EUA, ESMU and EMA. We appreciated that the University of Oslo shouldered our travel expenses 🙂

I remember reading more than 100 articles about higher education in just one semester. After discussing too much about Humboldt, I remember not wanting to deal with history anymore.

1st International Student Party at Saha in Tampere, Finland

1st International Student Party at Saha in Tampere, Finland

I remember playing UNO, having house parties and going to SAHA (a popular club in Tampere) until 4am.

I remember when my husband forgot his wedding ring at a wash area in Tampere. Two hours later, the ring was still there as if nobody had made an attempt to steal it.

I remember attending the auction at Tampere Police Station where I got a nice bike for 20 euros. My husband and I shouted our bid in Finnish.

I remember the sauna party that we had during spring. Recently, my classmates had started making plans of flying to Finland in May 2009 to attend this party and meet the new batch of HEEM students.

I remember how the Erasmus buddies in Aveiro failed to help us. Luckily, my two Portuguese classmates assisted the group in finding apartments.

I remember living without internet in Portugal and staying until midnight at the computer lab to download movies and search articles for my assignments.

I remember complaining about the University of Aveiro library, telling my friends that it’s the noisiest library on this planet! The situation made me feel that I want to go back to Finland for my last semester.

I remember when somebody told me that our HEEM coordinator was shocked to find out that I’m living with five other colleagues in a notorious neighborhood called Rua de Espinho. I’m happy to say that we survived Aveiro for 2 months and nothing happened!

I remember the excitement of catching Ryanair flights, backpacking and sending postcards. I remember travelling for 23 days last September before coming to Portugal.

At the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

At the Arc de Triomphe in Paris

I remember getting worried about writing my thesis starting January.

I remember contemplating the other day that I’ll be back to Nordic life soon and fulfill the last installment of this programme.

Charisse N. Reyes
HEEM-European Master in Higher Education ‘09
University of Oslo, Norway
University of Tampere, Finland
University of Aveiro, Portugal

Categories: Life in Europe | 9 Comments

I Remember

[Our guest blogger is an Erasmus Mundus alumnus from Indonesia. EM alumni from all countries are invited to also send to contribute memories of their EM study to this blog.]

I remember having difficulty explaining to people where Bolzano is. Bolzano, located in the north of Italy, is a very small city famous for tourist resorts, especially in the winter. It is very close to the Dolomites, hence tourists go there for skiing. By train, it is 45 minutes from Innsbruck (Austria), four hours from Munich (Germany), and 1.5 hours from Verona (Italy).

I remember feeling lost-in-time due to the long-haul flight: Jakarta-Singapore-Colombo-Dubai-Munich. This was not my first flight. However, I only had short-haul flights before. It was just like sleeping for 24 hours and once I flipped my eyes, I was already on the other part of the globe – far from home, far from family and friends.

I remember the sorrow I felt during the first two days in Bolzano, eating only fruits and crackers. I arrived in Bolzano Friday late at night. I just slept and slept on Saturday due to tiredness and jet-lag without buying any food. Sunday was a disaster, as supermarkets are closed on that day.  (I come from Jakarta, the city that never dies. Whether it is holiday, religious day, New Year, day or at late night, you can always find supermarkets and stores to buy something.)

I remember that Bolzano’s library is such a nice place to study. It has a lot of English books, full Internet connection, and many excellent facilities.

I remember living and studying with students from various countries in five continents. We stayed together in student house/dorm called Rainerum. Father Gregorio and Paolo as the dorm headmasters were great. Father Paolo has a book containing words and greetings in foreign languages from foreign students. Father Gregorio brought us to interesting places around Bolzano several times.


with Father Gregorio climbing the Alps


with Father Gregorio in Venice

I remember planning to jog regularly during spring – a plan that I could never commit to 🙂 The jogging track in Bolzano is just too nice. It is just by the river, passing some old castles and kids park, with great scenery.

I remember losing my cheap flight tickets to Norway (May 2007) and to Paris (July 2007). I just can’t resist the low prices that Ryan Air offered.


the nice jogging track in Bolzano


multiculturalism in Rainerum

I remember being picked up by Benjamin, my buddy (a local student that is assigned by the university to help a foreign student) at Wien Westbahnhof (train station) on my first arrival in Vienna. It was a freezing day during the beginning of winter. He wore only shorts at that time while I was feeling chilly. How come?

I remember enjoying the flexible class schedule in TU Wien. They have semester calendar, but the class may not be held all the way along the calendar. Some classes were held only for 1 month, with 4 sessions per week constituting total of 14 sessions. This was a factor that allowed me for traveling more in the second year.

I remember walking over the ruins of Athens Acropolis, playing kites during the clean-day festival, climbing through Acrocorinth, tasting local seafood culinary, being trapped in a tourist’s cruise ship (for 85 EUR day-trips to 3 islands: Poros, Hydra, and Aegina) some days in Greece in March 2008.


Acropolis, Athens, Greece


Hydra Island – a good place if you need to get away from the outside world

I remember of being a volunteer in the closing ceremony of Euro 2008™, being walking distance away from Michael Ballack and the German team when they were rehearsing.

I remember that I was happy knowing that there is no Thesis defense in TU Wien. Basically the arrangements are only between the student and his/her supervisor. Once all the goals are satisfied, the supervisor simply writes an acknowledgement letter certifying that the student finished Thesis. There is no panel of lecturers that would ask you killer questions. Sounds fun?


at Schoenbrunn Palace in Vienna with Indonesian friends


in front of Ernst-Happel stadium at the final match of Euro 2008™

I remember that I brought a suit to Vienna for defense and for graduation. However, there is no defense there. As for graduation, somehow 2008’s graduation day was delayed to be held along with the regular students’ graduation). So, it’s the same if I brought no suit – hence giving me some extra space in the luggage.

I remember that last week, Bolzano sent me an invitation to attend graduation degree ceremony on 12 December, but I couldn’t come. I should be happy enough just to obtain two degree certificates in three languages after two years of study, even without the graduation pictures.

Yansen Darmaputra
European Master in Computational Logic (EMCL) 2006-2008
Free University of Bozen-Bolzano, Italy
Technische Universität Wien, Austria

Categories: Alumni, Life in Europe | Leave a comment

Christmas Away from Home


The greenish glow of northern lights

Fourteen days to go, it’s Christmas once again! I’m excited to be home this Christmas after celebrating two Christmases away from home.

Although nothing compares to the festivities and merriment of Filipino Christmas, my two Christmases in a foreign land were quite an experience.

Christmas 2006

I was in Edinburgh, Scotland (UK). I arrived in UK late September, so I thought it would be too early to come home in December. Furthermore, I was looking forward to the Hogmanay celebration, the biggest New Year celebration in Europe.

Classes ended December 15, so I had 10 full days before Christmas. I decided to travel around England. Part of the adventure for me was traveling alone. My itinerary included London, Stonehenge, Bath, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon (Shakespeare’s birthplace). I also arranged to meet up with two fellow EM scholars, Indi and Ayeb.

Back in Edinburgh, a few days before Christmas, it was  lonely. Nothing much to do in Scotland during winter. Unlike in Pinas where we have bazaars till midnight, the town of Edinburgh is sleeping by 6pm.

Christmas Eve was spent with classmates and friends in the residence hall. Everyone brought local food. I brought baked potatoes. My excuse is that I couldn’t find the ingredients, so I cannot prepare Filipino food.

Christmas feast

Christmas feast


Christmas with Scottish family

The day of the big event came, everyone was excited though a bit worried that it was very windy the whole afternoon. He (who returned to Edinburgh from Mexico on that day) and I,  along with other classmates, trouped to the city center for the big New Year celebration. In the city center, we received the announcement that the event is canceled due to bad weather and were advised on how we can get refund for our ticket. Though disappointed, we proceeded to the residence hall and there we celebrated the coming of the New Year.

New Year's Eve in the bus

New Year's Eve in the bus

Unused Hogmanay ticket

Unused Hogmanay ticket

Although the much anticipated Hogmanay got cancelled, I was glad I to have survived the loneliest season for most Filipino overseas.

Christmas 2007

I was in Umeå, Sweden, about 600 km north of Stockholm and about 400 km south of the Arctic Circle. I didn’t come home for Christmas. I was graduating and coming back home in February 2008 anyway, so I decided to make the most of my few remaining months in Europe.

The winter of 2007 was spent mostly writing thesis.  From my window, I could see trees changing color during autumn and being covered by snow during winter. Not so far away, I could also see the lake turn into a wide skating rink when it freezes. We would joke that we are in the forest in the middle of nowhere, a place deliberately chosen by course coordinators for us to stay in our rooms to write our thesis.

Taking a break from thesis writing, we could go to the nearby lake for a bonfire, hoping to catch the elusive Aurora Borealis or the northern lights.


Around the bonfire

As a reward for having completed all the coursework and with only the thesis remaining, we planned a Christmas trip. Loaded in two rented cars, ten of us (representing eight nationalities) went to see Santa Claus in his residence in Santa Clause Village in Rovaniemi in Laplap region of Finland. Just like kids, we had our pictures taken with Santa and sent postcards in Santa’s post office to get the special Santa Clause postmark.


Meeting Santa Claus

We also visited the Ice Hotel in Kiruna, Sweden. Covering more than 30,000 square feet, the Ice Hotel includes the hotel itself, an Ice Chapel, an ice art exhibition hall, a cinema and the world famous Absolut Ice Bar.

Ice Hotel

Ice Hotel

Absolut Ice Bar

Absolut Ice Bar

Outdoor activities like snow mobile tour and dog sled ride (to travel over ice and through snow) filled our Christmas day. And the ultimate challenge, which I never thought that I would try, was skiing. I did it and probably won’t do it again.

On a snow mobile

On a snow mobile




The dogs


Students on the sled

Christmas 2008

I am truly grateful for the wonderful Christmases of 2006 and 2007. Looking forward to a great Christmas 2008 here in Pinas.

Vilma P. del Rosario

Master in Strategic Project Management European (MSPME) 2006-2008

Heriot-Watt University (Scotland, UK)

Politecnico di Milano (Italy)

Umea University (Sweden)

Categories: Alumni, Life in Europe | 4 Comments

I Remember


I remember browsing with excitement the Erasmus Mundus website after I got the information from an online newsletter.

I remember saying a little prayer when I mailed my application documents at the post office.

I remember completing the “simbang gabi” as I wanted so much to be accepted and so I have made it my special intention, my Christmas wish.

I remember feeling sad when I got the letter of rejection from Roskilde University and feeling elated but confused when I got a second notification that I was accepted at the University of Aarhus. (I don’t remember applying there!) I found out later that Aarhus University had just joined the Comundus Consortium.

I remember attending several “despedida” parties by my students (at least 5 from different batches), my colleagues, my friends and my family. It made me realize that I will be terribly missed!

In Denmark:

I remember arriving at the bus stop near the train station in downtown Aarhus and anxiously searched for the lady who was carrying the paper with my name on it. The lady was my mentor who happened to be pregnant that time.

I remember Prof. Per Jauert of Aarhus University, who exuded kindness and understanding even in his emails. This was further validated when I met him in person. He told me that I am the first and only scholar that the university is hosting that year.

A pose at the University of Aarhus in my favorite winter get up ;)

A pose at the University of Aarhus in my favorite winter get up 😉

I remember feeling embarrassed when I was introduced in my classes because I arrived in Denmark three weeks after school has started!

I remember the fun experience of working with my group mates for the visual media class where we produced two television campaigns. It proved to me that indeed, there is unity in diversity.

I remember my crushes: Lucca from Italy (dorm mate) and Ronny from Sweden (classmate).

I remember the fun and difficulty of learning the Danish language.

I remember my funny attempts at cooking and the fulfillment of successfully “feeding” myself.

I remember window-shopping at Bruun’s Galleri and strolling along Strøget. By then, I had fallen in love with H&M and have become the shop’s frequent customer.

I remember how my dorm mates reacted when I told them that I can’t bike.

I remember becoming a fan of Danish songs, especially those of TV2 and some contemporary Danish artists.

I remember Eddy, Armando, Martijn, Jesus, Anne-Louise, Ania, Patsarin, Sven; the dorm mates I met during my last term in Denmark. They are amazing people to be with and I like them even better than those I met during the first term.

The gang's all here - with dorm mates at Teknolog Kollegiet, Aarhus

The gang's all here - with dorm mates at Teknolog Kollegiet, Aarhus

I remember surviving my first Christmas away from home and was surprised to discover that I did not feel homesick. I am thankful to Imelda, my new Filipina friend and Lars, her Danish husband, who invited me to spend Christmas with them.

I remember the delight of experiencing snow and winter. I actually took a “snow shower” to really get the feel of it.

In London:

I remember the 7 months of crazy and great times in London: attending classes at IOE, taking salsa lessons at ULU, walking along Oxford Street, coffee-ing with my fabulous girls, hanging out at Russell Square Park, attending theme parties at the IOE cafeteria, having meals and being in parties at John Adams Hall, exploring the sights and sounds of Leicester Square and Piccadilly Circus, having a three-day birthday celebration (which has the dinner in a Pinoy restaurant as the highlight), dressing up for the IOE spring ball, enjoying the bus and tube rides, watching movies at the Prince Charles Cinema for a pound, seeing Jeremy Irons and Christian Slater perform on stage, crying while watching The Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables, and wondering at the unpredictability of London weather.

Looking pretty with the fabulous girls at the IOE Spring Ball, 2006

Looking pretty with the fabulous girls at the IOE Spring Ball, 2006

I remember being amazed by the collections at the British Museum and being challenged to see all of it, which I was not able to do.

I remember Prof. Robert “Bob” Ferguson of IOE, for all his wisdom and beautiful British accent. Attending his classes was something not to be missed.

I remember Sophie, Ansuyah, Maia and Anastasia (we are collectively known as the fabulous five), for the beautiful women that they are. Our friendship knows no race, color and culture.

I remember the hen party (bridal shower) we held for our dear friend Anastasia. It was indeed a crazy, fun night at a Greek restaurant. It ended with the famous Greek ceremony of plate-breaking.

I remember appreciating soccer and watching the world cup games in London.

I remember feeling anxious after submitting my course papers and asking: to pass or not to pass? That was the question. Then I remember feeling relieved after knowing I passed!

Post scripts:

I remember meeting the Viking of my heart the day after Christmas in 2005 and how the winter days became lovelier soon after.

I remember the pleasures of living an independent life and of appreciating what that means.

I remember the moments of solitude.

I remember crying on my way back home. I was overwhelmed by all the beautiful memories of Europe.

And I remember feeling grateful to have been given that once in a lifetime experience.

Shiella C. Balbutin
Erasmus Mundus/Comundus (2005-2007)
University of Aarhus, Denmark; Institute of Education, University of London, England

Categories: Alumni, Life in Europe | 5 Comments

Erasmus Mundus alumni bike trip in Jakarta

Southeast Asian Erasmus Mundus alumni (plus Jennifer Lenhart of the EMA Steering Committee) touring old Jakarta last November by bike with a rider/driver.

Can you imagine bringing the Southeast Asian alumni over to Manila and taking calesas around Intramuros? Just a thought.

Categories: Alumni | 2 Comments

I Remember

Reader’s Digest UK started featuring a series called “I Remember” that inspired me to write my own “I Remember” list from my two years of study in Europe.  I must have forgotten a lot of things here but I shall keep adding to the list.  I look forward to reading your own “I Remember” posts.

I remember applying for a Quota Scholarship at the University of Oslo and they offered me Erasmus Mundus, which was just starting at that time, instead.

I remember almost missing the deadline for sending my letter of acceptance.  The packet had been in my room in the province and nobody had told me about it.  I hadn’t gone home for three weeks.

I remember coming to a strange land on my own, not knowing a single soul, and felt a warm welcome through the kindly bus driver who, when I got down, also went down and let all the other passengers wait while he took my suitcases from the compartment and then used his mobile to phone a cab for me.

I remember that after only two weeks in Oslo I had met people from over 40 countries, most of whom were scholars.  The Tibetans I found the most interesting.

I remember missing home but never for once did I cry, till I met my future husband and his parents.  I remember that the trips to England became frequent and I started crying for that place I call my home in Europe, wanting to go back each time.

I remember my funny and great neighbours in Oslo.  I remember the empty beer bottles the guys used to leave in the hallway, the slush-covered boots sprawled everywhere and the snow creeping through the fire exit door.

I remember watching my first football game to satisfy my curiosity after hearing people shout and yell all the way from the Ulleval Stadium up in my room in Sogn.

I remember that I suddenly stopped reading for pleasure, and tried to talk to people more and travel as much as I could.

I remember writing a paper and being confused with my own arguments.

I remember Helga Engs Hus at UiO, and how we bought hot water at the café and brought our own tea because everything was so expensive.

I remember going to Grønland, a cheap grocery, for 10 kilos of rice to save NOK10.  I remember the burden of carrying it from the T-bane station in Ulleval Stadion up to my room in Sogn, 20-plus minutes away (with small steps).  I never did that again.

I remember slipping on the ice, and on ice masquerading to be snow, six or seven times during my first winter in Norway.

I remember how easy it was to jump on a bus to go to Sweden or Denmark from Oslo.

I remember getting used to -15 or -20 degrees of temperature during winter in Finland.

Crossing the Arctic Circle at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland

Crossing the Arctic Circle at the Santa Claus Village in Rovaniemi, Finnish Lapland

I remember missing Norway a great deal but was grateful for the fact that the people in Finland took care of us more.

I remember summer in Tampere, Finland, the sunsets close to midnight, and the mere four-hour darkness that seemed to have affected the sleep I got as well.

I remember changing my thesis topic three or four times.

Norwegian and Portuguese “feet”

Norwegian and Portuguese “feet”

I remember literally being close to the Atlantic Ocean; walking on the beach in Barra, Portugal barefooted, the saltwater surprisingly cooler than the very hot sand.  I remember sending a “spot the difference” picture to my friend in Oslo, the Georgian poetess, two sets of feet – one in snow, another on the beach.  She wrote back: “not fair to be made to take a look at these pair of little feet Norwegian and Portuguese side by side.”

I remember pretty little Aveiro in Portugal reminding me of our very own Vigan.  I remember the rainy and windy days that left me soaked to the bones after walking home from the university.  I remember wanting to get out of Portugal, fast.  I didn’t give it much of a chance as it was really a lovely place, to be fair.

I remember not remembering much of Portugal as I had spent only six weeks there in all, flying half the semester to my adoptive family in England.  I remember my future husband driving his British car all the way from England, passing France and Spain, to pick me up from Portugal for Christmas holidays.  Coming back to England was the second time we drove around Europe.  We have seen most of Western, Southern and Northern Europe since, always favouring driving through the mountains if we could, more than the boring autobahn.

Peterhof in St. Petersburg, Russia

Peterhof in St. Petersburg, Russia

I remember the student trips, the most memorable of which was the train ride from Finland to Russia.

I remember being introduced to the songs of Belle and Sebastian and Leonard Cohen through an Italian neighbour in Oslo.  To this day, I still feel nostalgic whenever I hear those songs, remembering those first magical months living alone as a student abroad.

Catherine Batac Walder
HEEM (2005-2007)
University of Oslo, Norway; University of Tampere, Finland and University of Aveiro, Portugal

Categories: Alumni, Life in Europe | 3 Comments

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