UK Pre-departure Briefing at the British Council

The British Council will have a Pre-Departure Briefing Seminar on 20 July 2012, Friday, at the premises of the British Council Philippines from 6:00 PM – 8:00 PM.

This event is intended for those who will be going to the UK to study this academic year. The 2 hour programme will cover topics ranging from academic life, accommodation, cost of living and many more.

We have invited Filipinos who have studied in the UK to share experiences on their student life in the UK while British Council Philippines staff will be on hand to answer other queries about studying and living in the UK.

To reserve a seat, please email the following information to

  • Name
  • UK Institution or University
  • Course or Programme

Admission is FREE.

This event is exclusive to those who are bound for the UK to study.

This seminar will also be broadcasted via live internet feed (WEBINAR). If you prefer to join us online, please send the above information to the same email address and we will send you instructions on how to join. It is advisable for you to have a good internet connection, using either Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, and a headset for better quality viewing of the webinar.

For further enquiries, please do not hesitate to contact us or check us out on our Facebook Page.

Categories: Announcements, Students | Leave a comment

A Romanian Easter

Our Europe correspondent, Mari-An C. Santos, tells us about her first Easter in Romania.

Putna Monastery was built by the leadership of Stefan cel Mare after winning in battle

Romania is composed largely of adherents to the Eastern Orthodox Church. It is interesting to see so many churches in both cities and small villages with the uniquely Orthodox elements and Christian icons.

Many Romanian Orthodox faithful observe post, or a fast for 40 days during the Lenten season. In this period, they abstain from eating any meats or animal by-products, in some areas, this means that they do not eat eggs either.

This past Easter, I was blessed with the opportunity to spend the Easter holidays in the most traditional part of Romania, Moldova in the northeast, near the border with Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. This year, the Easter celebration was a week after our own Catholic observance. I traveled with a friend from Pakistan, a friend from Czech Republic, and two American friends who have lived in Romania for almost three years.

We first went to Targu Neamt, which is where my American friends, David and Veronica, used to live. There, we attended the Easter Vigil Mass that was celebrated from 11 pm until about 2 am. It was composed of many prayers and songs and rituals that accompanied the resurrection of Christ. As part of the celebration, people brought bread to be blessed. They also brought big candles in canisters that were lit during the service and afterwards, those whose dearly departed buried in the cemetery nearby brought the lit candles to the graves and left them there. The end of the solemn ceremony signaled a true celebration, a feast of eating and drinking among the faithful.

Multicultural Friends at Easter lunch: Veronica, Claudia and Marius, and Reema

The next day, we had Easter lunch with the Botez family, whose patriarch is an Orthodox priest. It was an interesting, multicultural, multilingual mix. The family members understood English but did not speak it much. We managed with my broken Romanian and David and Veronica’s excellent Romanian.

We started with the traditional Easter egg game using painted eggs specially prepared for the occasion. The eggs symbolize the eggs that were at the foot of the cross when Jesus was crucified and the His blood rendered them crimson. To color the eggs, they boil the red onions and then use the same water to boil eggs with patterns—either by sticking small leaves on the eggshells or rendering a design with wax before they boil them in the colored water. Of course, this is the traditional way; I encountered egg-painting sessions in other parts of the country where they used store-bought paints.

The author beside a giant painted Easter egg

Anyway, the game goes that people break into pairs, holding one painted egg each. One person says “Hristos a inviat (Christ is risen)!” and the other says “Adeverat a inviat (Indeed, He is risen)!” and cracks one the bottom end of his egg on the top end of the other. If your eggshell is cracked, you turn it over and play the game with another person. This goes on around the table and the “winner” is the person whose egg survives uncracked.

During a visit to the toilet, I saw that there was a painted egg in a cup of water on the sink—and a paper bill under the cup. I asked my hosts about this when I got back to the table and they said that they believe that if they washed their faces with this water in which the egg was soaked, they will look beautiful and healthy all throughout the year. And the money? Well, the last one to wash his face gets to keep it.

They served us different homemade cheeses, meats, salmon salad, and of course, lamb. My friends say that this is the only time of the year when lamb is commonly eaten. We also enjoyed homemade tuica (liquor made from plums) and homemade red wine. It is very nice that they are still able to make things from home here, ensuring that everything is natural and without harmful chemicals. They also introduced me to a nice, new refreshment. They take homemade pine syrup (from young pine) and pour a small amount in a glass then pour in about three-fourths carbonated water. It is a sweet, refreshing, and they say, therapeutic drink. All I know is, it tastes fantastic!

Sweet tooth that I am, the highlight of the meal was when we had traditional desserts like pasca and cozonac. Pasca is only prepared during Easter and can be made with chocolate, sweet cheese and raisins, or sour cream. We had the two last varieties, made by the Botez’s grandmother and they were divine! We also had some cozonac, which is a more common dessert that I also tasted at Christmas time.

We also met David, a Guatemalan who married a Romanian, Florentina, and converted to the Orthodox faith. We had a nice time getting to know them and their beautiful little girl, Maria. They also gave us some homemade cozonac. What a feast this Easter was!

Wall from the Voronet monastery–known for the “Voronet Blue”

Suceava Fortress under renovation

While in the region, we made the most of our proximity to the painted monasteries in Suceava. These are unique sites that date back to the 15th and 16th centuries. Some of the doctrines of the church as well as stories from the Bible are painted on the outside walls of the churches in order to help the illiterate faithful of that time to understand the teachings. Inside, during service, women stood on one side of the church, and men on the other side. The most visited churches are some distance apart, so you need a car to go on a pilgrimage from one to the other. We visited Putna, Sucevita, Humor, Voronet, and Moldovita.

Overall, it was a different, very educational trip to that part of Romania and I am glad that I was able to do it, gaining more knowledge, experience, and new friends along the way.

Related stories:

First Bursts of Spring in Sibiu

Valentine’s in Sibiu

Categories: Life in Europe | 5 Comments

Results jitters

Hello, EM applicants!

I’ve noticed a lot of tension and excitement in the comments section lately pertaining to the results of the 2012-2013 intake. Because there is a lack of a proper forum for the topic, it’s inevitable that this blog is flooded with your updates, which we welcome.

One thing I would like to request for you is to be very patient. I know you’ve been waiting for a long time. I’ve been there and I know how it feels like. Don’t get stressed about things that are beyond your control and add to other applicants’ nervousness. Just state your update (or the lack thereof), but please don’t vent here. The results will greatly impact on your life for the next few years, for sure, but it’s not reasonable to expect an inter-country committee poring through hundreds of application to fit their timelines into yours. Some consortia have finished their processes ahead but don’t let that be your standard. Each consortium has its own timings, though they all have the same deadlines at the Commission.

If it’s any consolation, I only heard about the scholarship decision in late June. I believe a lot has improved since then (six years ago).

Good luck and keep us posted. We’d be happy to hear from you.



Your Admin

Categories: Announcements, Erasmus Mundus, Students | 1 Comment

New EMA-SEA Chapter Board

Congratulations to the newly elected board of the EMA Southeast Asia Chapter!
  • President of EMA South East Asia Chapter: See Yuen Beh
  • Vice President of EMA South East Asia Chapter: Shiella C. Balbutin
  • Internal Communication Team Coordinator of EMA South East Asia Chapter: Veena Cute-ngarmpring 
  • Promotions Team Coordinator of EMA South East Asia Chapter: Yih Liang Tan
 We look forward to the Chapter’s programmes and continued service of Erasmus Mundus students and alumni from the region. All the best!

Categories: Announcements | Leave a comment

First Bursts of Spring in Sibiu

Our correspondent, Mari-An C. Santos, continues her series on life as a student in Romania.

March is a beautiful month in Romania, mostly because it is the beginning of the end of winter. Yes, after more than three months of blistering cold, punctuated with snow storms that result in meters-high snow that make roads unpassable, or a crust of ice that makes them slippery, the sun starts to show its warm face again. And that thin ray of hope is enough to celebrate.

Guys buy flowers and trinkets for lady-loves/significant others

There are three events that they observe on such a month: Mărțișor, Babele, and Women’s Day.

Mărțișor is celebrated on the 1st of March, commemorating the beginning of spring. The word comes from the old name of March in Romanian. My friend, Natalia, told me a legend that she has heard since she was a little girl in the region of Moldova/Moldavia. It says that Spring was a beautiful fairy who wanted to bring warmth and sun to the earth. But the god of Frost would not allow it. So when Spring came to earth to bring forth the new season, the god of Frost engaged her in battle in order to stop her. It was a long and tedious battle, and Spring was exhausted that eventually, Frost wounded one of her fingers and blood dripped from her onto the white snow. From the place where Spring’s blood touched the snow, a beautiful snowdrop appeared. It gave Spring the power to defeat the god of Frost, and bring warmth to people, ending the cold of winter. Since then, on the first day of spring, people wear a mărțișor to commemorate the defeat of the god of Frost.

Different kinds of mărțișor on sale at makeshift stalls all over town

A mărțișor is also a trinket that is given to the women (generally) to wear at the onset of spring, to wish them good health. It was, initially, made up of intertwined white and red string, in reference to Spring’s blood and the cold of snow. In more modern times, anything from a simple pin or brooch to earrings and miniature symbols are attached to the mărțișor and given as a sign of friendship or love. It also symbolizes fertility. Women usually wear them pinned on their coats for the first few days of spring.

Ironically, as I spent Mărțișor in Brasov, Transylvania, it was a beautiful, sunny day that felt indeed like a promise of spring. But the very next day, it started to snow again.

The author, fourth from right, with fellow Asians

Meanwhile, Babele or Baba Dochia is observed starting on the 1st of March too. My friend, Adelina, narrated the legend of Baba, an old woman who went up a mountain with her sheep. It was winter, so she was wearing nine layers of coats. But as she ascended, she felt warmer, and one by one, she took off the coats she was wearing. But when she reached the top, the weather became colder and she froze and turned to stone.

Each person chooses a day beforehand, from March 1 to 9, and however the weather on that day is, that is how your year will go. For example, if it’s sunny, then it will be a good, pleasant year; if it’s snowy, then it will be a tumultuous one.

Another related legend is about Dochia, the daughter of Decebal (king of Dacia from 87 to 106). The Roman emperor Trajan fell in love with her. As she was running away from Trajan, she hid in the Ceahlău Massif (also called the Romanian Olympus) with her sheep. There, Dochia froze along with her sheep, and turned into stone. Even today, you can see the rocks that are purported to be Dochia and her sheep, dotting the mountain’s landscape.

Spring starts: streets in full bloom with flowers and colors

Now, Women’s Day is an international celebration. But the celebration in Romania is one akin to the Valentine’s Day celebration that we know. Again, as a testament to the summer that is about to come, flowers flood the shops lining the streets. Women of different ages receive flowers from family and friends—and lovers, of course. Old women also gather pussy willow branches that they sell and are also symbols of spring.

Women from the university dance at the Women's Day party

However, as of the end of March, snow still remains on the peaks not too far away from the city of Sibiu—in Balea and Paltinis. People make the most of the fact that the sun is shining to snowboard and ski. And just the other day, it snowed again. Maybe spring is not quite here yet. But March bears the hope that it will some soon enough.

Read Mari-An’s first post, Valentine’s in Sibiu, here.

Categories: Life in Europe, Students | 2 Comments

Pinoy Erasmus Mundus scholar wins EMA Photo Contest

Ken Subillaga, student of the Erasmus Mundus Mobility with Asia Doctorate Program and Pinoy Erasmus Mundus contributor, won the EMA Photo Contest in March with his photo “Love knows no boundaries” (above) , which topped the Facebook voting with over 200 Likes. More about the photo here. Congrats, Ken!

Categories: Announcements, Competitions, Students | 1 Comment

Valentine’s in Sibiu

by Mari-An Santos

Valentine’s day is a big, commercial holiday in the Philippines. It is the day that causes traffic jams all over the metro. Sweets, flowers, hearts and pink and red abound in true commercialized style. It is an “imported” holiday, mostly propagated by the West. Here in Romania, it is slowly inching its way into the consciousness of locals, but there is a movement, if you will, that would rather propagate the celebration of Dragobete, a similar holiday held on the 24th of February (more on that later).

I learned from a few Erasmus friends that in Belgium, for example, majority of Belgians perceive Valentine’s Day as a commercial and marketing ploy; and that not all couples celebrate it. Those who do often go out to a restaurant and exchange gifts. Men often give women jewelry and red roses. It is also celebrated in Slovakia, where my friend reassures, the men are educated and you can find interesting conversation, as well as charming and fun—and with a wink, generally like Asian women.

In Pakistan, having a girlfriend or a boyfriend is not so common, so those who are in relationships usually have to covertly buy gifts and hide them from family members before giving them to their love interest. In the university, a single guy will hold out a rose to a girl that he likes.

A few days before the holiday, since some Erasmus students were already finished with their exams and were looking for something to do, our Facebook group page was abuzz with ideas on how to celebrate the occasion—mostly just an excuse to hold a party, but this time, with a specific theme. Ideas from the usual food and drinks to couples paired up to dance were thrown around. The international relations department got wind of the plans and before we knew it, we had a venue at the university canteen and the rector and vice-rector were set to attend the occasion! So from an informal gathering to hang out, we had to get at least a little dressed up, though thankfully, not necessarily in red and pink.

Each student pitched in some money for a few decorations and snacks. More than 50 of us were in attendance, with some Romanian students who were our friends as guests. We had a “paper roses” presentation, where each girl had a number and each guy picked a number from a bowl—and whoever picked the girl’s number would give her a paper rose. The guys thought of different styles, from getting down on one knee, to delivering a romantic soliloquy to one even playing the “My Heart Will Go On” on his harmonica.

There was also the apple-eating game where four couples raced to finish off an apple suspended on a string. Another, was a simplified dating game, where one girl chose from three guys and won…a rose and presented the guy a bar of chocolate. Some of the guys sang for the head of the international department and presented her with flowers. Then, we enjoyed some cakes from the international department and spent a few minutes dancing before heading back to the dormitory. The event seemed interesting enough that it was even featured in a local paper and website.

But the more interesting holiday is the local Valentine’s day that also celebrates the beginning of spring—even in these times of climate change. Dating back to the Dacian era (1st century-1st century CE), the practice is being heavily promoted, encouraging couples to resist the foreign, imported holiday in favor of the local one. Traditionally, in the countryside, girls and boys pick flowers and dance and sing together. Also, it is the time when a boy can express his love for a girl. A boy will run after a girl and if he catches up with her and kisses her, it is believed that their love will be strong for a year. I asked about the next year, and apparently, they do the process again. 🙂 Women also supposedly gather some remaining snow and use water from them to make potions. I have yet to find out a recipe. When I do, I’ll let you know. 😉

Meantime, I am told that more interesting celebrations are coming in the next few weeks, like Martisoare on 1 March and Women’s Day on 8 March. I will surely update you on those events.

Mari-An Santos is pursuing her Masters in Advertising and Brand at Universitatea “Lucian Blaga” din Sibiu in Romania under EMMA East.

Categories: Erasmus Mundus, Life in Europe, Students | 4 Comments

From the EU Delegation: Erasmus Mundus Alumni Database Update

Dear all,

We are updating the Erasmus Mundus alumni database (hopefully to have a complete list) to look into
the possible involvement of the alumni in EU Delegation events this year and for future collaborations.

In this regard, we would like to request some basic information from you, and please kindly send to us the following:

Current Position:
Contact address: email and phone numbers

Year of Completion of Erasmus Mundus Programme:

Please send the information to me at Grateful for your response by 1st of March 2012. 

Thank you.

Thelma Gecolea
Public Affairs Officer
EU Delegation to the Philippines

Categories: Alumni, Announcements | Leave a comment

Contributors wanted!

Are you an Erasmus Mundus student or alumnus with something to show or tell about your EM experience? We would be happy to hear from you. Share your stories, tips and photos with the Pinoy Erasmus Mundus blog. Citizenship is not an issue; non-Filipinos are welcome. Feel free to email your suggestions, proposals or drafts to

Categories: Alumni, Erasmus Mundus, Life in Europe, Students | 1 Comment

My Extra-Polished Christmas

There is great beauty in diversity, they say; but that never really holds true until one gets to live that diversity. Which is probably what Erasmus Mundus is all about: bringing everyone from everywhere into one pack of curious minds with eager spirits. Tales abound of how rich Erasmus Mundus life is, but the fun part of my experience in the Christmas of 2008 would underscore why anyone—and I mean anyone—would kill for a stint at an EM program.

I was docked in Wroclaw, Poland for a portion of my EM scholarship, and our high-rise dorm was a time-bomb of students from all over the world: the non-Europeans for their respective EM programs; the Europeans for their Erasmus exchange semester/year.

Just a week before Christmas I went to Warsaw for some partying, which I felt I deserved after all the grueling courses and pre-break exams. After all, this would also be a time when those Polish migrant workers in Germany, England, Netherlands and Ireland would come home to splurge their earnings on booze and shopping; so I thought it would be fun hanging with the locals. I’m most glad to have friends like Igor, Jakub and Radek who kept me entertained with cheap Polish vodka and beers in the middle of a white winter-y Christmas.

The extra bonus to the thrill? Their moms and grannies probably thought I was some cute little extinct animal from an Asian zoo, with brown skin, dark eyes and black hair; so they fed me non-stop with pierogi (dumplings), kielbasa (sausages) and, of course, vodka. I just love being the foreigner!

Before I could think of crashing (and trashing) their Christmas eve dinners I decided to join the other kids back in the dorm who stayed for the break. Most of them were from Turkey, Vietnam and Kazakhstan—places where Christmas isn’t as much of a big thing as it is back here or in Poland. So why not mount a party in the dorm for us who were stuck in there, while all the Europeans and Americans flew off for their holidays at home?

Although I’m completely useless in the kitchen, I embraced the idea of a pot-luck. The Turks brought mezes, kuzus and turlus; the Vietnamese whipped a wicked platter of spring rolls; the Kazakh served mantis and baursaks; a fellow Filipino served a delicious casserole of adobo while I blasphemously invented my own recipe of menudo. They all loved it, except they didn’t know if it really should taste that way.

Soon after the jello shots and vodka and beer were done we all headed out to hear mass. Why not? This is Poland—probably the most Catholic place in Europe along with Italy and Spain. And despite our challenged grasp of the Polish language, we endured an entire Christmas eve mass in, well, Polish. The priest gave away chocolates and fruits and when it was our turn to receive some, he gave the mic to one of us to say a few words to the community. Bahan, one of the coolest and funniest Turks in the group, shamelessly announced, on the mic: Nie mowie po polsku! (I don’t speak Polish!)

The whole congregation laughed in delight, noticing we were all foreign. The priest yelped back, jokingly: Ale nie mowie po angielsku! (But I also don’t speak English!). Another thunderous laughter and applaud from the crowd. As a result, when the mass ended and people were exiting the church, the locals, especially those cute little kids, couldn’t help but take a good glance at us with a very warm, friendly “Merry Christmas” greeting. In Polish, mostly. All we could do was wave and smile back.

Come Christmas day itself, our very good friend and program coordinator Sebastian invited the entire group to his family house to join him and his lovely wife Marta and uber-cute little boy Roch for lunch and dinner. Again, this is Poland—where they take the word “feast” seriously; another reason why I felt very much at home in this country. As token for their kindness in averting our (possibly) home-sickness, we each brought him and Marta a nice little present.

Why am I writing about this now? Because I miss my friends. I miss Poland and I miss Christmas in Europe. I miss the diversity of my circle of friends who are now all in their home countries, probably missing that Christmas the same way I do now.

Above all, I miss all those different dishes on the table for Christmas, in the company of good friends, throwing snowballs at each other on the walk back to the dorm, and singing Merry Christmas songs in our respective languages. Of course, most of us had beers or vodka in hand at that moment.

Merry Christmas, fellow–and future–EM scholars!

Mike Saycon
MA Global Studies, Major in International Relations 2006-2008
University of Vienna (Austria), University of Leipzig (Germany)
London School of Economics (UK), University of Wroclaw (Poland)

Reposted from thegoodmike

Categories: Life in Europe | 2 Comments

Blog at