My second Erasmus. After whole summer semester spent in cold Poland (really - it was cold till May, and then, instead of FINALLY enjoying lovely weather, we had exams), for the winter semester, I had chosen a city with hot weather. Well, later I discovered there is warm weather in Thessaloniki - but not in winter!
So, I went to Thessaloniki. I knew nothing about this place. Day after I arrived, I went to the uni. And on the bus, I realized that there is a one-hour time difference from the Czech Republic. Yeah, I was so well prepared for this journey.
But let's start from the beginning. There are no dorms, so I found a room in a shared apartment close to the city centre for 150 EUR/month. I was very lucky because the price for a single room was usually more than 200 EUR/month. But when I got off the bus, I discovered why. Every building was covered in graffiti, broken glass jars, and trash was everywhere, cars were parked on the whole pavement. So, I walked on the road with two suitcases, slaloming between parked and moving cars and tried to hold my tears. Like where am I?? What kind of district is this?? It looked so dangerous even in daylight. Funny fact though: after three days, a Greek guy asked me where do I live, and I told him "Agia Triada". To that, he said "Oh! That's a very good part of Thessaloniki!" and I was immediately pretty worried how it looks like in other parts of the city. But after two weeks I got used to this, and I was never worried to go through the streets alone. Even in the middle of the night.
Another anarchy was waiting for me at the university. When I finally reached it, I thought that I got lost and the Greek student brought me somewhere else. This place looked like an abandoned hospital and not a university. Stray dogs everywhere barking at each other in the middle of the campus, grass growing from destroyed pavements and fallen leaves everywhere. I had entered one of the buildings, and cigarette smoke smacked my face. It is normal to smoke in the corridors and even in the classroom. I was trying to find the Erasmus office, but it is a real labyrinth full of dogs (yes, they are inside the buildings too). After this day, I was waiting four weeks to receive my schedule. Some professors were not responding to my emails for weeks. I even met one of my professors for the first time, just a couple of days before my departure. My friends told me that sometimes they were waiting for professors in the class and they did not even show up. Pure anarchy even in the educational system.
The real anarchy was there too. Riots in the streets. They were protesting so often that I almost thought they were making protests even against protests because it was literally against everything - against Turkey, Northern Macedonia, Northern Cyprus, government, police, capitalism and so on. They had student protests in the campus of AUTH (Aristotle University) too. They threw Molotov cocktails in the corridors, like "set your university on fire!". Bizarre student activities. Another weird student activity (also connected to this protest) was being a part of KKE – Greek communist party. I would never in my life thought of joining the communist parade, especially on 17th November. In both universities I had visited inside, I saw corridors full of KKE posters.
How was it possible to make a protest like this on the campus? Easy, armed forces were prohibited from entering the university campus. That is also why immigrants live there in tents and prostitutes, and drug dealers can appear too. Seriously, after sunset, it was much safer to be outside of the campus than inside. But this year in September, police finally discovered this drug "supermarket" operating there so if you choose Thessaloniki for Erasmus, it might be less fun (just joking).
There was anarchy in the traffic as well. I got almost hit by a car approximately once a week and by a motorcycle maybe four times a week (because public transport barely works and everybody has a scooter). Like really, only a few seconds or a longer step or if somebody did not pull me back on the street, I would be enjoying my Erasmus in a hospital – and seriously, you don't want to end up in a Greek state hospital, it's pure anarchy too.
This all sounds like a horrible experience, but those four months were the best of my life! After some weeks, I got used to these difficulties a bit, and we just started to call these situations #greece and did not care that much about it. Yes, everything was filthy, not working, some local people were scamming us, but still, we had a perfect time there. Thessaloniki has excellent ESN sections. Almost every day they prepared some event for us, trips during the weekends, etc. Also, the city is full of beautiful places where you can chill with your friends, many bars, clubs and squares. It is close to the borders with Turkey, Bulgaria, Northern Macedonia and Albania so you can travel by bus not only in Greece but also abroad.
This cultural shock is what makes every Erasmus special. And I will never forget my Thesserasmus!