Hello future Erasmus adventurers, my name is Máté Ballabás, and I was a Hungarian Erasmus student in Cyprus in 2009 fall semester. I spent my best 5 months there ever, and after I came home, I decided to promote this place for the future exchange students, because I think it is not as popular as it should be, Cyprus definitely deserves more attention. I wrote this small „teaser” for those who are hesitating where to spend their Erasmus program, and also to share some important information about living and studying in the island. I hope this summary will help some of you, because when I was standing in the doorstep of deciding where to go, I missed some useful overall about Cyprus.
About the country
Cyprus is an island on the Mediterranean Sea, it is approximately ten times smaller than Hungary. The main language spoken there is Greek, but since Cyprus was a British Colony, everyone speaks English fluently. The island is divided into two parts, since the Turkish army invaded the island in 1974. Even today, the two armies accompanied by UN peacekeepers are guarding the green line, which divides „Greek Cyprus” from „Turkish Cyprus”. With European Union passport, you can visit the Turkish side anytime (cheap clothes, souvenirs, casinos, clubs can be found there). Before I forget to mention, Cypriots are generally very friendly, but there are two things what you should NEVER mention to them, unless you want to piss them off on purpose: -Never call Northern Cyprus „Turkish side”, use „occupied area” or „buffer zone” instead. -Don’t call them Greek people (They are Cypriots with an own country and with own identity)
Because of its location, the first very attractive factor for Europeans is the weather of Cyprus. The weather is Mediterranean, with more than 300 days of sunshine in a year. Even in winter, except for the Throdos Mountains in the middle of the island, the temperature never goes below 0 Celsius. Raining is also very rare in the country, and only occurs in winter time. If you go to Cyprus, you will mostly use your summer clothes…BUT! I made the mistake of leaving my coat at home. I was not prepared for cold weather, because the temperature is never too low, but the humidity of the air makes the nights quite chilly in autumn and winter. I also recommend to bring some sleeping bags with you, or to buy some heater in Cyprus, because the insulation of the apartments is not the best, and it can be even freezing in the evenings.
Obviously, the only way you can get there is by airplane. Every plane flies to Larnaca city. Depending on the city you are flying from, the ticket costs between 200-400 Euros both ways. There is one bus, what takes you from Larnaca Airport to Nicosia (the capital city), for 7 Euros. After you get there, you are on your own, since practically there is no public transportation in the country. (Cypriots don’t need it, there are 200 thousand families in Cyprus, and 600 thousand cars in the island…) So, be prepared to take a taxi (5 to 12 Euros for every trip in Nicosia) or walk. People drive on the left side, there are no proper crossings for pedestrians, and Cypriot driving morale is the worst I have ever experienced. While I stayed there, more Erasmus students were hit by car, and had to abort their trip, so be very careful on the roads or have a strong faith in God.
Here I can only talk about my personal accommodation experiences. I was a student of the European University of Cyprus (EUC), and I lived in one of their accommodations (more precisely, in the so called Serenity House facility). There are a lot of universities in Nicosia with nearly the same name, like University of Cyprus, European University of Cyprus, Cyprus College, University of Nicosia…they all have their own facilities for exchange students, so the prices and the quality of the accommodation can vary. From the EUC houses, Serenity House is the best and the most expensive. The deposit is 390 Euros, and you have to pay 810 Euros in the beginning, and another 810 in the middle of the semester. At the end of your contract, if you were a good boy or girl, and didn’t use the fire extinguisher, break windows, chairs, tables, you get the 390 euro deposit back. One huge minus for Cyprus was the fact that we had to organize and connect water and electricity to our accommodations and the prices above doesn’t include the bills. There is no internet, no heating, and no washing machine in the apartments. It is a good way to experience time travel:D
For me, this institution was one of the biggest cultural shocks ever. Education is so different there, than in other European countries, that it forces to smile every foreigner, even the coldest personalities without a sense of humor. School perfectly reflects the Mediterranean lifestyle. No restrictions, missed classes are not counted, nobody cares about latecomers, because usually your teacher will arrive to class later than you. Me and my friends get used to it very quickly, and it was quite hard to come back home and face the harder school again. I had total freedom in timing my courses, so I only had two days of school in a week, which provided me with an Erasmus lifestyle I have never dreamt about.
One of the best things is that there is a very strong organization in Cyprus, called ESA (Erasmus Student Association). They will immediately take care of the new students, and nobody can have the first week passed there without dozens of new friends around. ESA organizes trips across Cyprus all the time, to every city, even to the Turkish side. I am proud to say that practically I saw all the cities in Cyprus! (Nicosia, Larnaca, Limassol, Paphos, Ayia Napa, Kirenia..)
ESA is not only organizing trips, but clubs, wine tastings, common dinners, house parties and everything what can make the students crazy :D One of my favorite specialties of Cypriot nightlife is that every club has open bars. It means the entrance is 15 Euros (even in the most expensive places 20 Euros), and you can consume as much as you like. I know, it is hard to imagine it that it works, but believe me, it is like this. However life in Cyprus can be expensive in some terms (food, accommodation), but even students with a thinner budget can have a lot of parties on their Erasmus. Open bars, palm trees, beautiful exchange student girls (to satisfy my female readers as well, from the Erasmus girls I only heard positive feedbacks about Cypriot boys…), hot weather… I can not even compare those parties to the ones I have at my home country!
In my opinion, Cyprus is more close to Asia, than any other European country, which can be seen in their lifestyle, how things work out there. However it is not only positive, but this exoticness makes this place special, and worth to go there. Those who are looking for a big adventure, to relax and enjoy student life are recommended to go to study to Cyprus. I can promise it will be an experience which will shape your future life. If anybody is interested in going to Cyprus, can contact me anytime, I am happy to help with more detailed advices. My email is “firstname.lastname@example.org”. Good luck with the decision everyone!