Farzad Torabi, a PhD student in Chemistry from the University of Tehran, spent seven months studying analytical chemistry at Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona.

“In late October 2017, I have received a letter of invitation from host research supervisor in Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. His research and publications made me highly interested in working with that group as a research visitor. I was able to join their laboratories for one semester starting early January 2018. The work to be carried out during this research stay was entitled “Multiple-analyte detection of regulated products employing a Molecularly Imprinted Polymer based biosensor array”. The selected topic provided me with some novel and unique abilities towards the development of voltammetric electronic tongue systems, from the modification of electrodes to the associated data treatment algorithms. At the end of this collaboration, I gained valuable experience working with Voltammetric methods and chemometric tools and its applications in electrochemistry.

Erasmus is a powerful experience. It can change anyone’s life completely. Living abroad, studying something different or in a different way is something you will never ever forget. The pleasure of Erasmus doesn’t begin when you start your Erasmus: it starts earlier, on the very day you get notified of the fact that you were accepted into the program. I think going abroad is a huge boost for your mind, spirit and self-confidence: be ready to get the best from your experience. Being abroad as a tourist is completely different from being abroad as an exchange student, and once you get immersed in the local lifestyle, everything immediately becomes easier. You start making closer friends, more intimate relationships, better food, and wonderful memories. After all, making young Europeans fall in love with each other’s countries and people, day after day, is one of the Erasmus wonders. Finally, I recommend to try to immerse yourself in it from day one to get the most out of the country’s culture. It may also be good to have the Google Translate app ready on your phone.

I learnt that language and culture are definitely not barriers to making friends and building contacts. On Erasmus+ programme, I was forced to communicate in languages I wasn’t so fluent in. Whilst hard at first, I eventually learned to hone into that vulnerability and simply accept it for what it is – getting out of my comfort zone. One of the outcomes of this could be noticed in my communication style – my lack of vocabulary made me go to the essential in what I’m trying to say and this ‘honest’ dialogue was reciprocated by others, which actually created deeper, meaningful and much more genuine friendships.

I embraced vulnerability, which, coupled with being surrounded by so many people in the same situation, made me discover a new different side of me.. Despite my seemingly out-going personality, there is a part of me that is quite shy and introvert. During my Erasmus+ experience I learnt to listen to those parts of myself, in a way I was detached from past labelling, etiquettes, responsibilities, cultural rules, norms and morals such as I had known them– and so what I was left with was just ‘me’ – all of me.