Erasmus Roots Stories
It was October 1994, a quarter of a century ago, just after the elections for municipalities in Greece. I was coordinator of an Erasmus ICP (Inter-institutional Cooperation Program) in which the partners were the Technical University of Crete, University of North London, (today London Metropolitan University), Ylivieska Technical College in Finland (today part of the Centria University of Applied Sciences), the Technical University of Ilmenau in Germany and the TEI of Crete as coordinator institution. As the coordinator, I had received an amount of around 5000 ECU (even before the Euros) for the organization of the project (Meetings, Transportation, Accommodation etc.). After exchanging some FAX (we did not have emails in those days and the cost of telephones calls was very high indeed) I decided to visit all of the partner universities in order to explain to them what is the Erasmus Program and what is the importance for Europe and the collaboration of European Universities. For the Technical University of Crete and the University of North London there was no previous experience.
With a colleague of mine (Lecturer Nick Fragiadakis) we decided to visit the Technical University of Ilmenau and Ylivieska Technical College. It was my second time in Ilmenau but the first time in Ylivieska and Finland in general. We sent a FAX to our colleague in Ilmenau (Dozient Peter Zocher) who was the coordinator of the local University and we informed him that we would take the last train from Frankfurt to Ilmenau. I flew on Friday to Athens for the elections (I am a citizen of a municipality near Athens) and I forgot to ask my colleague in Chania to see if there was a FAX concerning our trip. We flew to Frankfurt on Monday afternoon and we took the last train to Ilmenau. We arrived in Ilmenau at 00:47 but nobody was waiting for us. No taxi at the train station. We were the only travelers arriving at Ilmenau at that time. A quarter of an hour later a taxi arrived. We asked the driver to take us to a hotel. His answer was that the hotels in Ilmenau were closed that time (Ilmenau was a town of around 20.000 inhabitants and is located in the former East Germany and the reunification of Germany had taken place only 4 years previously).
So we decided to go to the University Residence Hall where I had stayed in my previous visit there. Nobody was there and it was already 1:30 am and we saw a group of students passing by who were singing. We asked them for help and they told us that they are going to continue their amusement in a party in Residence Hall where they will stay till the morning and that they also lived in the Residence Hall. We asked them if there is a possibility to join the party. They said yes and we walked to the party. On the way to the party I made a proposal to them. To stay in their room and to give to them a bottle of METAXA to drink at the party. Fortunately students do not change in their character even after all these years. They agreed and we slept in the residence hall. Next morning, we were in the International Relations Office where we met Dr. Zocher. We told to him all about our Erasmus adventure and he explained to us that he was waiting for us to arrive with the last train arriving in Ilmenau at 23:15 and that we had arrived with the first train of the next day. Coming from the Mediterranean we didn’t know that the train arriving some minutes after midnight is the first train of the next day in Germany. But he also showed to us the FAX with his home telephone number to use it in case of emergency. Anyway we accepted that these things may happen in Mediterranean/Germanic collaborations and we started a very good collaboration indeed with this university and it was among our best partners till 2002 when I left my department of Electronics in Chania and was elected to the position of Vice Rector for economics and development in my Institution in Heraklion and unfortunately my colleague who was in my position didn’t ask to continue this collaboration
This was a funny story from the past, the Heroic period of Erasmus ICPs when some academics believing in Europe and collaboration between European Universities did their best for the success of this program.