How did it all start? You find out about the Erasmus + program, you see what opportunities it offers you and you decide that this is your chance. You study hard, submit documents and hope that you could have the opportunity to develop a Diploma Thesis at the Department of Pharmacognosy abroad.
One day while lying on the beach, your phone vibrates. You receive an email telling you that you are approved for the program in Graz, Austria. You jump for joy, but at one point you realize that the whole Kovid situation could ruin your plans. For a few days you wonder if things will turn out as you expect. After a while you receive a second email confirming that despite the situation, the program and the trip will take place.
So, on March 13, 2021, our Erasmus + adventure began. We spent almost 4 months in Graz, Austria - an amazing town where past, present and future intertwine. Since March 2011 Graz was chosen as the City of Design. The city is full of students, even during a pandemic. Nikola Tesla studied and spent part of his life here.
We traveled by plane Sofia-Vienna and from there directly below the airport we caught the train to Graz. From Austria you can reach any point in Europe by train.
We decided to stay in a hostel during our stay. We chose the dormitories of GreenBox CoolCity and as soon as we crossed the threshold we realized that we were not wrong in our choice. We had rented a small apartment - 2 rooms with a small shared fully equipped kitchen. The location was about 5-6 kilometers from the university campus, so we decided to buy bicycles. Bicycles are a way of life in Austria.
We were impressed by how neat Graz is, how disciplined people are and how open they are to the world.
The University of Graz was founded in 1585 by Archduke Charles II. It is the second oldest university in Austria. Nobel laureates such as Otto Levy (medicine), Victor Franz Hess (physics) and others studied and taught at the Universität Graz.
We spent almost 4 months in the laboratories of Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz, which are equipped with the latest technology in the field of phytochemistry. The university invests a lot of money in research. They have several MRI machines, which were an integral part of the development of our dissertations at the Department of Pharmacognosy. Thanks to the modern equipment there we were able to discover 5 new compounds of the plant species Astragallus Glycyphyllos, to determine their total structures and to make a plan for the application of these structures to in vivo studies. The professors we worked with there - Prof. Franz Bucar and Prof. Olaf Kunert were always ready to help us with our scientific work and other challenges during our stay, such as to warn us that on Sunday grocery stores in Austria they don't work because it's a day off! : D
The connection and communication between MU-Sofia and Karl-Franzens-Universität Graz was at a very high level. The organization during the pandemic by the University of Austria was excellent - every Monday, Wednesday and Friday we were tested, completely free. There were organized points where you go with a pre-booked time, scan the QR-code of our phones and we received the results after 15 minutes by email. All this gave peace of mind not only to us, but also to our relatives and friends that everything is fine.
Thanks to the Erasmus + program, we were able to get to know Austria. We had the opportunity to travel and visit Vienna and Salzburg and spend weekends in these beautiful cities. We have no words to describe how delicious traditional Austrian cuisine is, and combined with Austrian beer is just magic.
After almost 4 months, after about 50 antigen tests to visit the laboratories, and tireless work in them, after more than 700 km by bike, after several unforgettable walks in Vienna and Salzburg and an immersion in the culture of Graz, we said auf wiedersehen on Austria.
Not a day goes by that we don't think about this amazing experience!