16 February, 2018
Experience 13 – “a really special experience where we really appreciated what makes us Europeans”
John Lee - founder of CultureMee
Posted: 2 August, 2017
“A nations culture resides in the hearts and soul of its people”
This quote beautifully encapsulates what many people think of when they think of culture.
Have you ever experienced culture shock? Many Erasmus students encounter this, just like I did when I first arrived in Passau, Germany in 2003 on Erasmus while studying BComm International in UCD.
I quickly began to understand the importance of arriving on time to lectures and started to appreciate the concept of Pfand (where you pay a deposit for beer bottles which you get when you return them to your local Aldi). The more German brews you drank, the more you got back, what was not to like about the Pfand economy! There were some great nights out and plenty of friends made on Erasmus, and I’m still in contact with many of them. In September I’m even going to a wedding in Italy of Donal Brady, an Erasmus classmate, so there will be a few stories shared that night.
Erasmus was a really special experience where we really appreciated what makes us Europeans, for example when we made a 1,700 km road trip across the continent (which included sleeping in the back of a minibus in a Carrefour shopping centre car park).
A little over 10 years later, while travelling in Africa with my wife Dee, we came up with the idea of having an app to help prevent culture shock, as there was no app around which could help explain the beauty and uniqueness of other cultures.
So CultureMee was born. It launched in July 2017 and I hope it can help every Erasmus student when studying abroad. It covers every country in Europe and the top 10 most visited countries outside Europe.
Having both worked in large corporates, for both Dee and I it was a big step to go and build our own start-up. One lesson from Erasmus is that it teaches you resilience and being able to look after yourself when you’re abroad, far from family. These characteristics honed on Erasmus, are now great tools to rely on when doing a start-up, so perhaps other Erasmus students or alumni might take inspiration from that, just like the Mark Twain quote below gave inspiration to Dee and I.