Studying in another country can be pretty exciting and scary at the same time. You’re going away from home, family, friends, routine, ... basically you go away from your whole life.
The idea of doing Erasmus has always appealed to me (even though I was quite scared of it): new experiences, new people, new country, everything is new!
The process of choosing where to go isn’t always easy. Sometimes you really want to go to a specific country but then you find out your university doesn’t have an exchange agreement with the universities there. Then you find out a really good study program, but there’s the language problem. A lot of universities accept Erasmus students, but sometimes the classes are in their own language, which makes sense, except for the part that Erasmus students probably only know the basic of whatever language they speak so there’s no way they can keep up with the classes. Yes, most teachers make a summary of the classes in a common language (most probably English) but that’s just like watching a trailer and not the actual movie. After all that, you find another program in which you can actually understand and where you learn something.
I chose an Erasmus students program only, taught in english (the language I know better, as my main of course) because there was no way I could learn a completely new language in such a short span of time, Now it’s time to take care of the paper work (the boring part) and you need to pay attention to the deadlines. You will need to fill in an application form saying the name (or names) of the university you’d like to attend, things about yourself (where you live, your email, etc) and why you want to participate in the Erasmus program. And now you wait for the final answer. Were you accepted or not? Personally I never heard of anyone not being accepted as an Erasmus student so you don’t have to be scared, everything will be fine. Now that you’ve been accepted you will need to fill in another paper, basically like the last one but more formal.
Before you leave
Don’t forget to hand in a copy of your ID and your health card, a photo of yourself (passport style), your CV, letter of motivation (for the other university), your bank account number (so they can give you the (not so great for some of us apparently) Erasmus scholarship), a document where you allow someone to represent you, like a parent or the International Relations Office, at your home institution (for example if documents need to be signed). You need to do a test (depending on the classes’ idiom) to evaluate a your language skills, normally you just need B2 level in order to attend the classes (but some classes might require a higher level, for example I took a Creative Writing class and you had to have at least a B2 english level). Your learning agreement is very important for both your home university and Erasmus university. After the bureaucracy you might want to buy your plane ticket because buying it in advance is always cheaper.
Where to stay?
It’s time to find a place to live. Try to find accommodation near the university, this way you’ll save money on buses. Some universities have dorms (probably more affordable and more flexible when it comes to renting period because you can rent it for just one semester) so you just have to check if you can stay there. You can also look for a house on the “private market”. That was my real struggle. I wanted to rent a house for just one semester and everyone kept saying “sorry, one year only”. I’ve literally lost count of how many times I got that answer. And I also wanted a place for two because what’s the point of going on Erasmus with your boyfriend if you’re not going to live together? (That’s probably why most students do it alone). After almost two months trying to find a house we finally did it!
The day is coming. You pack your stuff (and you realize that you have a LOT of stuff to fit in your luggage so you just ask your parents to send you whatever you could not force into your bags and thank them after) and you triple check it, fourth check it and then ask someone else to check it with you just in case you missed something that you’ll really need for the first weeks there.
You’re now going to the airport and probably someone you care about is with you. I had my parents so I kept a straight face, even when my mum started to cry a little. We said our goodbyes, hugged and kissed. The first thing I said to my boyfriend when we were alone was “OMG finally!! I couldn’t hold it anymore” and yes I just started crying. And now my parents are going to read this so hi mum hi dad! And that’s when it finally hit me. I was going on Erasmus. That was the first time that it actually felt real. I know that I wasn’t alone, but still, it was hard, I’ve never been away from home for more than a week, let alone in another country.
Here you are, ready to have a new life full of adventures. Once you’re all settled in it’s time to explore. You can leave the Arrival Proof document for the first day of classes, but don’t forget to get it signed!
Most universities have a welcome week. You get to know the school, your class mates, the evaluation system and some useful information (like means of transport, student card, health care, etc).
The first three or four classes were kind of weird to me, it was like being in an english class, but without learning english. Then I got used to it and everything went fine.
Make friends, discover new hobbies, travel, have fun, do stupid things (but not the kind that gets you in real trouble), enjoy your freedom while it lasts, remember you won’t be on Erasmus forever, so enjoy it.
Manage your money
Going to the supermarket for the first time is always an amusing experience, and by amusing I mean desperate, you don’t know where things are and you have no idea what’s written on the packages, and sometimes it is quite difficult to understand what it is so you try to translate it, and if you still can’t find what you want, you swallow your pride and ask for help.
Learning how to manage your money is more important now than ever, your Erasmus scholarship most likely won’t cover all of the expenses so balancing your money between rent, groceries, traveling and everyday life expenditures. Make smart choices.
You realize that you’re more independent than you thought, it’s an amazing experience to grow up a little (or a lot) before you actually start to live your own life after leaving your parents’ house. Congratulations, you’re now what they call an adult.
Sometimes it’s hard to deal with the whole “I miss my family, my bedroom, my house, my friends thing”, but that’s what internet is for, everyone you love back home is just a click away, and now with the ending of roaming in Europe you can even call them and text them every time you want and you don’t have to pay an out of this world phone bill.
Now that you’re used to your new life everything starts to get easy.
Don’t forget to study and do well in school, not only it’s important for your future (companies value Erasmus experiences) but you’ll have to give your Erasmus scholarship money back if you fail a certain number of ECTC’s, so study!! If you need help your teachers and class mates are always available, don’t panic.
Oh no… time is running out. You have that feeling that you want to go back home but you don’t really want to leave your new life behind. I’m having that conflict right now. I’m so used to the people, the city, my house, travelling, I don’t want it to end. On the other hand I miss home …
Packing everything again will be even funnier than it was before, you bought things for yourself, gifts for your family and friends. Probably it’s your turn to send things to your parents by mail.
I read that going back to your routine might be a little hard at first, but after a while everything starts to feel normal again and you’re left with all the memories of those months full of adventure and excitement. Of course it’s not always easy, but for most people the good things can top the not so good ones.
If you have the opportunity and want to go on Erasmus, do it! You will learn things that you probably wouldn’t learn at your home university, you’ll meet new people, new places and it’s awesome to grow up.
Now that you read all of this, let’s recapitulate everything you need to know:
- Go to your university International Relations Office and see what are your options
- Choose the program that best suits you (analyse all the classes and take into account the language spoken in the classroom)
- Fill in the form
- Hand in:
- a copy of your ID and your health card
- a photo of yourself (passport style)
- your letter of motivation
- your bank account number
- a document where you allow someone to represent you at your home institution
- Take the language test
- Fill in your Language Agreement with your course coordinator and send it to the other university
- Buy the plane ticket
- Find accommodation
- Take some medication with you
- For the girls: not every country has the pad/tampon brand that you like and feel comfortable with, so you better take them with you or ask your parents to send it.
Hand in your Arrival document and get it signed by the International Relations Office
- Make friends
- Have fun
- Enjoy your time!
- Oh (sad face emoji)
- Hand in your Learning Agreement with the grades you got
- Tell your family and friends about your great experience!
- Keep in touch with your Erasmus friends!
- Advise your friends to go on Erasmus
I hope this article is helpful for everyone who’s thinking of going on Erasmus; for the parents, if they’re not sure about the whole Erasmus thing, I assure you your kid will be fine; and for the teachers, to keep motivating their students into going on Erasmus.