By Lorne Gillies
University is seen as the highlight of any young adults career and some lucky students get the opportunity to take part in the Erasmus Exchange Program. It is a great chance to meet new people, learn a new language, experience a new culture and live in a new country creating long-lasting memories whilst vastly improving your CV.
Established in 1987 the Erasmus Exchange Program has allowed thousands of students to travel and live abroad in 33 European countries from Iceland to Spain, Germany to Russia and even further afield with some programmes allowing exchanges to the US as students the world over create new life opportunities for themselves.
Before you move to your new country and start to make new memories there are obviously things that need to be organised and The Edit is here to help those thinking about going on exchange or are getting ready to move abroad.
Go for it…
The first step is to get out of your comfort zone and go for it. Liene Grava, 22, from Latvia had an amazing experience living in Barcelona and studying at the renowned Universitat Pompeu Fabra, but there were some ups and downs – from getting over excited watching a FC Barcelona game at Camp Nou and breaking her kneecap to meeting lifelong friends – she explains that going abroad was a great opportunity for her to travel: “I never actually had time or when I had time I didn’t have money to travel so I decided to take this amazing opportunity to go on exchange. Also living and studying in my country got me into routine and I wanted to get away from it and have some kind of experience. I wanted to improve my language skills – Spanish and English. And I wanted to meet new people from all over the world.”
Depending on where you are planning to go on exchange depends on what type of information and documentation you have to get organised. Your home university will be on hand to help with any visa troubles and how to apply for certain documentation but the most important thing is to make sure you yourself are organised and research all the details and documents you need for living abroad – government websites will help with this.
There will be organisations set up to help those wishing to live in a different country but the best, and possibly cheapest, way to get accommodation is to apply to live in student halls of residence; be aware that you will still need to make a flat deposit to ensure you have a secured flat to arrive in. If anything were to go wrong with accommodation it is vital you have your university or exchange coordinators details so you can contact them in the event of an emergency so your home university can provide support and help.
Obviously! How else are you going to get there? It might be obvious but you have to make sure that you’re completely organised before making the final commitment to travel and make sure you travel on appropriate dates for settling into your new home and starting university or work. It makes the most sense to have a one-way ticket as you might love your time away you never want to come back, but this obviously depends on your financial situation as it may be cheaper to book a return flight, or visa situation as it may be time for you return to your home country.
There are many networks available to get to know people before even moving to your new country thanks to the wonders of technology. Facebook is a great way to meet new people and interact with others moving to the same country as you but more importantly the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) members will be on hand to ensure you get the best experience and meet as many new people as possible – that’s the point in getting away from the old! Liene said: “Well actually I can say that the thing which helped to meet new people was, firstly, Facebook. Before I even arrived I already talked with some Erasmus people in Barcelona. Secondly, it was Erasmus Students Network (ESN) which helped to meet new people. They made all the great events and trips where we could get to know each other and have fun. Mostly it was those events and trips, and parties which helped to meet new people,” but remember and keep in touch with all your old friends they want to know how you’re getting on!
Living abroad was one of the best decisions of my life but like all big life changes there were some bumps along the way, bumps that most people will face such as being worried about how things will turn out when you are away, but when you overcome them you end up having the best time ever: missing old friends but making new friends who turn into your family and enrich the entire experience of Erasmus.