Six things they don’t tell you about your Erasmus year abroad that you really should know
Uni, I’m calling you out
Whether you’ve already sent off your application or are just starting the gruelling process of doing so, you’re most likely reading this article because at some point in the near future you will embark on your year abroad.
It’s a scary, long process and whether you’ve made the choice to go abroad or you’re doing a compulsory Language residence, everyone is in the same bewildering boat – and probably feeling a bit lost at sea.
So here are six things they don't tell you, or make clear, before you head off on the biggest and best adventure of your life.
Where to live
In student halls, right? That actually might not be your best option, depending on where you’re going. For example, in France and Germany student halls are the cheapest option, whereas in most cities in Spain the price of student residences can be as much €600 per month and more than double the price of staying in a shared flat. There has even been a housing crisis in the Netherlands, so being prepared and knowing how to get a roof over your head well before you go is essential. Do your research, find Facebook groups advertising flats or try to find "year abroad alumni" who can give you the best tips for the country you’re heading to.
How to make friends
Just think back to how nervous you were coming to Glasgow as a tiny little fresher all those (well, two) years ago – it’s hard. Try to find your local Erasmus Student Network (ESN) page, and any other Erasmus pages which organise meet-ups, or even language exchanges, for all incoming students. This is a fantastic way of meeting people and going on cheap trips around the country. Yes, you’ll miss Hive but there’s a whole world of Hive-like clubs out there just waiting for you to embarrass yourself on their sticky dance floors.
How to use your money
If you don’t already know, you’ll receive a delicious wad of cash, more formally known as an Erasmus Grant. The easiest and most common way to use your money while in the land of the euro would be to get a zero per cent commission card (e.g. Revolut, Starling or Monzo), which won't charge you to withdraw your money abroad. Another route would be to open a local bank account, so make sure to ask around for advice on how to do so. It’s easier in some countries than in others!
What to study
For those of you who study languages, you get to choose what you study, and this can be anything you want. Although you have to specify this before you go, it will most likely change within the first couple of weeks of being there. Email your convener and ask to be put in contact with someone who has been to your partner university before or use The Network to find University of Glasgow alumni. Study the course guide thoroughly and email staff at the partner university to ask them what’s best for Erasmus students.
Check the language
Language students – wherever you go, be prepared to learn in the target language. If you don’t study languages, make sure you’re aware of what language your lectures will be in. Most of Glasgow’s partner universities for non-language students have their classes in English, but it’s always a good idea to double-check. Get in contact with them and find out before it’s too late.
It's okay to be scared
Moving to a new city is overwhelming. But moving to a new country with a new language and a totally different culture is so much scarier. If you find that you don’t settle in right away, DO NOT WORRY.
Yes, you’ve seen photos of people having the time of their life on their year abroad, but you don’t see what goes on behind the scenes. After all, no one would post a selfie on Instagram of them having a breakdown over not being able to order a coffee in another language. Being nervous is part of the experience but you’ll come out the other end of it with more confidence, new life skills and cool, international friends.