Tom Houghton wants you to get out of London.
As the money pot of Europe’s treasury edges further and further towards the shitter, there has never been a more important time to grab a slice of the proverbial cake before it gets swallowed by the economic black hole of our southern and western European friends. Next year may be your last opportunity to embark on an Erasmus funded adventure, and I for one would recommend it to absolutely everyone.
My destination of choice is Germany’s second city Hamburg, and despite the pre-departure cold feet, I haven’t looked back since. Almost three months feels more like almost two weeks, and there aren’t many better cities to spend a year of your life than here.
But I’m not writing to preach about this amazing Hanseatic state. Even if you do happen to embark upon an Erasmus journey, the chances are (aside from German students) you probably won’t be going to Hamburg. I would just like to point out what you may be missing by sticking around in London for three straight years.
Now I’m as aware as anyone that we at UCL are amongst the most cultured British students you’ll find. Heck, we’re the fourth best institution in the world, and every second one of us has taken gap years and travelled to at least 3 continents.
But leaving aside the obvious benefit of learning a language and (at least) doubling your employment opportunities, doing an Erasmus year is, at the risk of sounding like a giddy schoolgirl, totally worth it.
For me it’s been an eye opener in terms of integrating oneself into a community of European folk. It’s entirely different to the disposable friendships made when youth hosteling, with the introductory ‘Where are you from? What brings you here?’ conversation carrying far more weight. Unless you somehow manage to amalgamate yourself into the league of home studying students (a feat rarely achieved amongst Erasmus people), these Europeans will be your main group, your clique.
Prepare for the most social experience of your life. Think first year, only even less work other than the obvious necessity to learn the language. My life currently consists of socializing and eating wurst, and occasionally doing the odd assignment. Things are literally peachy.
But for those worrying that this will hinder your chances of speaking an extensive amount of your target language, fear not. It’s no difficult task to find punters amongst these study abroad-ers who either don’t speak English or don’t want to. Those people actually exist.
Financially too, it’s worth your while. Every English student I’ve met here is aware that the €3700 we are handed to ‘support us’ on our year abroad is a complete gift. I sit here sipping on an Erasmus funded €5 coffee as I write on my Erasmus funded iPad, thinking about booking my Erasmus funded flight home. The tight budget I had shopping in Camden Morrison’s seems a world away right now.
And in terms of rent, if you’ve lived in London then you’ve seen it all. I currently pay a third of my second year rent and enjoy seeing jaws drop when I tell of my £630 monthly payment for a dingy rat ridden room in Kentish Town with no working radiator courtesy of the lovely people at Victor Stone.
The fact that this great privilege could soon be taken away coupled with the other legislation facing students at present is a fantastic indication of how urgent it is to take what you can get.
An Erasmus year is a sure fire no-brainier for all students. It’s probably the best free gift you’ll receive during your time at UCL.