Studying abroad is one of the most exciting years of your life. It is an opportunity to see the world from a whole new perspective, by learning about new cultures and languages and making lifelong friends. However, it is also a leap into the dark, as you will be travelling to a foreign country, away from friends and family, without knowing what to expect. You’ll be wondering how you can prepare for an Erasmus year abroad, so that this once-in-a-lifetime experience goes as smoothly as possible.
When applying to study abroad, your home university will likely ask you to research the teaching methods, cost of living, and other important details of your host country. This might seem like a chore at first, but it is actually a very useful insight into what you should expect. In this guide we explain how to complete this process and effectively prepare for an Erasmus year abroad.
The most important things you should consider when you prepare for an Erasmus year abroad are your budget, accommodation, teaching styles, language and culture, and administrative procedures.
Your budget is the first thing you should establish when you prepare for an Erasmus year abroad, as it will affect every other part of your experience. You’ll want to make a rough estimate of your expenses, and compare it to the money you’ll receive from grants, scholarships and your student loan.
Your main expenses will be travel, accommodation, and living expenses. Its important to ensure you have enough money to cover any unforeseen eventualities, such as a medical emergency.
If you are staying in university accommodation, then you will know exactly how much this will cost you per month. If you are planning on renting private accommodation, have a look at property rental sites to get an idea of the average price of housing in your host city. Also, bear in mind that you will likely have to put down a deposit, and that the price of bills may vary every month.
Working out your living expenses is the most challenging part of budgeting for a year abroad. Have a look at cost-of-living indexes like numbeo.com, to compare prices to your home city. If you know someone who has lived in the country or city you’re travelling to, ask them to give you a rough estimate of how much they spent per month.
Most students who study abroad will be relying on student loans, as well as the Erasmus grant and scholarships to fund their year abroad. The Erasmus grant is a welcome boost to your finances, however the administrative process can be slow so you should ensure you have enough money to get by without it for a couple of months.
Another key detail to consider when you prepare for an Erasmus year abroad is your accommodation. The process of finding a place to live will differ greatly depending on where you are going. Many universities offer student accommodation to Erasmus students, while others simply leave you to your own devices in the maze of private rentals.
If your host university offers student accommodation, there are several steps you should take to ensure everything goes smoothly. Firstly, you want to look at photos of the halls you’ll be staying in, to make sure it looks reasonably habitable. Second, you’ll want to find out more about the contract you’ll be entering into with the university, including any conditions and hidden charges. Luckily, you’re unlikely to have any major problems with university accommodation.
If your host university doesn’t provide student accommodation for its visiting Erasmus students, you’ll have to find a room from a third party. If you’re travelling to Spain, you can read our guide on how to find private accommodation here. The main steps for all countries are the following.
Firstly, find out which platforms are commonly used by students in your host city to find accommodation. This can include property sites, classified ads and Facebook pages. Your host university might even offer a platform for finding flatmates and spare rooms. Second, decide whether you want to book accommodation in advance, or view some options in person before settling on one. It is helpful to consult with people who have lived in your host city. If you don’t know anyone in person, trying asking on the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) Facebook or WhatsApp group for the city you’re travelling to.
Teaching Style and Assessment Methods
When you prepare for an Erasmus year abroad, its important to gain an understanding of what the teaching style and assessment methods of your host institution are. This will make it easier to adapt to a new form of learning and examination.
For example, you will want to find out if exams are written or oral, whether assessment is continuous or exam-only, whether attendance is compulsory, and if any special provisions are made for foreign exchange students.
The best way to do this is to read the course outlines for the subjects you’ll be taking, and speak to current students at the university, which you can get in contact with through Erasmus Facebook and WhatsApp groups.
You should also work out how your home university will convert your Erasmus grades at the end of your exchange, so you know what you should be aiming for.
Language and Culture
This may seem obvious, but it is hard to overstate the importance of having a basic grasp of the local language and culture before you travel. You should begin learning the language of your host country before you travel, even if you’ll be studying in English. The easiest way to do this is by spending as little as 20 minutes a day practicing on an app like Duolingo. Also, begin to immerse yourself in the language by listening to music and podcasts.
If you’re participating in an Erasmus exchange within Europe, you’re unlikely to experience a major culture shock when you begin to settle in. That said, the more engaged you are in the history and culture of the country, the richer and more rewarding your experience will be.
The administrative procedures you need to complete before or after starting your mobility are a very important consideration when you prepare for an Erasmus year abroad. Most countries will require you to register your residency if you’re staying for more than a set period of time. For example, if you want to reside in Spain for more than 3 months you are required to obtain a NIE.
This is a particularly important step if you are a non-EU resident travelling to a university within the bloc, as you may be violating immigration law by failing to correctly register you residency.
Obviously, this process varies greatly in every country, however both your home and host institutions should provide you with detailed and up-to-date information on how to complete this process.
These are the most important things to consider when you prepare for an Erasmus year abroad. Once you’ve sorted these out, you’ll be in a good position to deal with any other issues that arise, and have an unforgettable experience studying abroad!