For those of you who are studying a foreign language as part of your degree in the UK, you might find this article one of the more important ones you’ve read recently…
For many students, Europe carries a vast array of opportunities, particularly in the domain of languages. French, Spanish, German, Italian, Polish, Dutch… so many languages out there – and all of them can be easily found on an Erasmus adventure. Many big universities across the continent offer year-long exchange programs to experience their country and come to terms with the concept of international cooperation. You can either go off to study at a partner university or find a job in the private sector for a year – though the majority of people I’ve met on my adventures choose to study at a university.
For me, I am half-way through a fantastic Erasmus year in the city of Grenoble in France, studying at the Pierre Mendes University. During this time I’ve had many extraordinary experiences and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I’ve made some great friends and been able to see a fantastic country.
With all that in mind… Here are some of the reasons why going on Erasmus might be the best thing you’ve ever done for your education.
1. You get to meet so many people
Even if you consider yourself a quite, shy person who likes to curl up in bed in the evening and read a book, you’ll be surprised how many people you’ll meet if you go to just one international student’s meeting.
I can remember meeting a Mexican, two Polish, a Greek and a Belgian on my first evening in town – simply all from spotting something on Facebook. You don’t have to be the biggest party-goer in the world to get to know people.What you’ll also find is that people from other nations are so proud of their homelands that some suggest you come and visit them at some point in the future. Personally, I was at a party for international students and it took me literally five minutes to get a month-long tour of South America on the cards…
2. Some of the people you meet become great friends
It is extraordinary how many people get fascinated in England and where you’re from. Often that mild bit of curiosity turns into meeting up time and time again to talk about our homelands and everything in between.
I’ve met some people here in Grenoble that I’ll probably keep in touch with for many years, so you can be fairly sure that if you meet people with an open mind and a smile on your face… You’ll find some great friends.
3. You’ll get to test out those language skills
Erasmus students generally like to speak other languages, and chances are they’ve learnt them at school or university. However, there’s no substitute for getting out and speaking it in the real world – the sterile environment of a classroom can never prepare you.
It’s always tricky to start – for some reason natives in your host country can’t seem to work out you’re international if you’re on Erasmus – much different from the days when you’re on holiday and the locals spot you’re a tourist from a mile off. However, give it more time and you’ll be amazed how much your language picks up
4. You can try out some of the local cuisine
Imagine coming back from a year abroad and finding you’re capable of naming and cooking just about anything from your host country… Your parents might actually consider taking you back if you’ve mastered the art of, say, French cuisine.
Aside from that, you have to remember that food forms a bigger part of Europe’s lifestyle than we manage back in the UK. It is a great way to meet friends and socialise with them – all whilst enjoy some of the best food in the world..
5. Europeans know how to party
OK, so you’ve spent a year or two at university in England and you probably think it’s time to settle down now. You know, get some work done… maybe?
It appears that those from mainland Europe have a somewhat more responsible attitude. For example, they know when they need to get on with work but then know how to throw a great party when you all fancy a night off. It is something that a lot of people take away from the Erasmus adventure. Just be careful whilst you’re at it.
6. You will get some financial support
Don’t think that you’re on your own when it comes to Erasmus. Not only do you get the Student Loans Company helping you out with a slightly increased sum of money for travelling, but you may also be entitled to the Erasmus Grant. It is, for many students, an absolutely vital part of your finances and will greatly help you make the most of your time away. It’s something to definitely look at as it is a universal grant that can total EUR3,300 for an academic year, depending on where you go. For me, this covers my rent and a lot of living expenses (and helps offset the bills at the end of my university life…!)
7. You won’t ever forget it
At the end of it, you’ll go back home and maybe wish you were back there – some people refer to it as ‘Post-Erasmus Depression.’
Ultimately though… You’ll be left with some incredible memories of the place you visited and the people you met along the way. It’s something to remember for the rest of your life.
Remember: you can only do Erasmus once, and you can only do it for one year. Once it’s over, you can’t ever be an Erasmus student again. In my view, it’s the greatest year you could possibly wish to spend and, for me, it ranks very near the top of the greatest decisions of my life.
Make the most of the opportunities your university can offer… And explore Europe.
I promise you. You won’t regret it – it’s life-changing.