Erasmus is an EU exchange student programme which enables EU students to spend a minimum of three months abroad at an EU Institution or take a work placement in an EU, EEA or candidate country. This is a great opportunity for students to immerse themselves in a rewarding experience which give them the opportunity to stand out in the job market and expand their learning and cultural horizons. By participating in the Erasmus Programme, students return more motivated and independent, learn valuable life-skills not taught in the lecture rooms, improve their language skills, and make new friends from all over Europe etc.
In the spirit of this, here is a list of things that you could do in order to make the Erasmus Programme an unforgettable and at the same time a constructive and learning experience:
#1 Do Your Research
Research and preparation are critically important for students before they embark on the Erasmus Programme. First and foremost, visit your university’s International Office or Erasmus Co-ordinator. Find out if there is an Erasmus society, talk to other students who have attended all promotional meetings. Discuss with your Erasmus officer which options are best either to study or to do a work placement and ask for relevant advice from previous Erasmus participants on practical matters etc.
When living abroad you have to budget money not only for social life but also for other living expenses such as rent, food, travel, utilities and entertainment. Although you do not pay any fees to the university you visit and you also receive a monthly grant of around €350, you still have to bear in mind that some countries are cheaper than others to live. Therefore, you need to research almost every aspect regarding your dream Erasmus destination. Most importantly ask: How does the cost of living of your country of residence compares to your financial potential?
#3 Don’t Slack off in the College Department Because You are Abroad
Erasmus is a tempting time to overlook college work but remember that your grades will still count when you get home so don’t let your grades fall just because you are in a different country. Manage your time accordingly to allocate a proportionate time for having fun, attending Erasmus events, travelling and most importantly… studying!
#4 Absorb the Local Culture
Since you are now a temporary resident of another country don’t miss the chance to get the taste of the local culture by trying local food, mingling with local people, going to the markets, attending fiestas and why not...learning the local language. Do ask as much information as possible from local people for whatever you are curious about or have doubts. This will make you feel more like a local than a tourist.
Cultural skills are highly valued by employers nowadays. Research by the British Council, Ipsos and management consultants Booz Allen Hamilton has shown that employers around the world particularly value job candidates who boast strong intercultural skills, show cultural sensitivity and speak a foreign language.
Immersing yourself into the local culture can also give you the opportunity to get the ‘inside scoop’ on how and where to land a part-time job while studying in the country of your choice. Don’t miss the chance to ask your local peers on how to network your way into a job so as to broaden your international work experience while learning.
#5 Open Up Your Horizons
Hang out not only with locals but also with other international students. Opt for living in a student residence where international Erasmus students live and make the most of the blend of ideas, knowledge, cultural values, languages they bring together to enrich your cultural awareness and sensitivity. You can also ‘scout’ your international friends about job opportunities in their own home countries and unearth information that will help navigate your way into international career progression.
All in, your aim is to meaningfully immerse in this exchange experience by combining studying and absorbing as much international experience as possible. By the time you return home, you will have become more competitive and employable as a job applicant.