Erasmus programme: 7 steps for preparing your stay

Since 1987, over 3 million young people got the opportunity to go abroad and study thanks to the Erasmus programme.

If you would like to live this adventure yourself, you need to be well prepared and you should know what to think of before the big departure. Indeed, you cannot plan a trip abroad in a rush. Follow these few steps to make sure you won’t forget anything and all you’ll have to do next will be to enjoy yourself there.

1. The application form

Your application form is to be sent around January/February (available from the secretariat of your university). This is the first step towards your departure. Take a few minutes to fill it in properly and you will thank yourself once you’re in Spain enjoying the sun, for example. No, the Erasmus programme is not holidays, but studying under the sun is somehow appealing! In order to write an interesting and thoughtful application, you will have to fill it in with your personal information (this is the easy part). It will be a bit harder take final decisions. Take your time to decide what you should answer to questions such as:

– When do you want to leave? During the first or second semester? Or Both?

It mainly depends on your personality. For some people, spending 6 months abroad is too short to improve their language skills and to make the most of their stay. For others, one year away from their friends and family is too long. If you’re going to leave for a semester only, choose which one you prefer. Remember that going back after the first semester can be difficult; you’ll have to leave your new friends behind and get back to normal life, to your university as well. Think about what is best for you.

– Would you like to study only or is an internship also part of your plan?

It is not easy to find an internship abroad so do not hesitate to ask your university for help. It probably has contacts with other companies located in your host country.

– What is your desired destination?

You’ll have to choose and prioritise your 3 desired universities. There’s plenty of choice, the Erasmus programme makes it possible for students to travel in more than 30 countries. Check the existing agreements between your university and foreign ones. This will limit the choice. Remember that you will have to live there for a while so it is important to choose a country that is appealing to you.

Finally, attach a covering letter, a curriculum and your most recent transcript. If you’re applying for a scholarship, make sure to join your tax retention form or your parents’ if they’re still responsible for you. And that’s it!

2. The selection

Some time after your application is submitted an interview will be scheduled to decide whether you’re selected or not. Obviously, not everyone has the possibility to join the Erasmus programme. The selection is carried out on the basis of several criteria: motivation, adaptation capacity, the transcript of the candidate and finally, his/her knowledge of the language spoken in the host country. During the interview, you’ll have to show your language skills. Don’t worry, you’re not required to be bilingual; it is also one of the purposes of the Erasmus programme: to help you improve by practicing. But you should be able to get by a little. Do not forget to refresh your knowledge a little before the interview, it will benefit you.

3. The administrative documents

The paperwork is not the most interesting part, but it is an obligatory step to make sure your trip will go as smoothly as possible. One never knows what will happen so take out insurance. Ask the mutual fund or your health assurance fund to provide you with an European Health Insurance Card. If you decide to study outside of the EU, subscribe for additional health insurance. Make sure your identity papers are up-to-date (identity card, passport, driving license) and ask the embassy of your host country for a visa if needed. You should also prepare any useful documents such as your transcripts, your scholarship application, your study and training agreements, and your residence permit. You will also have to select the courses you’re willing to follow. It should not be taken lightly. All lectures will be performed in a foreign language that you do not necessarily master, but they will be relevant for the final grade. Think it through before making a decision.

4. Language courses

Taking language courses is not obligatory; acknowledge that they might turn out useful though. Keep in mind that you are to follow classes in this language so you’d better not overlook this aspect. Your budget may be too limited to take private lessons, but nowadays thanks to the internet, you will find the solution that best suits your needs.

5. The budget

Money is always a sensitive issue and you have to be lucid: you will need to spend a great deal of money during your Erasmus. An Erasmus student spends an average of 600/800€ per month. Before leaving, you will have to cover the expenses linked to the journey (by plane, by train, by bus or by car) as well as the application fees for the visa and the residence permit, if you’re going to spend your Erasmus outside of the European Union. Then, you need to take into consideration the following elements: your accommodation (rent, rental charges, deposit) and the current expenses (food, public transportation and leisure).
Take time to estimate the necessary budget and keep in mind that not all European countries have the same standard of living. Just to give you an idea, a 1,5L bottle of water costs 1€ in Spain and 1, 55€ in France. It is important to consider these differences. You might also have to spend extra money if you need to buy specific books for your classes, for example.
Do not get worked up over the estimation of the exact budget, but try to get a general idea of the expenses that await you. Plan an appointment with your bank adviser to make sure you’ll have access to your bank account abroad, to know about withdrawal fees, whether you should get a different bank card or open a bank account in your host country,…
In order to reduce the costs, find out about the different scholarships you could benefit from as well as when they will be paid.

6. The accommodation

There are two different approaches to find an accommodation. You either decide to find one before your arrival, via internet, your network, your university…Check whether the campus offers apartments. Usually, Erasmus students prefer flat-sharing. Mainly because it is cheaper and it makes it easier to meet new people from the start. Do not pay online, you never know whether it’s a rip-off. Moreover, pictures never correspond to the reality. You could also wait and look for an accommodation when you’re arrived. In the meantime, you could stay in a hostel. Do not hesitate to arrive before classes begin. This would be an excellent opportunity to discover the city as well as the apartments located around your future university.

7. Your luggage

The departure is getting closer and you can see all the stuff you accumulated in your bedroom. Don’t panic! You’re going to make it. Take both summer and winter clothes. It’s impossible to carry out everything, so you’ll have to make a selection. Think about what you’d bring if you were to leave only for 10 days, it’ll help. It is useless to bring everything with you; you will buy things when you’re arrived anyway. Do not forget to take your camera, your computer, as well as several battery chargers. Make sure you have an adaptor depending on the country. Take all your documents; it would be a pity to forget them while you spent time preparing them. And if there’s room left in your suitcase, carry a guide book of the country; this may help you once you get there.

It’s departure day! You’re now ready for your Erasmus stay. Make the most of it: meet people, visit nearby cities, talk with people from all walks of life… Just have fun! But do not lose touch with reality just because you’re far away from home, studying is also important.

The secrets of a successful Erasmus: meeting people + trips + partying +studying. Each of these elements will make it a great and unforgettable experience.

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