When I first decided to explore the possibility of applying for the Erasmus exchange program, a lot of people asked me why I was thinking about doing it. I think the simple answer for me is, I love the sense of adventure associated with studying and living in another country.
I’ve always had this inquisitive nature since I was a young child. I was always found exploring the hills nearby my house, dreaming about travelling and trying my best to do anything else apart from school work. Not much has changed there!
Another solid reason I wanted to take part in Erasmus is that I feel it’s a valuable and worthwhile aspect of modern university life and study. Any kind of exchange enables you to network not only with people in your chosen study country but also with the people who are participating from other countries. There’s always a broad mix of different nationalities and cultures, which provides all kinds of different experiences that are available within an Exchange or Erasmus setting.
If you’re thinking about taking part in the program, it’s good to consider and research the available study countries on offer to you. This will obviously change from university to university and country to country. Coming from RGU and the Scott Sutherland School I had five different available choices that fitted in with my course and study options. All my available host universities were within Europe, which for me felt like a really good way of doing the exchange. If you have an EU passport, being in mainland Europe allows quick and easy EU country travel. There are usually cheap flights and other travel options offering access to a variety of countries to explore and experience while you’re on the program.
Another important aspect of Erasmus that’s important to consider isn’t actually related to the exchange. You should consider what other alternatives are available if you were to stay and study at your home university. This could be undertaking a placement, or in my case, a simulated practice module. For me, both those options didn’t feel right at this point in my studies for a number of reasons. However, I know that some courses have different options available for students, so it’s important that you research what these are before making your final decision. You should also check to see if taking part in Erasmus or a similar exchange is a mandatory part of your studies, with some courses, it is and with others it’s not.
Researching the country you’ve chosen to study in is the next important thing to think about. It may seem obvious but there are stories of people who have no clue about their new home country. A little advance research is important for a number of different reasons. It helps you to work out what life will be like during your stay, start planning where you might like to go to visit, understand the culture of the country and find out important information such as health care, visas, currency and living costs so you can fix your budget.
For my research I used several websites to quickly check out what Finland as a country and Oulu as a city had to offer. Most countries have dedicated sites for tourists, which are a great starting point. Another free way to get good information about your new study destination is from someone who has already been there on Erasmus. If you speak to your course leader or Erasmus co-ordinator they will put you in contact with someone who will be able to give a more personal student insight. If you want to get more detailed background, I highly recommend one of the Lonely Planet country specific guides. These give in-depth information about the country but also a lot of invaluable micro details about certain cities. In my opinion well worth the investment!
Overall, I think figuring out if Erasmus is the right choice for you is the most important consideration and first priority. It’s something that can take time to make sure it’s really what you want to embark on at this point in your university studies. It feels like I made the right decision. I have to say that the preparation I did during the run up to moving to Finland really did help. There is a lot of information to take on board but if you give yourself enough time you will be good to go on and enjoy the exchange to the full, wherever it may be!