The Ultimate Erasmus Survival Guide
Once you’ve decided on where you want to go and what you’re doing for your year abroad, it can be quite daunting to throw yourself out there, especially if it’s for a whole year and you are going sans amis. What are the crucial steps you need to take to find your feet and live like a local? More to the point, WHERE are you going to be living?
Don’t worry though; all will be resolved thanks to the following simple steps, which will help you make the most of your time away:
Finding accommodation can be a bit tricky, especially if you’re not planning on staying abroad for a full year. Brilliant websites like craigslist and compartodepto are available in a variety of languages, allowing you to find your perfect digs. Watch out for documentation though; it’s wise to bring a copy of your bank account statement, passport, parent’s home address and Erasmus/university documents as some landlords can be particularly difficult.
You should also check if you can get hold of some financial aid to help you with your rent. The CAF in France gives rent rebates to all students, regardless of where they come from, so it’s a good idea to ask locals about accommodation help.
A plethora of websites are dedicated to helping you with your language skills. Use Facebook as your ally and join the Erasmus, ThirdYearAbroad and Couchsurfing pages to find locals, get the latest language news and hear about cultural events. Whether you’re studying abroad or working as an intern, a great way to improve your language skills is to join societies and take extra lessons which give you the opportunity to study the stuff you love.
Whether you’re into life drawing, a budding NME journalist or you fancy playing some football, there’s a community dying for you to join them. An added bonus is the fact that you’ll make friends easily, as you’ll find people with the same interests as you.
Online language resources can be a bit tricky, as some sites provide vocab and grammar sheets for beginners, though we’ve had a few recommended to us by current students. It’s also a good idea to offer paid or unpaid language lessons, as you’ll also learn some new vocab and idioms as you teach your native language.
Say yes to everything…
Ask any fourth year what they regret most about their year abroad and the majority will quip: “Not saying yes enough times.” The problem stems from the fact that most students feel they won’t be up to a certain task (e.g. white water rafting), are overwhelmed by a situation (e.g. going to a party where you only know one person, and he/she has already left) or are just plain lazy (e.g. hungover and have a film class at 9am? Erm…I don’t think so).
What you get out of your year abroad is down to what you put into it. If you can’t be bothered or you shy away from new experiences, you won’t enjoy your Erasmus year. This is your chance to relive the painful freshers’ week (I say painful as I remember mine to be a mixture of alcohol-induced headaches coupled with “oh God, I can’t remember that girl’s name and they’re coming towards me”), but this time you’ll do it the right way!
You get to pick which groups of people you can hang around with, you can try out different modules at uni, you can go out till the wee hours and not worry too much about the next day at the office (bring an aspirin). Nothing’s set in stone; most of the time, you can try your luck at a foreign university and not worry too much about your grades, you can work in a career sector and decide it’s not what you want to get into once you graduate or you can even decide to prolong your time away for a few months and go travelling.
The beauty of the year abroad lies within its flexibility; as long as you’re open to change and willing to give anything a go (including bizarre dance moves and unusual dishes), you will have the time of your life out there. And it gets even better! Once you’re back, you’re practically fluent, you realise there’s more to life than the UK and you can start applying for work at home or abroad, safe in the knowledge that your year abroad will make you stand out from the crowd.
So...what are you waiting for? Get packing!
Written by Natacha Cullinan
Editor @ ThirdYearAbroad.com