If you’re reading this, it’s safe to say you’re either contemplating going on an Erasmus programme or you’re about to embark on one and obviously want to make the most of it! As someone who’s been on an Erasmus program, I’d like to share from personal experience, what YOU can do to make your Erasmus journey a regret-free, memorable one. If you do it right, it will be a year you will never forget, full of endless adventures and friends that will essentially be your family.
1. Loose your inhibitions
First, and most important. Just throw yourself into it! Of course, the idea of moving to another country, not knowing anybody can be daunting. But you have to remember, everybody you meet will be doing the same thing! The first few days will be the most intimidating of all – going to Erasmus meet ups alone, trying to make friends, and overcoming the language barrier with locals. But as with everything, practice makes perfect, and after a few days it will start to feel like home. So don’t hibernate in your room!
2. Immerse yourself in the local culture
Dorothy, you ain’t in Kansas anymore! Every country has something special to offer that you won’t find at home! European countries have their own traditions, and amazing events. There’s Oktoberfest in Germany, Noche Vieja (Spain’s biggest university party with students from all over Spain travelling to attend the outdoor rave) in Salamanca, Spain and many more uniquely European experiences you will never find in your hometown.
3. Go country hopping
Bar hopping and club hopping are part of the study abroad experience but might we suggest country hopping as well? Connections between countries in mainland Europe are shockingly cheap and quick, so there is always time for a weekend getaway with your friends! What’s more, being a uni student, you’ll be entitled to student discounts in a LOT of places so take advantage of these cheap rates while you can. This is your chance to explore the continent, one country at a time!
4. Work hard, play hard!
Another point to remember is that (sadly) it’s not just a free holiday… You still need to study! Erasmus students have a reputation with the locals for being too laid back and blasé about the work side of life. Don’t fall into that hole, work hard play hard! Your grade will still affect your overall grade back home so make sure you don’t get home regretting not having studied for those exams!
5. Don’t stick with your clique
We know it’s only natural to want to hang out and mix around with people you’re familiar with, but hey, you didn’t fly halfway around the world to duplicate your hometown university experience did you? It may feel very comfy to do everything with them, but by doing that you are only limiting yourself and eventually you’ll form a clique… And nobody likes a clique. The whole point of Erasmus is making new friends with people from different cultures. You have 3 years (or more) to make friends with people from home, so when you get abroad try to branch out! Who knows maybe you would pick up another language from your friends?
6. Keep track of your spenditure
A party here, a lunch date there, a shopping trip in town. It’s easy to get carried away and not keep track of your finances -but keep track you should, not unless you want to find yourself having to forgo meals and fun activities towards the end of the trip, or worse still, call mom and dad, begging them to wire you some money before the month is over!
7. Learn the local language
Unless you’ve signed up for a language course, chances are, most of your programmes will be conducted in English, but that doesn’t mean you should dismiss the opportunity to learn the local language. Mix with the locals and make an effort to pick up their language. When else will you get a chance to practice your French, German or Spanish with native speakers of the language? Plus, we all know immersion is one of the best ways to learn a new language, so get talking!
8. Document your experience
Whether you’re doing Erasmus for a semester or a whole year, DOCUMENT the experience. It could be a blog, a diary – whatever platform suits you best. You may be lazy or think it’s not worth the effort, but trust us, when your Erasmus gets over, you’re going to be so thankful you have something to look back on. Be it pictures or blog posts, they will last you forever and the memories will always put a smile on your face.
9. Make your experience your own
While there are many things you should certainly do on Erasmus, there are also a handful of things that you should try to avoid. To begin with, DON’T compare yourself to others, its poison. So you’re in a small town in Croatia that no one has heard of and your friends are travelling around the beaches of France, who cares? It’s not the place that is important, but the people. Making the most of Erasmus is all about doing the most with what is offered to you, regardless of where you are; there will always be chances for wild adventures.
10. Do you and enjoy it!
This is somewhat related to no 9. What we’d like to say is, if you’re an introvert, or a bookworm, do NOT by any means feel the need to go out and party till 3am just to fit in with the crowd. If that’s not your scene, forcing yourself into it will be more torturous than enjoyable. By all means, socialize and attend the functions that interest you, but never feel the need to explain yourself or change to fit into someone else’s idea of what an Erasmus student should be!