You’ve heard about Erasmus+ but you’ve never experienced it before? Erasmus+ is the EU’s programme that offers the opportunity to study, train and gain experience abroad. Students from all over the world shared in a video their experience of a lifetime and wrote a must-read guide before taking part in the Erasmus+ journey. Discover France, Germany, Finland and other dream EU-destinations and live your story too!
I Planning your Erasmus
Everybody wants some changes in their lives: to change the living or study place, go abroad, explore new cultures, meet new people, and make new friends. If you feel the urgency to do something different, Erasmus can be a great solution. However, just like with any kind of new experience it needs thorough thinking and detailed planning. The very important thing is to be ready mentally and emotionally: to be open to new challenges, changes, diversity, and a new culture; to forget about any stereotypes about the country you are going to visit; and be friendly to the new environment. If you are done with mental preparation, you can start thinking about the host country, host university or company, all paper-work, money-related issues, and finding the apartment.
All these aspects to take care of seem overwhelming, and if anxiety plays a big part in your daily life, planning ahead might help you when you are studying abroad. Lists are going to be your best friends when planning for this big step in your life. Making a list of the documents you need to the places you want to visit is something that will help you keep track of the things you need to take care of and of the things you don’t want to forget. For example:
- Start with a list of the documents you need to fill in or of the ones you need to validate. Then, you can do a list of the documents that are still in the process of validation.
- You can also do a list of the clothes and things you are going to take, depending on where you’re going. Keep in mind the kind of weather in the host country at the time you’ll be going
- Go ahead and make a list of all the medicine you need to take with you or any health intervention tools you might need.
- If you still haven’t found a place to stay, you can also make a list of the places you have in mind and the different transport options you have around each place and how far they are from your faculty or place of internship (usually facebook accommodation groups help a lot).
- Also, keep in mind that you should do some research about the host country, take a look at their traditions or even rules that they usually follow, you wouldn’t want to be disrespectful or do something that could get you in trouble.
- Last but definitely not least, make a list of the places you would like to visit during your Erasmus.
One thing to remember is, no matter how much planning you do, always be prepared to be caught by surprise. Not everything goes according to plan and that’s okay. You should also allow yourself to be spontaneous and just let things flow, at least a little bit.
Why is finding an accommodation such a hussle?
We all know how scary it is when moving to another country, due to a number of reasons, one of them being the accommodation issue, which is sometimes like a Russian roulette. We all want a place located in a safe and good area, close to work/university, parks, mall, city centers, if possible with a minimum rent to pay, and so on, while we have to make sure to avoid scams.
When you travel with an Erasmus+ mobility, you have two options, either live in a dorm, or rent a room in an apartment. The safest and cheapest option would be living in a dorm: there are public and private dorms, some of them are close to university, or to places of common interest, such as city centers, but they are generally located in good areas. The rent fee is affordable, but you sometimes have to share the room with one to three people, depending on the type of room you rent. In some dorms you will also have to share the kitchen and bathroom, but you can find them on every floor of the building. On the other hand, you have the opportunity to meet a lot of people your age, you can go to a lot of parties and gatherings and you will have a lot of fun.
The second option would be renting a bedroom in an apartment, or a shared house. Ask your coordinator of the host university/ company for some trustworthy websites and Facebook groups where you can find a place to live in. But even so, you must be cautious because sometimes what is displayed on a web page or Facebook post can be far from the truth. In order to avoid scams, take into consideration the following pieces of advice:
- check the website policy from which you rent the living space
- visit only trustworthy renting websites
- check only the verified posts, they should have a green tick mark symbol
- study the market very well, so you have a somewhat idea about the prices
- do not go straight for the best looking deal; there is no such thing as a studio located in the city center for 200 euro rent
- make sure to check the location of the building on google maps, to see if the address truly exists
- many landlords use a lot of photoshop and other editing apps in order to make the rental space more appealing, so do not have high hopes, there is a possibility that it looks different in reality
- if possible, ask the landlord for additional pictures
- make sure there are things for household use, such as washing machine, drying rack, cutlery, bedding, ironing board, vacuum cleaner etc. because you might sometimes have to buy them yourself
- see if the building is close to a bus/tram/metro station
- look up the neighborhood’s name online and read some reviews
- if you have the financial possibility, it would be ideal if you stay at a hostel when you arrive to your destination country and search there for accommodation
- never pay a fee for simply seeing the place!
- ask for the English version of the contract and study it thoroughly, go to a lawyer if something is unclear to you, look for hidden clauses
- check if the owner of the residence is going to live with you
- ask for the final price of the rent, because when you see the standard price on the website, it sometimes might not include the price for the bills and for the cleaning service, and some landlords do not bother to tell you up until you arrive at the location and have no other choice but to do as such
What to do when you finally do find an accommodation
You finally found a place to your taste and you cannot wait to see it, but you are not sure what to do once you arrive at the building. Take these steps into consideration:
- it would be ideal to be accompanied by a native speaker when you meet the landlord, especially if they cannot speak English
- concerning the dorm, things are pretty simple, you will simply need an ID, a student’s card and pictures of you in order to register and receive the key to your room
- you will also have to sign a contract. This is where you might need a native speaker of that particular language to translate to you aspects of the contract. Not all of them are translated into English, and you have to read it carefully, do not be ashamed to ask questions if something is unclear, and ask for an English version of it, if possible
- make sure to check everything beforehand (if there are stains on the walls, if the toilet is clogged, if the shower works properly and runs hot/cold water, make sure nothing is broken and that everything works perfectly). Some landlords might try to charge you for the repairing of the objects, even if it was not your fault. They use this strategy in order to keep the deposit in its entirety or a part of it
- check in the contract who pays for the cost of reparations, for property taxes and so on
- if the room you rented differs a lot from what was presented on the website, simply ask for the deposit back and contact the website as soon as possible
- take pictures and notify the owner if you notice something odd about the household appliances
- be also careful about the time when you are supposed to pay the rent, you might be charged an additional fee if you are late for even a day
- always keep your valuables to yourself, if something is stolen from you, nobody is going to be responsible for that
- on a more personal touch, I strongly recommend you avoid bedrooms located in basement or semi-basement because it is usually cold, dark, and humid, unless it is very well isolated
II What documents do I need for Erasmus+?
Depending on the Erasmus+ mobility you apply for (studies vs internship), the documents you will need to fill will differ. However, most probably for both types of mobility, you will need to prepare a CV and a Motivation Letter.
Below you may find some CV and Motivation Letter writing tips:
- Use professional terminology
- Keep your CV to 2 pages long and motivational letter to 1 page long
- In the Interests section, put your professional interests instead of hobbies
- Order it chronologically
- Give your CV document file a professional name
- While writing a motivation letter, do not mention any of your weak points
- Present yourself as an ambitious, confident, learning-oriented person
In case you need a visa to enter the country where you are planning to do the Erasmus+ mobility, you will need a so-called Letter of Invitation issued by either your internship host or receiving university. Such a letter should include some basic information about you, so that identification would not be a problem, short description of your studies/internship programme, and details of the receiving institution, regardless whether it is a university or a private company. Ideally, the document should not only be signed, but also stamped.
Once you get the Letter of Invitation, you will need to apply for a visa at the nearest consulate or embassy of the country you are willing to enter. Naturally, you will have to fill many other documents and submit a biometric photo, however, the invitation letter is a common requirement and we recommend taking care of it as soon as possible. Bear in mind that the visa issuing process might also take some time.
In the next paragraphs, we will discuss firstly the standard documents you will need to apply for Erasmus+ internship and then for Erasmus+ studies.
Erasmus+ Internship – Documents
As you probably know by now, if you are a student or a recent graduate, you can apply for an internship within Erasmus+ framework. You can either find an employer on your own, or look for the internship opportunities on websites such as Erasmus intern.
Once you already find the internship and get the employer’s confirmation on hosting you, there are some documents you will need to fill:
Learning Agreement / Traineeship Agreement
Learning Agreement (sometimes called Traineeship Agreement) is basically a contract between you, your university and your future employer. It is composed of 4 parts:
- General contact information of all the parties
- Before Mobility
- During Mobility
- After Mobility
In the first part, there is a table with a row corresponding to each of the parties. The intern fills the first row, the Sending Institution (your university) fills the second and the employer the third row. The data to be written down are pretty standard: Name, Surname, Sex, Nationality, Address of the Institutions, Contact person name etc.
The Before Mobility section, as the name suggests, has to be filled before starting the internship. Though it is your university and employer’s task to fill it, we suggest you to monitor its content.
The Before Mobility section covers the following information:
- Duration of the internship
- Traineeship title
- Number of working hours per week
- Tasks description
- Skills to be acquired
- Evaluation plan
- Monitoring plan
- Insurance/Benefits/Internship type
- Language proficiency level (CEFR)
The next section, titled During Mobility needs to be filled only if you are going to change the internship programme. It comprises the same parts as Before Mobility section, except for the Sending Institution part and insurance/benefits information.
The last part called After Mobility is made up of a Traineeship certificate which covers following information:
- Names of all the parties: Trainee, Sending Institution and Receiving Institution
- Address of the receiving organisation
- Start date and end date of the internship
- Traineeship title
- Detailed programme of the internship
- Knowledge, skills and competences to be acquired
- Evaluation of the Trainee
Naturally, each of the sections has to be signed by all the Parties, except for the After Mobility which is issued by the employer, and should be signed and stamped by the employer only.
Other documents that your university may require are: Letter of Acceptance, issued by the employer, confirming that you are accepted as a trainee, and Certificate of Arrival, issued by the employer, to be signed on the first day of work. It may also turn out that one of the Parties requires a Language Proficiency Certificate, but don’t worry, it wouldn’t have to be a Cambridge Exam certificate, usually, a document issued by your lecturer/university/recruiter confirming your language proficiency level is sufficient.
Erasmus+ Studies – Documents
Learning Agreement is the most important document you need to submit. It is simply a list of the classes which you will take at the receiving university, each of them with the corresponding number of ECTS points written. In order to select the classes you are interested in, you will have to conduct a little research on the website of the foreign university and find the list of classes it offers. In case you cannot find it or have any doubts either concerning the documents or the mobility itself, remember that the Erasmus Coordinator at your faculty/university will definitely help you.The classes you are willing to take have to be approved by the responsible person at your faculty and should match the programme of your studies at your university.
Remember! A copy of the Learning Agreement, filled and signed by the Coordinator, needs to be submitted to the International Office by the time of signing the Student Agreement before the mobility.
The other document that you will need to fill is a so-called Student Agreement. Usually, it is signed and submitted at the International Office and has to be delivered with 2 photo copies. The Student Agreement is simply a form to fill covering the important information such as the number of your bank account, to which the scholarship will be transferred. Basically, the difference between those two Agreement documents consists in that the Learning Agreement is an agreement with the host university, defining the classes you will attend. Meanwhile, the Student Agreement is the contract you sign with the European Union through the International Office, which defines the terms and conditions of your Erasmus+ mobility. Usually, a copy of the health insurance has to be attached to the Student Agreement.
Transcript of Records is a document issued by the host university that states what classes did you take and what grades did you get. It is extremely important to get it in person at the end of your stay in a foreign country, since most of the Sending Universities require the original of the document, and the International Offices are usually reluctant to send it by post.
You may also need a Language Proficiency Certificate, which will confirm your CEFR level of English and/or other language that is either spoken in the foreign country or in which the classes are held. To prove your language skills you don’t have to take a Cambridge exam. Often, a document issued by your Erasmus+ Coordinator or one of the lecturers confirming that you have a specific proficiency level or take classes in a given language will be sufficient.
Doubts regarding the Erasmus+ documents
To sum up, regardless of the type of the Erasmus+ mobility, you will have to take care of the Learning Agreement and Student Agreement which are the most important documents, since they define the terms and conditions of your mobility. In case you will need to issue a visa, we suggest you to start taking care of it, asking for a Letter of Invitation as soon as possible. In most cases, to apply for an Erasmus+ internship/studies you need to submit a CV and Motivation Letter. The end of the Erasmus+ mobility is certified with the After Mobility part of the Learning Agreement, which in case of the Erasmus+ internship takes shape in Traineeship Certificate and in case of Erasmus+ studies in Transcript of Records.
All the documents we have described above constitute a list of the most important documents you will need to take care of throughout your Erasmus+ mobility. Nevertheless, bear in mind that every university has its own rules, so you’d better double-check the document requirements with your Faculty Erasmus+ Coordinator, who after all, knows all the procedures the best and should be your most reliable source of information.
III How to budget while studying abroad
When you go on exchange, the first things that come to mind are holidays, parties and shopping. Of course, you are travelling to a new country and you want to discover new experiences. But money goes away very quickly, so it’s better to prepare a budget if you plan to stay in a foreign country for a few months.
Here are 10 tips for making a budget while you are studying abroad:
- Define what type of exchange student you are
Are you a shopaholic, a partygoer, a traveller or simply discovering new flavours? Budget accordingly depending on your personality. Include in your budget money what you want to prioritize – whether it’s new clothes during sales, bachata night every Saturday, a trip across the country or the hippest restaurants in town! Make your studies abroad a unique experience and do things you really enjoy.
- Choose a cheap destination
If you already spend half of your budget flying to Shanghai, you won’t be able to enjoy your Erasmus. In Europe, there are other cities as beautiful as Paris but way cheaper, and you should consider going there. Search for destinations with low-cost airlines, you’ll be surprised that you can fly for as low as 10€. For example, you can find a one-way ticket on WizzAir from Brussels to Warsaw for only 9.90€.
- Plan a little more than expected in case of emergency
You may be the luckiest person on Earth but prevention is better than cure. Put some money in your spare account in case of emergency. If you lose a survival item such as your smartphone, you’d freak out because you won’t have any contact with your family while studying abroad. With the emergency money, you can buy a spare one so you can always stay in touch with them.
- Save up before you leave and during your stay
Unless you are a rich kid, you can’t depend on your parents’ wallet to live during your Erasmus. Parents are there to help in case you are in an undesired situation but as a young adult you should prepare prior to departure. Put money in a savings account dedicated to your trip. On Revolut, you can create a vault and save money until you reach your goal. You can also save money during your trip by doing activities which are free or discounted for students. Take advantage of it.
- Use your credit card and keep some cash on you.
Nowadays, it is easier and safer to use a credit card because you don’t have to carry too much cash. But it is also the fastest way to spend money. You also should be careful with interest, foreign transaction fees, and payments. With Revolut though, there is no interest and no fees. Just check the exchange rate, you may be able to save money paying in another currency than euro.
- Keep an eye on the exchange rate
As said in the previous point, pay attention to the exchange rate because you’ll be able to save money. Sometimes, it is cheaper to pay in another currency. For example, you can pay a flight ticket 1€ cheaper in another currency such as złoty just because the exchange rate is in favour of the Polish currency. It sounds insignificant but just think of how many euros you can save that way.
- Choose the right exchange office
It is better to have some cash in the currency of the country you’re travelling to in case your bank card doesn’t work upon arrival. After landing, people tend to go to the first exchange office they see and change their currencies. But the rate is quite high at the airport and in touristic areas. Find an exchange office in the city with good rates and avoid losing money.
- Regularly check your bank account and keep the receipts
You may spend more than expected once you arrive. In order to adjust for the next few days and months, check what you spent during the day. That way, you can see if you overspent while being in the supermarket or last night in the club. If you regularly pay attention to your spending habits, you can avoid buying unnecessary stuff.
- Make some extra cash
Your savings may not be enough if you had to use the emergency money or if you bought a designer bag. Therefore, it is always better to have too much than not enough. Find out in your host country how to generate more money. For example, you can dedicate your free Sunday to babysitting or teaching your mother language to children. There are plenty of small jobs you can find on Facebook’s Erasmus pages or student websites.
- Plan your budget using an Excel spreadsheet
Unless you have Einstein’s IQ, you won’t need to write down your budget, expenses and savings on a spreadsheet. But since you are among common mortals, you probably should create an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of the accounting. It will help you have an overview of your expenses and you’ll be stress-free.
Manage your money wisely
Especially if you are spending a long time far from home. Thus, I would like to give you some tips about what things you need to consider before going for an Erasmus year, what apps to use and other information as to avoid bank fees and to manage your money wisely
How to avoid bank fees
The key point regarding this issue is the following: whether you travel to a country sharing your same currency or not.
So if you are from France and you would like to spend an Erasmus year in Germany or, let’s say, an Erasmus year in Italy, you would hardly find any problem. This is largely due to the existence of a consensus surrounding countries sharing the Euro currency. So you would just have to ask your bank which are those ATMs where you can withdraw money without any charged fees. This is exactly the same as you would need to do in your home country.
If you are planning to go to a country that has a different currency, you will need to be careful, so pay attention. I am sure that you have already heard someone tell you: Do not trust banks!. Well… I would tell you the same since they usually mislead customers. From my experience, I can tell that they may not lie to you but, of course, they will hide any information that can play against them. In a nutshell, I inform you that – regardless of the fee that you may get depending on the ATM where you are withdrawing your money from – your bank will charge you a fee for currency conversion. As far as I know and comparing different banks fees, this currency conversion is usually 3% of the money you are withdrawing. It is also worth mentioning that this fee will be applied to any banking transaction. Imagine that you would like to transfer 1200 PLN to your landlord. If we are talking about a 3% fee, that would be 36 PLN! So be smart and enjoy a good meal for that price.
So as I had this problem once I started my Erasmus year in Poland, I recommend you choose one of the following options:
- Look for the best bank account for Erasmus students: it is just a matter of doing a bit of research. Many banks offer better conditions regarding this currency conversion. It is the case that you can find some banks that have definitely better conditions for students, as they know that they can attract a huge amount of customers. For instance, if you are from Spain I recommend you to open a bank account with Abanca as they have an appealing 1% currency conversion fee. It is a question of updating which is the best option in your home country. Of course you also have the possibility to open a bank account in the destination country but you should know that the requirements to do this can be pretty hard to fulfill for us.
- Revolut: this is definitely a magnificent choice for daily expenses. Revolut was particularly created to address this problem. Travelling with a Revolut account is such a big comfort. Once you have your revolut card you will never have to worry about currencies. This is by far the easiest and cheapest way to manage your money abroad.
- TransferWise: this app is the best way to make a transfer. Transfers will be easy, fast and handy by using TransferWise. That is why we would recommend it as a complement for you as you could pay your rent or send money to your friends among others.
So do not fall asleep and start thinking about this. As if you would like for example to get a Revolut card before travelling, we recommend you to take action in advance as you would have to wait a time till receiving it. In this way, you would have your Revolut card in your hands before travelling and everything will be easier.
How about bringing cash? Everything you need to know!
If you stay abroad for a shorter period of time but that you want to feel secured with money: you can bring some cash with you! This would allow you to feel reassured because at least, if you lose your card, or have any problems with it while paying, you won’t be completely blocked and penniless! The thing is, you’ll have to be very careful during your journey, and stay on the watch of your bag and wallet. So, if it is another big responsibility for you and/or that you’re a scatterbrain, don’t take too much cash and make sure to read the other pieces of advice!
How much cash should I bring?
The amount of cash is up to you, and more specifically, it depends on your needs and on the time you’re going to be away. It also depends on the country where you’re going to stay. If the standard of living is high, generally in the Northern countries (the UK, Finland, Denmark, Norway etc.), consider taking a bit more than if you’re going to stay in Southern or Eastern countries (Hungary, Croatia, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia etc.)
I would recommend to withdraw between 100€ and 600€. Above this sum, it is way too much! Once again, it all depends on you and the way you spend your money. But if you lose your money, or if you’re being robbed during your journey, you’re going to sob your heart out.
If the money is different in your Erasmus country, you can already convert the money you’re contemplating to get. Example: if I want to take 200€ to the U.K., it corresponds to £173,39. CAREFUL: you won’t get £173,39, but a little bit less as the exchange office will charge you for its service.
Reminder of the eurozone members:
Where do I withdraw my cash?
A couple of days before you leave, go to your bank and withdraw money in your currency.
If your money differs from the money of your Erasmus country, do not try to get your arrival country’s currency. I have tried with two banks in France and the rate is really bad. You’re going to lose some money by doing that. You can still try though, but generally, banks are slow and it takes 2 to 5 weeks to get money of a different currency (pounds, zloty etc).
What do I do with it once I’m there?
Once you’ve landed, you’ll probably go first to the place where you’re staying. Take the cash out from your wallet and leave it at home.
Don’t walk in town with too much money with you, just take what you need for the day.
Change everything at the same time, except if the rate is bad.
How to choose the best exchange office?
Get some information about exchange offices (bureau de change) near you, with good rates. For example, you can google “Best exchange office in Warsaw”.
Once you’ve found a good exchange office, go there and do not be afraid to ask questions about the rates, the money you’ll receive in exchange of yours. Be prepared with your phone to convert the sum they offer. You can always think about it and compare with other exchange offices as there are many of them in cities!
Avoid touristy places, central stations and airports: they’ll rip you off!
Bonus: At your bank and before you leave, gather some information about:
Its rates: consider that you can pay a certain percentage when you pay or withdraw money abroad. Not just that, but a currency conversion fee that – depending on your host country – you may have to consider before travelling. Some tips are listed above to avoid that if you’re on an Erasmus for a longer period of time
Its services: think about bank transfers, they can be helpful for rents, or if you owe money to an Erasmus mate! Transferwise listed above can also be an option!
Its insurance: make sure to have the emergency phone number of your bank in case that you lose your card.
Declare your trip to your bank: it is not compulsory but if usually, you don’t travel so much, your bank may call you to know why there are new payments in a foreign country. To feel completely free, you can declare it online, on your bank app or you can go and tell them before you leave.
IV ESN? Will make your Erasmus 10/10
When going abroad, the first thing you should worry about is making sure you’ve got the right people by your side to live your Erasmus adventures together. It’s important to have someone that has your back and is there for you, because sometimes small issues can feel so much bigger when you’re far away from home.
It can be hard to find all by yourself a group of people abroad with whom you can feel as comfortable as when you’re home, and that’s exactly why ESN does it for you! ESN stands for Erasmus Students Network and it was founded in 1989 by a group of former Erasmus students who decided to create a non-profit association that would help foreign students make new friends abroad, survive bureaucracy and live their Erasmus experience to the fullest. It doesn’t matter whether the city you live in is big or tiny, because wherever you happen to spend your Erasmus abroad, there are high chances that you’ll find an ESN section there regardless. What really matters is the enthusiasm of the volunteers. In fact, every ESN section is run by local students who voluntarily organise recreational and culture-related activities and events in order to gather people together and create an open-minded, welcoming and nurturing international community. That’s why joining ESN will let you participate in city tours, day trips, language courses, parties, international dinners, pub crawls, sports and volunteering activities… All of this while meeting extraordinary people coming from every corner of this world!!!
Moreover, life abroad can be expensive, but you don’t want to be missing out on anything your new city has to offer? You’ll have plenty of advantages, like Ryanair discounts (did you know that your checked-in baggage is for free if you purchase your plane ticket using your ESNcard?!), and different and special promotions in restaurants, pizza places, cinemas, theatres, gyms, language schools…
Mark our words and follow our tip then: as soon as you arrive to your Erasmus destination and feel lost and terrified about this new experience, go to the nearest ESN office: you’ll be surprised with how at ease you’ll feel in the blink of an eye.
Thank us later
V How to meet new people on Erasmus?
We know that starting a new life abroad can be challenging and difficult to cope with. First weeks are especially tough as, for many of us, it would be a completely new experience in our lives. We are aware that getting used to a new city, making new friends and living far from your family is not easy, but we would like to encourage you to enjoy this experience from the very beginning. Once your stay is over, you will not want to come back home!
So the first advice we would like to give you is: do not be shy! Think that the rest of students are also in the same boat as you. We will summarize 4 important points on how to become a social butterfly in your Erasmus year. Let’s get started!
- Visiting local bars
You will have plenty of chances to meet international students, they are everywhere. But a must when living abroad for some months is learning the host country’s culture and people. Make a research about local bars around you, join different events and try to mix with local people.
Make a research about local bars around your city and join the events of the local bars. You can meet local people at bars and gain a lot of different perspectives.
- Mobile Apps
Nowadays, we have many opportunities to make friends thanks to apps, although you may only know about the dating ones… These apps are designed to make people closer based on their interests and hobbies, so this would be a good way to start meeting new people. We present you the 3 best apps to make friends online:
– Bumble: Bumble app was originally created as a dating app but you can enjoy now its new mode Bumble BFF, made for those who are just interested in making friends. Swipe right if you think you can get along!
– Meetup: here you will find plenty of social groups and events to join in so Meetup can be appealing if you are particularly looking for some kind of activities such as playing football, video games… but you can always log in and take a look from time to time to see what kind of activities are taking place.
– Couchsurfing: in spite of being famous all around the world for serving as a safe place where to look for free accommodation, Couchsurfing also contains a section called ‘’Hangouts’’. Would you like to go for a walk? Or maybe clubbing? Write it, update your availability and see who is nearby! Take into consideration that someone could also join your plan – always you accept – so you would have a good chance to form a bigger group. It is also worth mentioning that you can also find and join different social groups in Couchsurfing, so you would have a group of people who to do activities with weekly. You can find from reading clubs to cooking workshops.
- Language exchanges
Language exchanges are our favourite way to meet locals and people from all around the world at the same time. It is the experience of learning or using a foreign language while doing it that obviously makes it unique. Furthermore, you will easily find different language exchange groups willing to meet at least once a week.
- Live in student accomodation or a shared apartment
When you are moving to a new city, it can be lonely if you prefer living in your own flat. But with roommates, you will never be alone! You will meet many people and you can join a lot of events with them. Try to build good relationships with your roommates!
Make sure that your Erasmus days will be unforgettable! Meet with as many people as you can!
- Unusual ways of meeting people
When I say unusual, I mean that you may have not stopped to think about them. Nowadays, it is effortless to meet new people thanks to apps but… what if after trying these apps we did not find anyone sharing common interests with? In this section, we would just like to encourage you to be brave enough to take action by yourself. So, first thing first, be calm. There is always a chance to meet new people without using apps, just think what are your interests and go for it!
For instance, you can join some sport lessons. No matter where you are planning to do your Erasmus, I am pretty sure that can easily find some yoga classes, taekwondo classes or whatever you are interested in. It does not even need to be related to sports. Do you like to dance? Are you more passionate about cooking? Go for it!
Don´t you want to pay for it? No problem. You cannot even imagine how easy it is to meet new people among particular social environments. From my experience, I can tell you that it is extremely easy to make new friends going climbing or doing skateboarding. It is the case that people among these circles tend to be very open-minded and friendly, thus making them easy to start a conversation with. I would say that there exists some strong sense of fellowship which make these groups of people to support one another. So a new member will frequently be seen as good news!
You just need to be creative! There are plenty of ways of meeting new people. Do you play Pokemon Go? Join raids in your town. Am I good, right? Thanks. Now it is your turn, let your imagination fly.
VI Learning a foreign language on Erasmus
As Anton Czechow said “Without knowledge of foreign languages, people feel worse than without a passport”. We think that in the era of globalization Czechow’s thought is more valid than ever. Moreover, in case of students, languages are necessary not only during an Erasmus mobility in a foreign country, but also during the studies, since quite often academic sources are written in a foreign language and might not have been translated.
Though, let’s focus mostly on the aspect of learning a language spoken in the country where we do the Erasmus+ mobility.
- First of all, in some situations it will make your life much easier. For example, if you enter a shop which is not a supermarket, and you actually have to ask for a specific thing in a foreign language. Sure, dictionaries are all around, but do you know how to pronounce the word?
- Secondly, everyone will instantly become more friendly if you greet them in their own language. Even if the rest of the conversation is going to be held in English. It is also a nice conversation starter, so if you are not sure how to approach a stranger, simply ask them if they could tell you how is “X” in their language.
- Thirdly, it is a great opportunity to learn a new language! You can learn new words literally everywhere around you. Browsing in a supermarket, listening to people passing by, reading the ads and information around… Moreover, you can practice your language skills with basically anyone around!
- Learning a new language is a good brain exercise, will improve your memory and perhaps even give you some insights about the culture! Did you know that in Finnish language there is no translation for the word “please”?
For sure, everyone has their own reason to learn a foreign language. We encourage you to be systematic in language learning, and you will be surprised how much you can learn throughout your Erasmus! If you already learned the language spoken in the country of your Erasmus studies/internship, better for you! You will be equipped with lots of new words, practice your pronunciation, feel more secure while speaking and in general get more proficient in it!
How do I memorize all the new words in a foreign language?
Fortunately, nowadays, there are hundreds of language learning mobile apps that will help you memorize and remember all the new vocabulary. Our suggestion is VocApp vocabulary builder – an easy to use mobile app that allows you to create flashcards (words paired with their translation/definition) or learn from the language courses created by linguists and native speakers. There is also a Spaced Repetition algorithm that will make you remember all the new words in the shortest possible time. We encourage you to study just 5 minutes daily, you will be surprised how much vocabulary you can grasp by learning just a few minutes a day!
The best advice to be able to learn a skill, especially a language, is to make it a habit. It is important to make it a habit in order to make the learning process go faster. Doing it every day at a certain hour will make your body remind you that it is language learning time. Make it a part of your daily routine, that if you forget to do it one day, you will feel like something is missing.
In order to make something a habit, try to take it easy and start off slowly. Beginning with 5 to 10 minutes a day will be enough and you will continue doing it for a longer period of time. This is the easiest way to slowly oil your brain and soon enough you will do it for 30 minutes or more a day.
Remember – the more language exposure the better. The more you are exposed to the language you are learning, the more effective the learning process will be and the easier it will become. Even though it may be hard in the beginning, try speaking it as much as possible. Watch a movie or TV show in your target language or just turn on the television and try to follow the news. Or go at your own pace and try reading an article in that language. Doing these activities will help you become more familiar with pronunciation and you will learn new words. Don’t forget that while watching shows or movies in your target language, subtitles will be your best friend. Additionally, ask your local friends/classmates simple questions and see them light up hearing you speak their language. They will be excited to help you learn it.
Remember, effort put into it will not go unrewarded and don’t forget that learning a new language might be very beneficial in the future. Might serve you in future job applications and impress your future boss or maybe useful for a future vacation.
VII Student ID, ISIC card, ESNcard, Passport… Do I need it?
Passport, ID, or both?
As a European Union citizen traveling to another EU country, the only document you need is your ID or passport. However, we encourage you to take both. In case you lose your document, you will always be able to prove your identity with another document. Trust us, you don’t want this amount of stress just before your flight back home, especially, if the nearest embassy or consulate is located in another city.
Obviously, if you go on an Erasmus programme to a country that is not part of the Schengen Area, you might not be able to enter a given country without your passport. Remember to check it in advance, so that renewing the passport would not surprise you. Sometimes, you might also need a visa.
Student ID, ISIC card and ESNcard
Unless you are going to do an Erasmus+ internship, you will be a temporary student of a hosting university. This means you can get a student ID issued by your new university, which not only will work as a nice souvenir, but usually also gives you tons of discounts in museums/bars/transport. Moreover, sometimes a student ID is required in order to enter, for example, a university’s library. Our advice is – don’t forget to issue it!
ISIC card stands for International Student Identity Card. In some countries, the student ID issued by your sending university, may not be honoured in terms of discounts. However, in most countries, ISIC card is required. It doesn’t cost much, and it will let you save money, e.g. on transport, from the day you arrive in a foreign country.
ESN card is a document issued by ESN organizations. As mentioned before, ESNs collaborate with many companies, which provide discounts and bargains for Erasmus+ students. ESN card gives you access to all the services offered by ESN’s partners.
How do I get a photo for documents?
In order to save time, money and stress, we encourage you to try out one of the photo cropping mobile apps. For example, Passport Photo Online, which is also accessible as a website. You can simply choose a document you need, take a selfie and within a few seconds you get the already cropped photo meeting all the requirements. There are ready templates for passports photos, ISIC cards, ESNcards and many other documents like visas or student IDs.
VIII Erasmus and Cultural life: what to do, try, and experience
Do you need some advice not to miss a thing about the culture of the country you are going to?
Culture is a very wide term and it contains lots of features. Here we summed up for you all the cultural things to do during your Erasmus.
First things first, buy a country or city guide to have a basis. You can find a lot of references in books like Michelin, Lonely Planet, Le Routard etc. and magazines like Geo or other kinds of magazines that can give you good information about a city or a country. You can also try to get information through websites but beware of sources and relevance of information you find.
Define what is important to discover in your opinion. Culture is a very large concept. It includes:
- Language: culture and languages are tightly connected. Try to have some basics. Locals usually appreciate it when foreigners make the effort of talking their language, even if it’s just saying hello or goodbye! If you want to know more about the culture of the place you’re going to, nothing’s better than talking to a native. Of course you can look up for information on the internet but talking to a local person is much more reliable. If you want to know more about language in a foreign country, go to the section dedicated to it.
- People: when going to a foreign country to live various months, you will automatically be in contact with citizens. It’s up to you to speak and be open to ask them specific advice related to their city or country. If you do not manage to be in contact with citizens, you can try to participate at local events to meet them. You’re most likely to work or to study in this foreign country, don’t miss the chance to meet your colleagues or classmates, they are the easiest people you can get friends with! If you are sharing a room or an apartment, speak to your flatmates as well. If they are natives they will give you advice and answer your questions. If just as you, they are foreigners, they will maybe have to deal with the same problems as you. Basically, if you look around you, you’ll notice that you are not alone, they are always people near you who are able to help you understand the country you live in. Also, be curious about the country you live in and don’t be afraid to talk about yours as well. They are one of the easiest conversation topics you can have with someone. If you need more advice on how to make new friends and where to find them, just take a look at the section “social-life”.
- Lifestyle: it can be difficult to know how life in a foreign country or city is. Here you are, you must leave your home habit to be opened and to learn about a new culture lifestyle. This point is related to the previous because you should spend time with citizens to deeply know their lifestyle. You must be prepared to leave your comfort zone, because there are plenty of things that are going to be different from your usual life. But don’t be afraid, people get used to their “new” life faster than they thought they would be at first. As mentioned before, find some acquaintances that can help you if things are too strange to you. One thing that we tend to forget is that there are things that are completely normal in one country and not in another! Once again ask the locals! It might avoid you some awkward moments (one example : blowing his nose is considered very rude in Brazil whereas in other countries it’s completely normal)
- Geography: it is important to localise the country you are going to because you could understand the history better and especially try to travel during your Erasmus period. In fact, if you are travelling for your studies you will probably have a lot of free time. Therefore, you can foresee visiting other countries that are next to the country you will live in, it may be interesting for you. Keep in mind that your location will be different and that perhaps you will have the chance to go to countries that are initially too far from your home country. Living abroad enables you to visit other countries spending less money and travelling less longer, it’s a win-win! Even if you are going to do an Erasmus for an internship, you should find time to visit other countries that are much closer than some trips around the country. Plan ahead, if you look for the cities or the other countries that you would like to visit, it would allow you to know more about the country you will live in and the countries next to it. Doing this you will be less nervous about the idea of living abroad! Don’t forget that the climate can be very different from your home country, and that the landscapes might be very different, try to go outside the city and go into nature, you may have the chance to live by the beach for example ! If not a beach think about lakes, rivers, mountains (go on a hike!). But don’t forget about the weather, it might also be very different from your home country.
- History: the best way to know about history is to visit a museum of course. Thanks to the travel book you would buy, you could find a lot of information regarding history and museums in the city or country. This way you will acquire a real knowledge about this cultural aspect during your Erasmus.
- Arts: Think about what interests you in art, it could be anything! you can go to the cinema, you can go to shows, opera, theatre, festivals, to a special museum where you can especially find sculptures, paintings etc. If you’re not a big fan of art, you can also simply go to a library, talk a walk in the city you live in just to talk a look at the architecture, it can be very different from a city or a country to another. Let not forget about music as well, try to discover new artists from the country you live in! Listening to music could also be a good way to get more used to the language and it might help you learn some words! Once again you can use a city guide or ask the people around you to know what is worth seeing and experimenting.
- As for the gastronomy you should try some traditional restaurants, if they are not too expensive or you can simply buy typical food in the supermarket and in a bakery or other kind of foodshop linked with any speciality of the country. Ask the locals what is the best food to taste! You can also try to be invited for lunch or for dinner by a local or native to be sure to eat local and typical food. Tasting food is important, cooking also is! Once you try some traditional meals or speciality, (and if you enjoyed it of course) think about getting the recipe and learning how to cook it! When your Erasmus will be over, you’ll be able to redo it at home! One more thing linked with lifestyle, keep in mind that people might not eat at the same hour as you usually do.
- Sports are not all the same everywhere in the world. If you are interested, you should do some research about which sport is the most famous and then try to go for a match or a show of this sport. It will be a very good experience because you will feel like a native and real citizen of this country. (Additional advice: if you are in a country where they hate yours because of this sport please choose to go on a different day, when they are not playing against your country, otherwise it will not be funny for you !). Try to practice these sports if you have the chance! Linked with geography, think that there are sports you’re not able to do in your home country (such as surfing, skiing, hiking, etc) it might be the opportunity for you to have a new hobby!
- Traditions and celebration days are not celebrated in the same way from one country to another. You should try to know which traditions exist and which celebration days are special to live the celebration as a citizen and to feel the beautiful joy related to this tradition or celebration.
- Events are a very good way to enjoy your everyday life during your Erasmus. Thanks to websites like Yeddel, you will be aware of any event going on in the city and the country to participate and have fun regarding your interests.
In a nutshell, you don’t have to know everything about the culture of the place you live in. Just choose what interests you and what you think could be useful! But you will soon realise that all the things we have mentioned are closely linked. You might as well learn a lot of things about the country without even realising it! Our main advice to learn about culture is to communicate with the locals and be curious!