Have you ever considered what it would be like to study abroad? Studying in another country is not only an enriching experience, but it is also the best choice you will ever make. With Erasmus, you can study in another country and spend a term or a year in a new place, making friends, discovering a new culture and exploring your new country and everything it has to offer. But what is the Erasmus scheme and what can you expect? We’ve put together this article to get head around the process and what opportunities you can pursue and of course we’ve had to mention the b-word, but don’t worry Brexit isn’t going to put a stop to any Erasmus dreams just yet.

What is Erasmus?

Erasmus is a scheme from the EU that encourages and facilitates European exchange programmes amongst students of EU countries. It has been around since 1987 and in 2014 became Erasmus Plus, creating a home for all of the study, exchange and work experience opportunities that Erasmus offers students in one place. Erasmus has a commitment to ensure that students can acquire funding to study abroad and broaden their student experience and opportunities.

Who can apply?

Erasmus is available for students who are studying in higher education and want to experience a European exchange for a year or a term. With Erasmus Plus you can also apply for student internships or work placements within the EU also.

What do I need to do to be eligible?

To be eligible to apply for Erasmus to study at another university in Europe you will need to meet the following criteria:

1. You will need to be studying at a university which holds an Erasmus Charter for higher education. Don’t what that is? Don’t worry, go along to your study abroad or the international office at your university, they will be able to advise if you are eligible.

2. You are studying a recognised degree or equivalent course, this can be an undergraduate, postgraduate or PhD course.

3. The subject you are studying will not cause any restrictions, as long as you can find a similar subject/modules to study that will line up with your current course.

4. Don’t worry if you are a part-time student, you can still be eligible, however, you will have to complete your modules during your exchange as a full-time student.

Okay, sounds great but how much is this going to cost me?

Here’s the good part, Erasmus students who study a full year abroad will get a contribution which will go towards their UK university fees. You do not have to pay fees for the university you are attended as part of the exchange. If you end up spending the full year on an Erasmus exchange you will then have to pay a maximum cost of 15% of your UK university fees for the academic year. You will also get your student maintenance loan and depending on if you are eligible you can receive a grant from Erasmus. This will be up to €300 for European countries with a low living cost and €350 for countries with a higher living cost. If you come from a disadvantaged background you can expect

to get an extra €120 a month as well as the standard grant. So you shouldn’t have to worry about your finances when deciding whether or not you can commit to an Erasmus programme.

I’m sold, how do I make this dream a reality?

First things first, before you get too excited, you have to make sure your university is eligible. You can find all this information out at your International Office or study exchange department. Remember that normally this exchange will take place during your second year of study and that you will have to apply in advance to take part. Start asking questions in the first year of your studies and find out what options are available to you. Take note of any important deadlines as there will be plenty of other students who are interested in pursuing this.

Where can I go?

There are currently 27 EU countries and 5 non-EU countries on the list so the world really is your oyster. It can be hard to choose where to go, but before you start dreaming about spending a year in Paris, get in touch with the international office at your university. They can help point you in the right direction for universities that other students have studied at in the past and may even be able to provide you student testimonials. The most popular destinations include France, Spain and Germany, but there are other locations to consider like Italy, Greece or Belgium. Just remember that this place will be your home, it’s not a holiday. You will have to live here, it might be nice to visit for a weekend but could you imagine a whole academic year at this location? Do your research, choose wisely and practise a few basic phrases to prepare you.

Is Erasmus similar to a gap year?

Nope! If you think Erasmus is going to be like a year out then think again. This is just like university in the UK, with some European universities actually being stricter. You can’t start the exchange and then decide not to continue it. This is something you must to commit to, similar to your university course at home, be if for one term or for the full academic year. That doesn’t mean it’s going to be all work and no play, but this is not something to be entered into lightly.

Will my subject impact on Erasmus eligibility?

No, the subject you study will not impact on this, but it might limit it. You will need to find a university that offers your course and offers compatible modules to the ones you would experience if you stayed at your home institution. Your university might have partnerships with other institutions in Europe, this will make it easier. There will always be an option, however, it might not be in a location you have previously considered. So don’t set your sights on a location until you know where you can go.

Okay, let’s do this, how do I apply?

You will apply for Erasmus with help and support from your home university. Go to your international office, or maybe your institution will have its own Erasmus Office. They will give you the correct information on how to apply. You will then apply with their support directly to the university you wish to attend during the exchange.

Hang on, but what about Brexit?

The dreaded b-word. The current situation around Brexit is uncertain, with the new leave date expected to be the 31st October 2019. With Theresa May unable to secure a deal, we may leave the

EU on that date without a deal in place. We just don’t know, and this uncertainty will leave a lot of students in the lurch when it comes to Erasmus.

However, there is some positive news, in February 2019 the UK government stated it would guarantee funding applied for Erasmus whilst we are still in the EU, so if you get your bid in before we leave (apparently on 31st October 2019), technically you should be covered. Also in March 2019, Westminster has guaranteed funding for current Erasmus students if a no-deal situation comes about. But there still isn’t any clear information or guidelines regarding prospective Erasmus students who wish to study in the next academic year.

There are countries that are part of Erasmus who are not members of the EU, these five countries are Iceland, Norway, Turkey, Liechtenstein and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia. So it is possible that even if we do leave the EU, we may still be part of Erasmus. However, there is no guarantee and it all depends on what agreement the UK parliament can work out with the EU. They have instead advised UK institutions to set up their own partnerships and study abroad programmes with other universities, in case we do end up leaving Erasmus.

If in doubt, speak with your university’s international office. Erasmus is a rewarding, enriching experience that should be available for all. Don’t put off applying because of Brexit fears. You never know what could happen, as politics has shown us in the past years, so if this is something you want to pursue, go for it! You won’t regret it.

 

Written for Backpackerbible.org by Stuart Cooke at MyBaggage.com specialists in student shipping all across the world.