European Union Erasmus Programme

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European Union Erasmus Programme

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Review of "European Union Erasmus Programme"

published 18/05/2013 | ljackson24
Member since : 27/02/2007
Reviews : 85
Members who trust : 33
About me :
Sorry if I ever forget to read and rate your reviews - I try and keep up but I'm a bit rubbish. Feel free to tell me! xx
Excellent
Pro Amazing once in a life time opportunity to meet new people and experience a differenct culture.
Cons Ended up spending a lot, not for everyone
very helpful
Application Process
Application Criteria

"A highlight of my life!"

A group of Erasmus students plus other foreign exchange students, in front of the school.

A group of Erasmus students plus other foreign exchange students, in front of the school.

What is the Erasmus Scheme?

The Erasmus Scheme is an educational exchange programme for Higher Education students and their Universities. It was introduced in 1987 and is named after a Dutch humanist and theologian, Erasmus of Rotterdam (1466 – 1536).

Basically the people who choose to take part in the scheme spend a term or terms of their degree (usually during the second year) studying their subject in a different country at a different University.

There are Universities in 33 countries who take part in the scheme so there is a big choice of places to go. Countries include Italy, France, Romania and Holland. There were also students from Mexico and the USA on the same exchange programme as me, although they weren’t strictly Erasmus students as they aren’t from Europe.

How I ended up taking part

I became a student at Buckinghamshire New University in 2009 and was in my first year of a three-year degree in Business. Towards the end of the first year I was sat in a lecture when a lady came in to talk to us about the Erasmus scheme. She explained some basic details such as what the Erasmus programme is, which countries we could go to, costs, how long we could go for, and some other information.

After she told us about it she gave us all her details so that we could get in touch if we were interested. Now by this point I was seriously excited. I had already decided in my head that I wanted to go to France and that I was going to get in touch with her as soon as possible in order to try and beat the mad rush of students wanting to go that was bound to happen.

As it turns out no one wanted to go apart from a few of us so I was happily accepted into a French University for six months! I am still surprised about the lack of people wanting to take advantage of such an amazing opportunity, as are most people I tell about it. The University I was going to was called l'ecole superieure de commerce - referred to as l'esc most of the time.

Preparing for the exchange

As I’m so unorganised I waited until about a week before I was supposed to be in France before thinking, ‘oh yeah I should probably book some kind of transport’ and booked myself on the plane to Lyon (I had also only remembered that I needed a Passport about a month before I was due to go as well!) I was going to be staying in Saint Etienne, which is a smallish place about a 40 minute train ride from Lyon.

I also had to sort out somewhere to live. There were a few students from the University I was going to in France who were also taking part in the scheme and therefore had apartments they could sublet for the duration of the programme as they would be abroad too. I got in touch with the French University and they were so helpful and sent me a list of available flats, with pictures, descriptions and prices. I chose a little one bedroom flat just near the school. The girl who usually lived there was going to Barcelona for her exchange and she offered to meet me from the airport with her dad, and drive me to the flat and show me where the school was. Things came together pretty well to say how very unorganised I had been!

The only other preparations I made were changing some money (I didn’t get a lot as I thought there wasn’t much point if I was going to be there for six months it was never going to last!), getting health insurance, and packing pretty much my whole wardrobe, as well as other home comforts such as my favourite books and photos.

I later found that other people had sorted themselves out with French sim cards for their mobile phones and French bank accounts for six months. I didn’t mind that I hadn’t bothered with this as six months went so quickly it hardly seemed worth it to me. I didn’t mind not having a phone – I kept in touch with people via Skype and Facebook, and I arranged to meet up with people in France either at school, or online also. As for the bank account, the only drawback to using my English one was that I got charged for withdrawing cash. However the charge wasn’t much (about £1.50) and I just took cash out to last a few weeks at a time – so I didn’t get charged many times.

My arrival

I arrived at Lyon airport on the Sunday afternoon – it was New Year’s Day and I was due to start at the French University the very next morning. As promised, Celine, the girl who’s apartment I was renting, was waiting for me at the airport. It was slightly strange when she came straight up to me and knew who I was, but apparently she had been looking at my Facebook pictures so that she would be able to identify me!

Her dad drove us to Saint-Etienne, which took about an hour. They dropped me off at the flat and then took me on the quick 5-minute walk to the school – so that I would know where I was going in the morning. They then left me to it, which I was quite grateful for, as I was tired, needed to unpack, and everything just felt really strange. I was on my own, in a foreign country, and in the morning I would have to go to a French University and meet lots of foreign strangers!

The University

The next morning I walked over to the school, feeling slightly nervous and apprehensive. When I got there I realised I didn’t know where to go or anything so I went to the front desk and used my quite neglected French ‘skills’ to tell the man on the desk (who I later found out was actually English – but had lived there so long that he looked, sounded and acted French) why I was there. I was then taken to an area for croissants and orange juice whilst I waited for the other Erasmus students to arrive.

Once they were all there, a member of staff from the foreign student department took us to a classroom to go through loads of basic stuff to do with living in France and about the University itself. She was a slightly scary woman and seemed to hate us all – I found it very odd that she had chosen the career she had and she clearly didn’t have an patience with foreign people!

Anyway it transpired that the lady who would look after us normally, Charlotte, was actually off that week, and we didn’t have to deal with the scary lady much more after that day. Charlotte turned out to be extremely lovely, welcoming, and helpful throughout the whole six months. She would have the Erasmus students round to her house for games nights and BBQs and helped us with anything at all to do with School work or life in France in general. She was also the most fluent-in-English person I’ve met who wasn’t actually being English – which helped a lot!

The French students at the University were incredibly welcoming too. It struck me how much friendlier they were than I had ever been to foreign students at my home University. Not that I am rude to them – I just would never have really spoken to them. The French students were introducing themselves to us straight away and I was the only English person there, so I had loads of them asking about England and things like that.

The main issue I had with the University during my time there was that there was quite poor communication and organisation and I almost ended up not getting the full amount of credits I needed in order to continue with my degree when I returned to England.

I had been told I could take some Chinese classes as one of my options and then after several weeks I found out that they didn’t carry any credits – so I was effectively doing them for fun. I had to near enough beg to be allowed to join another class late so that I wouldn’t fail, and the only one left by that time that I could join was ‘beginner’s Italian’. Well I was happy with this as I love languages and would love to learn Italian, however, beginner’s it was not.

Everyone in the class has clearly been doing it for years and the teacher didn’t speak a word of English – only Italian and French. It was a really awful class for me because I felt such a fraud being there, not knowing a single word of Italian! I thought that by beginner’s it meant I would start with learning how to say ‘hello, my name is Louise’ and such things, but they were already onto really complex stuff that meant nothing to me. In the end the teacher realised I knew nothing and somehow got me through by letting me doing my exam at home, therefore knowing full well that I would use Google Translate – which of course I did – it was that or fail!

My other classes were all fine, I had a mandatory French class, which I was happy about – I was put into beginner’s (which again was quite advanced) and moved to intermediate pretty quickly as I did know quite a lot of French when I got there, and as soon as I’d been there a few weeks more of the language started coming back to me!

My other classes were all Business related as I was at a Business School (my degree was in Business Management which is why I was sent there). They included things like International Economics, Sales and Negotiation and New Products. These classes were taught in a mixture of English and French, depending on the teacher.

One main difference between English and French University is that they put a much bigger emphasis on attendance, and some weeks you do a piece of work in the class that is actually marked and counted towards your final mark at the end of the year – this is a good incentive not to miss class as if you missed too many you could easily fail the year.

Costs

The Erasmus scheme is free in that I didn’t have to pay any fees to the French University as these were covered by the normal UK tuition fees which I was paying. However it was a fairly expensive time due to not working, traveling there and back a few times, and the fact that I was in a quite expensive area. Not only that but I didn’t manage to sublet my room before I left so I ended up paying rent on two places for six months.

However I still received my normal student loan whilst as I was there, as well as an Erasmus grant. I was told the grant was £200 per month to help with the cost of living, and it did help. About a year after I returned I was told that the grant had been calculated wrong and I was given another £800! Although it was amazing to receive this I couldn’t help finding it a bit annoying that I had received it a year late because I could have really done with that money when I was there. Anyway it was still unexpected money that I was thrilled to receive.

If you take part in the non-Erasmus exchange and go somewhere like America, it does cost a lot, to start with you need to show that you have something like £5,000 in your bank account just to prove you can afford to live there and then you have to pay a lot as well but I’m not sure how much.

Life as an Erasmus student

Basically, as an Erasmus Student, I had it very easy and very good. Although they are quite strict at French University, you get cut quite a lot of slack for being foreign, and even then there were so few hours of lectures that we had an incredible amount of free time. I have always worked but I couldn’t get a job in France as I wasn’t entitled to work there. So when I wasn’t studying or in class I was having picnics in the park, shopping, partying, going to BBQs, going to bars, and eating delicious French food. I really made the most of it as I knew it was the only time that life would be like that! When I told people back home what I was doing they would say that I was basically on holiday, which was half true. But at the same time I did work hard when necessary and I was the one that made the choice to go and applied and got myself there – and like I said it was a one time opportunity and I would never be lounging around and partying quite that much again!

The other great thing was that the French students treated us so well – dpomg things like hosting parties quite a lot and inviting us all, and there was a committee of them who organised things at the school for Erasmus. One particularly nice one was a BBQ at the school courtyard where it was really nice to chill out and meet some more people.

The only bad thing was that obviously I was living in a foreign country and not used to some of their ways. For instance I remember at one point my laptop charger broke and it was my only contact with anyone so I ordered a new one for next day delivery, before my computer died completely. It took so long to arrive and anyone who I asked about it just kind of shrugged and said ‘yeah that’s the French post system’ and I felt like I was going to go mental. I forgot about how laid back they are with some things!

Positives

Well the positives by far outweigh the negatives for me! They are plentiful and include:

*I got to learn a lot of French

*I met lots of new people from many different places – I now have friends in the USA, Mexico, Finland, Germany, France, and more places!

*It was an amazing experience and I’ll never get the chance to do it again – I’m so glad that I took it

*I experienced a totally different culture, living in a different place where food, people, and every day life, was completely different

*Above all, it was so much fun!

Negatives

*Even though it is ‘free’ it does cost quite a bit in the end, travel, two lots of rent, and making the most of my time there (going out a lot) is was made it costly for me! The fact that I obviously couldn’t work during that time didn’t help either as I have always had a job, even if it was just a part time one.

*I don’t think I can think of anymore for me. It may not be everyone’s idea of a good time, but then I doubt you would apply to go if it didn’t sound good?

Final Thoughts

I cannot stress how much I recommend this experience – unless of course you are the sort of person who just wouldn’t enjoy it at all, as I know it’s not for everyone. However if you think it sounds good are at University/going to University and you get the opportunity I would totally go for it. I have the best memories and get so emotional even writing this at how much I miss my time on the Erasmus programme and how many amazing people I met!

A once in a life time opportunity :)

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Comments on this review

  • mc_uk100 published 23/06/2013
    I did Erasmus last year and it was the best year of my life. The only problem was that whenever you tried to speak their language, they'd reply back in English. Maybe that was just because of my lack of'proficiency' :P
  • anwar published 30/05/2013
    Had never heard of Erasmus before. Well explained and a pleasure to read! Ann
  • fizzytom published 25/05/2013
    Great read. I think Erasmus can be great but it can also be a bit of a fiddle. We met a Lithuanian girl recently in Slovenia who was doing an Erasmus year in Ljubljana and she couldn't attend the classes as they were all in Slovene and she couldn't learn enough (actually she was disdainful about learning any) to follow them. She spent the days as a tourist and submitted essays in English
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