We all know the feeling. A new University year is coming, you want to leave the same old town and explore new shores and, most importantly, go through the step of leaving your dear old uni for a foreign stranger. You sit down, open your laptop and access the list of available opportunities and the dread sets in.
This is a guide on what to consider when deciding which Erasmus University to go to, to hopefully make your decision a bit easier – even though considering my decision making abilities I will probably make you feel even more confused at the end of this.
First of all, we will need to have a quick test to determine which kind of person you are:
A. Screw it, I deserve some time off and can pull an all nighter on Sunday night
B. I don’t want to risk it, I still want to get a decent grade
A. I’ll just do what the others tell me to do, surely it’ll be fine
B. I set out a plan for the team so we can each do our parts and pass the assignment
A. The nightlife in that specific city
B. The course selection
If you’ve mostly answered As, you are what we will define as a fiesta seeker. If you answered mostly B, we will call you the achiever. Because the truth is, when you choose the University you are going to spend possibly the six best months ( or year! ) of your life, your priorities will either be to get a good education or to party all day every day till your final flight departs. The Erasmus experience is meant to make you live a new reality, so you can make it whatever you want it to be. The power is in your hands! Or, well, your application form.
Once you have established what kind of individual you are and what your priorities are, it is gonna be way easier for you to realise which option is your best fit.
Now, let’s get into it: no matter who you are, you still want to get a decent course despite all the partying. You don’t understand how bad it feels to attend an awful course until you do, how absolutely demotivating it is to be stuck doing something that you loathe. So choose carefully, either way. Unless you are fully prepared to spend your whole time forced into a class you don’t like, it is best to look up the module description and make sure it is something you’d enjoy. Unless of course you are willing to overlook all that in the name of the fiesta.
This can be done, in the case of the fiesta seeker, by first looking up the nightlife and general social life of the location and then proceeding to make sure the course is acceptable or, in the case of the achiever, this will signify days of comparisons between courses until you find the one that screams you. Additionally, this individual might also check some facts in the social life department to make sure they are not ending up in a shitehole (ehm, Aberdeen..).
Second of all, research your uni. Don’t just base your decision on the course description and actually look up what you’re getting yourself into. The University website can be a good starting point: nothing screams ‘awful University’ as much as a poorly organised website, so that should be a warning sign earlier on in your search.
After that, you can look up online rankings and, if you manage to find them, reviews and opinions on the University. You can use websites such as the student room (UK) to find them or whatever else you prefer, which can be very useful because you get comments and posts from actual students of the University and that should mean honest reviews in most cases.
Try and look up youtube videos on either the University or the city: if it’s a good one, it’s gonna have some and they’re gonna be good. You can also look up if there’s any comments to give you clues on how it’s actually going to be.
If you can find them, look up the tasks you are going to have to complete. A University course can look good, but that doesn’t mean it is. Checking what projects you will be engaging in is a good way of understanding if it actually is what you’re looking for for your experience or not. Another thing you can do is see if you can find any people who went to the same place as you’re planning to, ask for opinions and ask your questions if you have any.
Finally, compare your top picks in terms of rankings, course description and reviews, figure out which one looks more promising and write down the one with more pro’s.
Now, for the social part: after the fiesta seeker has made sure the place is up to the party standards and has an acceptable course, and the achiever has survived the existential crisis of choosing the best course, the next step is to check out how well connected the place is. When you’re on Erasmus, you will want to travel and see new places, so make sure it’s easy to get to places to make the most of your experience. Any city and any University can be good, but you will eventually get tired of always being in the same place and will feel the need to explore. Some people don’t, but people who choose to go on Erasmus are generally adventure seekers looking for new horizons, so research this carefully so that you don’t end up in no man’s land.
Look up what kind of events are usually happening in the place and if it’s something that interests you, which can help you figure out what kind of situation you’re getting yourself into. Look for facebook groups of people who are going to be attending the University as well: no one really posts on this group, but it’s good to be part of it and it can be a conversation starter with new students.
One tip I can give is also to research living prices of the place and try to match them with your budget. It’s not nice to be in a really good place but having no money to actually enjoy it in full, so look out for that so that you don’t end up feeling down the whole time you’re there because you can’t afford a beer with your friends! It’s best to go to your second choice place but actually be able to do stuff instead of going to the top one and having to stay at home every night, so don’t be sad to make this choice.
As a last point, I am gonna give you my own experience so far with the Erasmus choice: when I decided to move to Aberdeen for Uni, I was more of an achiever. It was a big step for me, moving to a whole different country just to pursue my studies. It’s quite pressuring you know? So my priority was to choose a good course that I wouldn’t regret taking, because the worst thing that can happen is making a financial investment of that kind to end up hating what you’re doing. So I considered all my options carefully, went for the course that looked best and haven’t regretted it since. However, what I didn’t check at the time was the social life and location department, which was a beginner’s mistake I have now learned not to make. Although Aberdeen’s nights out can be quite good, the location is all but decent and has made me regret the choice multiple times over the course of the past two years. I wouldn’t change it now, having met so many new friends and having had my own experiences, but should I go back, I would definitely tell myself to look more into it as personal advice.
So it’s no surprise that now, facing six months of Erasmus and having learned the hard way to make sure the location is good, I steered towards the fiesta seeker option. I had had a bad experience with Aberdeen, plus the big investment that going to Scotland had been wasn’t looming on my anymore: because this was only six months, it meant I could go full out and not give a shit about the course. Or so I thought. I picked my University relying mainly on destination, checking the city, the nightlife and comparing it to other options and barely gave any attention to the course itself. To me, the hard part was deciding which city I wanted to go to, so once I decided that I just quickly glanced at the course to make sure it looked decent. It actually didn’t, but this time I didn’t care.
Turns out I maybe should have cared a bit more: stuck with a course I hate with all my being, perhaps the best way to handle the decision would have been to weight both sides more carefully. To this day, I don’t regret coming to Rotterdam at all: I like the city so much I can happily put up with the bad course, but to whoever still needs to decide where to go, please make sure you know what you’re getting yourself into. Unless you are completely willing to go through something you hate to make the experience worth it, think carefully about what you’re doing! It’s good to have fun but it’s also good to exploit the experience to widen your skills through a different method of teaching.
So, that’s all I have to say for today. There surely are more tips I could give you on this topic, but right now that’s all that comes to mind. I hope this post can be helpful for some and hopefully make it a bit easier for you to understand what you expect from your Erasmus experience. Now I’m gonna get back to studying because this procrastinating has definitely got me too far…