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My Experience as an Erasmus Mundus Student

My experience as an Erasmus Mundus student main image

By Christina Sargsyan

Between 2008 and 2010, I did the Erasmus Mundus Masters Course, which split my studies across two different foreign countries: Spain and the UK. I was attracted to the course because it offered a wide range of experiences and the opportunity to experience new perspectives compared to my life at home in Armenia. At the time, the course was offered by a consortium of three European universities: Aarhus University in Copenhagen, Denmark, Institute of Education in London, UK and the University of Deusto in Bilbao, Spain. I spent the first year in London, then did two semesters in Bilbao and wrapped up the course back in London. 

If you're thinking of studying abroad on a similar program, whether it's for just a year or longer, here are some tips I learned from my experiences.

How to budget before you leave

When you learn that you’re going to be granted several thousand euros to study abroad, your first reaction is likely to be euphoric. Sure, it’s not quite as impressive a figure when you start breaking it down to how much you’ll have each month (especially if your lifestyle is an expensive one), but it will be more than enough providing you have a spending plan.

The first thing to sort out is the cost of accommodation. Before you leave home, browse the range of possible accommodation types and their typical costs in the cities you’ll be studying in. If you know you’d prefer to live alone, you’ll want to ignore student accommodation and look for other types of place to live. Find somewhere that suits your interests, but make sure you also narrow down your search to areas near the university. Long commutes could leave you unhappy and affect your ability to learn.

Once you’ve secured somewhere to live, work out a budget for other essentials, like food and clothing. Perhaps for the first time in your life, you’ll have to reflect on your diet and how much it costs. Eating at home is both healthy and cost-effective, so don’t think you can just eat out every night. This is especially true in cities like London, where you’ll be buying food from shops like Waitrose or Tesco instead of a local grocery store. These big chains will be full of items you may not really need, but will definitely be tempted to try, and it could take several weeks for you to realise how much it’s actually costing you.

If you’re a fashionista, you’ll definitely be unable to control your urge for shopping. Try and quench your thirst for novelty in your wardrobe by taking all your favourite clothes with you, and give yourself enough time to develop a feel for how much you can afford to spend on fashion.

The last thing you’re likely to spend money on will be your hobbies and other activities. While at home, you might know the most cost-effective ways to engage in things you love, you’ll probably struggle to plan for these expenses while abroad. Don’t skimp on them though, as you’re likely to need the comfort of your favourite things to help you cope with everything else being unknown and unfamiliar. So don’t be afraid to budget for a few big treats, like major concerts.

What it’s like when you’re there

Signing up for the Erasmus Mundus scholarship means you’re saying “yes” to almost everything in your life changing. It might not seem like it at first, but once you’ve left home you’ll realise you’ve committed to living in change until it’s all over.

Everything, from your home and your language to your daily routine, changes. The first change is rather abrupt: you move from your home to a foreign city about which you only know details from movies or the internet. You don’t know anything about the specific neighbourhood or university you’ll be based in, and it’s the same each time you move on again. It’s an experience like no other, too short to feel like living somewhere properly but too long to feel like you’re a tourist passing by. Each time, you have to start a home and make sure you continue to excel academically. Once you’ve got used to how public transport works and found the nearest bank and post office, it’s time to move again.

After the first move you get more used to dealing with the creeping panic of an imminent departure. You already know that you’ll have to leave behind favourite books and clothes, known ways of booking train and concert tickets, familiar streets, people and buildings. It’s important to stay flexible and not be frustrated by the constant changes. Learn to expect differences between one place and another, and make sure you enjoy the movement as much as each destination. If you can do this, your Erasmus Mundus experience will be the best time of your life.

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