ERASMUS 101: Deciding where to go?

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Erasmus 101

Before I start sharing my current experiences with Erasmus I'm going to explain what it is. Erasmus is a program in Europe where in students within the EU countries are able to attend a foreign college of their choice for a year or a semester. It's a chance for them to expose themselves in a new environment and culture. As well as that they mostly go (like me) to learn or improve the language of the country the have chosen. 

Deciding where to go?

The country you will go to doesn't have to be within the EU. The country you can go to depends on what partner colleges your current institution is with. 

In my case, I am a 3rd year International Business student from Ireland and the country I have chosen for Erasmus is France. Like I've mentioned before I chose this country because I study French and I thought that joining Erasmus would be a great way for me to improve on the language and broaden my knowledge of the French culture. Also because I've always dreamt of studying in France. As they say:

"Tout arrive en France" 
(Everything happens in France)
-François de La Rochefoucauld

and I wasn't going to miss out on the opportunity. 

We were encouraged to go to the country that corresponds to the language we are learning in college but we also had the option to go to other countries such as Spain, Germany and Canada

Choosing which college / city / town?

I'd say I had a hard time choosing which city in France I wanted to go to. At first I had my heart set out on Paris because it was the dream. As well as that last 2015, my mum was going to Paris for the second time to meet up with her friends who were visiting from Dubai and I asked if I could come because why not and  because I just had a break up and I thought that if I'm going to be sad I might as well be sad in Paris. To cut this short I forgot about the break up and Paris became my new lover by seducing my with its rich history and culture. So what made me change my mind? 

Not long after coming back from Paris, the Paris attacks last November 2015 happened and it was so shocking to hear about it. I thought that I would be putting myself at risk going there. I wouldn't feel safe at all because the attacks were scattered all over Paris. Reading the live tweets by the witnesses of the attacks made me fear that walking around those streets again would never be as safe again. 

I already told everyone that I wanted to go to Paris despite the attacks I was determined. Everyone in my class was going anywhere but Paris. At that time Paris was still a dream to me and the reality of how much it would cost didn't hit me yet. When I started doing research it slowly dawned to me that you'll need serious funds to live there. Dublin is already expensive enough what more Paris. I found out that renting an apartment there would cost up to €500-1000 and a flat costing 500 would only be 8 metres sqaured. Food as well would be more expensive and not to mention the lifestyle in a capital city would be way more expensive. 

Seeing the numbers increase I changed my mind. Now I had a choice  of going to cities in the south of France. I had the choice of Toulouse, Toulon and Aix-en-Provence. I started thinking more realistically and by that I checked the costs of living there and courses I would be taking. I first chose Aix-en-Provence because it was cheap and it was near all the nice beaches such as Nice and Cannes but then I settled for Toulouse. 

At first I was worried I wouldn't be able to go to Toulouse since all my mates were going there and there was a limit of the number of students who can go. There were 3 already going and if I went, it would've been 4 but I was lucky because of them backed out and I had a place.

Reasons why I picked Toulouse because:
  • It is a student city so everything was more affordable in terms of food and lifestyle (cheaper drinks and nights outs!)
  • I got feedback from the previous students who went to Toulouse for Erasmus and they said pretty good things about the city and how easy it was settling in because the colleges have been partners for 10 years and they have a good system in their college.
  • They have student accommodation that is cheap and conveniently allocated near the college
  • They offer courses in English and French. I was open to the challenge of taking my some of my courses in French but because my French was is very minimal I was so happy they offered English courses.
  • It is safer because its is further away from Paris and the idea being surrounded by other students made feel more comfortable
  • This is just a bonus but I also picked it because it was nearer to Spain
So my best advice when picking a country and city to go to are:
  1. Choose where you want to go because you want to go there and not because of your friends going there. (Although having them in the same place would be a bonus)
    1. Be realistic in the sense that you will be able to afford living in the a foreign for the next few months. 
    2. Be open minded. Always do your research in anything that you will commit on so it is best to keep yourself aware of their culture, behaviours and current events. This will lessen your culture shock. 
    3. Ask questions. If you are unsure don't bet your money in to a place you are unsure of. Don't hesitate to approach your Erasmus coordinator or previous students who have gone and come back from the programme. 
    4. Consider if it is safe to live there and if you have any questions about surroundings it it best to ask your country's embassy. This also goes for the college you would like to go to. Check their website and see if you like the campus. 
    5. Be optimistic. Changes can happen throughout your decision making process and you may change your first choice. Don't get bogged down because of this because another place will still offer you great opportunities.
    6. Read the modules that are being offered to you. See if you would like to learn them. Erasmus isn't a year off college; you should see if they relate back to your course because the whole purpose of it is to broaden your knowledge.
    I hope you find this helpful! 

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