Introspection and Erasmus

Wondering around the web while listening to Audioslave’s much maligned album last ‘Revelations’ is a fantastic way to spend a Friday night, especially with a sautéed brain from the previous weeks thinking excess. Dropping into my bookmarks folder I found a link to the Ripple Online and with it two things. One of my articles was listed on the front page as a recent article, secondly that the site itself hasn’t been updated in around 18 months, the article written around May 2009. Anywho, if you’re a student planning on doing Erasmus the coming text are my two pennies worth.

German beer, Italian passion, Spanish siesta, Swedish furniture, Polish builders, French women and English weather. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that sometimes we English students have a got a bum deal. If only there was a program that looks good on your CV, helps you learn a foreign language, lets you live in such countries for a year and on top of all that gives you a grant of about £1300… Strangely enough, such a program does exist and is one of the best kept secrets of university life. Founded in 1987 by the European Union, the Erasmus Program was named after a journeyman son of a Catholic priest. He lived the life of an Erasmus student exploring Europe: travelling, studying and even finding the time to translate the first Bible into ancient Greek, his crowning achievement.

So why do it? Going to university is a big change, going to another country even more so and in Leicester we are lucky to have a cultural university attracting foreign students from Europe, America and China. So why not do it yourself? It will look excellent on your CV and shows that you take initiative – so many people are leaving university with masters and this is your chance to put yourself ahead of the crowd. When you are over there you can forget exams; they’re important but the school knows that you are an exchange student and will set the bar accordingly. If you are fluent good, if not oh well. It’s an experience and you will be constantly immersed in everything and anything.

To do it, talk to your personal tutor about Erasmus and whether the department has an exchange agreement with a foreign university. It doesn’t even matter if the course hasn’t been run before as these allowances can be made – it is not unheard of the department creating the course for you and giving you your own UCAS course code. With that you would graduate top of the class no matter what!

Funnily, the language barrier is always thought to be an issue for Erasmus students but support is always there for you. The university offers free language training to all Erasmus students and a £500 grant for a foreign language course before the course starts. Also, as you will be on reduced hours you can take language training concurrent to your studies. Money isn’t a problem either: living in halls in France last year cost me €900 (about £700) and there are no tuition fees to worry about.
On the social side, look around. Erasmus students have the biggest parties, an even more vibrant social scene as it is just one big melting pot. It is honestly the best way of learning a language, having fun and extending your university experience without needing an ever-expanding wallet! 

Author: Mark Iliffe

Traveller, Programmer, Geospatialist and Motorcyclist

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