What is it?
So what exactly is Erasmus?
Erasmus stands for European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students and is a EU funded programme that allows students from countries inside and outside of the EU to take part in exchanges outside of their home-university country. This programme provides students with funding for their exchanges based on a contractual agreement between institutions.
The idea of the scheme is to promote mobility amongst students and allow them to gain experience in Europe outside of their home country. There is no age limit to the programme and you can take part in Erasmus for a minimum of 2 months and a maximum of 12.
Why should I do it?
Taking part in an exchange and moving to another country is not only great for your personal development, but future employers love it too.
Erasmus is the best way to learn another language, meet new friends and gain life long experience that you couldn't gain at home.
For more information and personal experiences check out:
Confessions of an Erasmus Student in Lyon
How Brexit Affected My Year Abroad: A British Girl in Madrid
Tips for Erasmus Students in Barcelona
Note: Following Brexit, the UK is confirmed to still be part of the Erasmus programme until 2020.
Am I elegible?
Now, Erasmus is established in various countries both inside and outside Europe. Check the Erasmus plus website to see if your home university country is a participant, and if you can take part in the Erasmus scheme.
To be elegible to do an Erasmus placement you must be able to answer yes to all the following:
I am enrolled at a higher education institution.
My studies will lead to me receiving a recognised higher-education qualification (eg; a masters or undergraduate degree).
My institution is a holder of the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education.
The great thing about doing an Erasmus placement is that it can be a great opportunity to expand on your existing language skills or even learn a new one.
However, if you are ambitious and looking to study in a foreign institution, most of the classes will be given in the language native to that country. Therefore, if you want to push yourself out of your comfort zone and really learn, there are some basic requirements for your language level prior to your residence. You should have at least one of the following:
An advanced qualification in said language.
Other qualification that demonstrates that you have a B2 level.
Experience in formal study of that language.
1 year study of that language at university level.
So, if you're thinking about jetting off to a linguistically unknown domain, make sure you give yourself enough time to enrol in a course and prepare.
The exception is that many universities also teach the program in English, in which case you will need to meet the English level requirements.
How do I apply?
As Erasmus is a university exchange and takes place based on an agreement between higher education institutions, you need to consult your University's Residence Abroad and Erasmus department.
Your home university will provide you with information on partner institutions and opportunities abroad that are relevant to the content of your degree. The proceedings of the application and the agreements between the universities are all subject to the institution that you attend and your desired destination.
Each university is relatively unique in what they require from you in order to send you there in the first place and what they require from you whilst you're there.
However, be warned. Opting for an Erasmus placement is rarely something you can do last minute, and you should have in mind your destination and choices way in advance. Not only will this give you time to work on any language requirements, but it'll also save you time, money and stress later down the line.
The dreaded learning agreement
Erasmus is great, but the paperwork is not. Make sure you get yours done in time.
The learning agreement is the most universal document in the Erasmus agreement, i.e. the one that every university requires.
The learning agreement is basically like a contract between you, your home university and the receiving university in which you agree to attend, pass and fulfil the classes and requirements of both institutions.
Everything operates based on ECTs (European Credit Transfers) and you will have to do a minimum of 25 per semester in order to fulfil the requirements.
The classes you take should ideally be related to the content of the degree that you study at your home university. So, if you study engineering, you can't do English literature classes. Obviously, this isn't as simple as it may sound, and timetabling, course prerequisites and the deadlines can really have an effect. Therefore, you need to stay in contact with your home university especially about these courses and know their leeway.
If you do a full year placement and you need to change your classes, you'll have to go through it all again and amend your classes so that when your transcript comes it is consistent with your learning agreement.
The deadline for this agreement to be signed, dated and sent off by both you and the 2 institutions is 30 days from your start date at the receiving institution. After having received your documentation and approved everything your payments will be scheduled.
Another tricky one. This is where you agree to all the terms and conditions of Erasmus. Here you will also see a breakdown of the pay-out that you will receive, which is always nice.
You must sign, date and specify the dates of your placement so that Erasmus knows how much to pay out to you and when. Don't worry if you're not sure, look at the final exam date of your receiving institution and jot that down. As long as you let your home university know that this is the case, they will be able to make amends further down the line.
A friendly word of advice, do not try to fool Erasmus here. It may be tempting, but through these documents the universities and Erasmus are communicating, and they will figure it out.
If you chose to do so anyway... you will be liable to pay some if not all of the grant back.
This document is required by your home university to show that you sat, passed and attended the examinations of the host institution. It will be a breakdown of your grades that will finalise the long Erasmus paper trail that has been following you for the last 2-12 months of your placement.
Ideally the deadline for this is 30 days after your placement has finished, but sometimes your host university will prefer to send it directly, in which case it is out of your hands, just let your home university know that this is the case.
...and the money?
I mean, who is forgetting the best part of Erasmus... the money. Getting funded to have the best time of your life?...Yes please.
Erasmus is paid in instalments which differ from institution to institution. Some pay it directly into your bank account and in other cases, like mine, you will get a cash currency card. This normally happens when the currencies differ between the two countries and the exchange rate is not so straight forward.
The normal distribution plan will result in you receiving the majority at the start of your placement, some towards the middle and the rest when you have already finished.
What if I fail?
If you fail, you may be liable to pay some of your grant back... depending on the institutions, the circumstances or how badly you fail.
However, this is in extreme cases. So, try not to worry.
Some institutions will just require evidence that you went, engaged and did the assessments. Others will ask you to write or submit an essay to recuperate the credits. Whereas at others you may just be able to take an extra class when you get home.
Either way, it's not the end of the world.