If you don't know about the Erasmus programme, then it's time you found out. It's a once in a lifetime opportunity to spend up to a year abroad during your time at university. You can choose to live in an amazing city such as Paris or Prague, learn a language while living with locals or other students, and study a course that perhaps isn't available at your institution. Best of all, you don't have to pay tuition fees and you get a grant (worth about €350 per month last year) which helps pay for things like accommodation, travel and nights out. Many Erasmus students also get a part-time job for extra cash and adventures.
A year on Erasmus could lead somewhere unexpected and exciting. For instance, Jennifer Draxlbauer was studying Film and Moving Image Production at Leeds Met. Whilst living in Berlin, she rented a room from someone that turned out to be working as a freelance painter on the second Narnia film, Prince Caspian. They became friends which lead to Jennifer getting great insider's advice on the industry. She even painted some of the props that will feature in the film. This experience has helped Jennifer stand out to future employers - in fact, research shows that around sixty percent of the UK's top employers feel that experience of international study enhances employability.
It's not just about boosting your job prospects; Erasmus is a gateway to whole new horizons. Through immersing yourself in a different culture you will get an international perspective, make new friends, become more independent, and possibly become one of the lucky ten percent of Erasmus students that find the love of their life during their time abroad.
If you're growing weary of your professors, then studying abroad could turn your academic point of view on its head. As part of his degree, Samuel Omalade studied Politics and History for six months at the University of Amsterdam. He relished learning from a Dutch point of view, acquired new analytic skills and attended a fascinating conference on 'Criminals Without Borders'. He was able to mix with several high profile speakers and consequently returned to Manchester more confident and motivated. It's like a gap year with an academic bonus.
"For the duration of this course, my course mates and I found ourselves studying during the morning, playing sports and swimming in the Swedish lakes under the afternoon sun, and star gazing at the clear sky during the nights."
Ahmed Dekmak, University of Bradford.
Worried you will accumulate more student debt? Don't panic! Your fees and outstanding debt are frozen in the UK and you don't pay a penny to your host university. The Erasmus grant helps with living every day to the fullest. For instance, Tiffany Wong went to Montpellier, France, as part of her Law degree at Newcastle. Alongside learning French, Tiffany went on day trips to cultural hotspot Sète, attended an extreme sports festival and made friends with French, German, Spanish, Dutch and Finnish students and locals.
Then check with your university's International Office or Erasmus Coordinator to find out which European universities they are partnered with and subjects they offer. Some universities even give the option of a work placement or a job as a language assistant instead of studying. You can go for anything from three months to a full year. If you don't speak any of the language of the country you're visiting, talk to your Erasmus Coordinator about funding for a short, intense language course. Then you can start planning your journey there, where you'll stay and what you'll do. Get ready for the time of your life!