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Making the most of it - how to make your year abroad count
16 May 2014
Will Griffiths of Viveras.com, a new social network for travelling students, gives his advice on how to make the most of your year abroad
There is an odd perception in UK universities that studying abroad is just for language students and people who speak umpteen different languages. However, the opportunity to study abroad is there for almost all undergraduates, and it could be the best year of your life.
With this in mind, we at Viveras have decided to share a few things we have learned about how to make the most of your year abroad.
Going on a year abroad is not supposed to be an exile. Whilst leaving your university friends and going abroad can seem a bit daunting, a year abroad is such a social experience. Each year over 250,000 students participate in the Erasmus programme, and in September students from across Europe arrive in foreign cities looking to make friends and get advice on their host city.
Before you embark on your year abroad, ask around your University to see who went to your chosen city the year before, and see if they have any advice or contacts there. Some UK universities have mentoring programs to help put past and future Erasmus students together to share information about European Universities.
Looking online is also a really useful way to see who will be joining you for the year; sites like Facebook and Viveras can help you start meeting new people before you even arrive. Meeting other students online can make the whole experience far less frightening and make it much easier to settle into your new environment. There will be hundreds of other Erasmus students joining you on your year abroad, get in touch with them and see if they are looking for flat mates.
Finding accommodation is one of the biggest headaches for anyone going to study abroad, and researching online before you go can make life much easier. A lot of students naively assume that it will be easier to find somewhere to live after arrival in their new city; this is a risky strategy and can leave students stuck in hostels for weeks!
The first few weeks are always going to be the most challenging so it is important to be as well prepared as you can be. Unfortunately, finding accommodation in a number of European cities can be a real nightmare, ask anyone who has tried to find a flat in Bologna if you don’t believe me. Thankfully there is a selection of online resources that can help make the process easier. Flat sharing websites can be helpful and in recent years there has been a rise in community sites allowing Erasmus students to pass on their rooms to incoming students.
On arrival in your new city, the best thing you can do is throw yourself into everything, be a fresher again! There will be a number of activities and societies aimed at foreign students, as well as nights out organised for you; this is the best way to meet other Erasmus students, but meeting students from the host University can sometimes be a bit trickier. Ask your tutors if there are any language societies, or clubs you can get involved with. A conversation partner can be a great way to improve your language skills and join a new friendship group; ask around in lectures to see if anyone wants to brush up on their English.
After a couple of years at university you will probably know all the best places to go out, grab lunch and get the perfect cup of coffee. Great student bars, drinks deals and clubs are out there – just like at home – if you can find them. Finding a ‘local’ can help you feel at home and part of a community. Be it finding the perfect aperitivi in Rome or a raucous apero in Marseille, finding the right bar can be the gateway to your city’s social scene.
Lots of Erasmus students are blogging about their year abroad and this can be a great way to document your adventures. Share your experiences with your friends back home and fellow Erasmus students to let everyone know what an awesome time you’re having!
Your year abroad is not just about studying; it is a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in a new culture and explore your host country. Most courses will allow you more than enough time to get out and about. So put yourself out there, make the most of your spare time and above all travel.
Viveras is an online hub helping students explore their cities, engage with other students and get the most out of their Erasmus experience.
What can users get from Viveras?
- MEET - other Erasmus students and students at your host university.
- LIVE - Find accommodation and housemates in your host city.
- SHARE - recommendations of the best student bars and restaurants.
- ASK - Your questions answered by students and Viveras.
Page last modified on 16 may 14 17:16