What does it mean to study abroad?

, by Daphné Simo

All the versions of this article: [Deutsch] [English]

What does it mean to study abroad?
Mathilde Blanquart and her Erasmus friend

Being a member of the European Union implies accepting economic and politic agreements. It implies to developing a common identity with our neighbours. It implies fighting euroscepticism, which is spreading Europe. Moreover, being a member of European Union offers an opportunity for students to study abroad and discover the national identities of their European colleagues.

Wherever you come from, the wealth of your parents, your studies, Erasmus+ is a program which gives you all the means necessary to take part in this awesome experience, from Spain to Poland or from the Czech Republic to France. You can choose any destination in Europe, any place that you have dreamed to live in or which intrigued you. Maybe you have already done an Erasmus so you have an answer to our title, or maybe you are just scared to go far away from your house and traditional food.

Every Erasmus student has his or her own view of studying abroad. In partnership with Kiss an Erasmus, a project ran by Camille Piesseau, we have done a survey involving Erasmus students in different European countries. The purpose of this article is to share with you the results of the survey. Perhaps afterwards you’ll run to pack to study abroad!

Our investigation shows us that the main reason in favor of studying abroad is the desire to discover another culture and another way to study. Sarah from Nantes (FRANCE), who decided to study in Spain, visualizes her Erasmus period as an opportunity to improve her knowledge of the Spanish culture. The last time when she was in Spain was when she was 14. It was just a middle school internship for two weeks, so she didn’t really get to embrace the Spanish way of life.

Angelina from Marseille (FRANCE) expresses the same point of view. Her choice to study in the Czech Republic was driven by curiosity, rather than rationality. Moreover, she highlighted another significant reason - her own country doesn’t provide too much room to maneuver regarding courses, and all of them are in her mother tongue.

For Julien, a French Erasmus in Canada, and Valeria, an Italian Erasmus student in the Czech Republic, it is more than just curiosity. They see Erasmus as an opportinity to improve their ability to speak foreign languages and to enrich their studies by delving into knowledge that doesn’t exist in their own country. On the other hand, it is also an occasion for students to enjoy cheap beers and have fun. That’s a common & hidden excuse to study abroad that we all share but we don’t say in order to save face and only let out an image of the ever-studious student! Some students, such as Juliette from France, decided to study in the Czech Republic fully assume this truth. According to her, cheap beer is a leitmotif to study in central-eastern countries!

Is studying abroad better or not? Opinions are really divided. According to Valeria, Angelina, Julien and Marcus from Austria, studying abroad is a unique experience that every student has to have. It permits the crisscrossing of points of view and it leads to discovering another way to learn. For example, Valeria reveals another way to study in the Czech Republic, one which is more practical than theoretical. She improves her languages skills by doing several practical activities; whereas in Italy she would pass more time in a classroom, analyzing texts.

Nevertheless, the pair don’t know which way of studying they prefer. In fact, as Marcus said perfectly, they consider that every country has its own education conditions, with its own strong and weak points. On another hand, some Erasmus students claim their preference to their host university. Sarah, from Spain, highlights that her professors follow her own studies better. Indeed, she feels more confident due of the diversity of exercises and objectives, both done with more thought than in France.

Jan from Poland also express a preference to studying in the Czech Republic rather than in his home country: « I must say that I certainly prefer studying abroad, since it shows different approaches to the teaching, which usually turns out beneficial ». Thus, even if they don’t share the same opinion about the issue, they share a common feeling, namely that studying abroad enables them to combine different approaches, giving them the opportunity to strengthen their Bachelor/Master knowledge.

Erasmus life is an opening to new experiences! Incredibly enjoyable or not, they take place in your Erasmus life. Our students let us to know their different experiences abroad! For most of them, meeting foreigners, having fun during parties and traveling are the best experiences of their Erasmus experience.

If we focus, we could observe that during this special year some students travel more than they stay in their home country. School associations, student reductions etc. give them opportunities to embrace European culture. ESN, an association which is present in most of the European universities, organizes many cheap trips destinated to foreign students. For less than 100 euro, Juliette and Daphné from France have done a 3 days trip from Prague to Krakow and Auschwitz.

Many students also buy the interrail pass for a couple hundred euro. It permit traveling by train across Europe without paying any additional transport fees. Erasmus students travel mostly in their nearby countries. Most of the students in the Czech Republic have traveled in Austria, Poland, Germany, Slovakia and Hungary. Students in Spain have mostly visited Portugal and Italy.

Those who haven’t traveled yet, like Julien, should stay confident. They will travel soon! Ever Erasmus student has had to cross several barriers when they arrived. It creates crazy and awkward moments. But don’t be afraid, you’ll always survive and find a solution. You could have a bad flatshare experience, as Angelina or Juliette. It could happen, yes, but you will always have the opportunity to change your flat or roommates! And we highlight that it is also a question of chance. Daphné from France in Erasmus, while in Prague, decided to live in an unknown Czech family and everything went perfectly! If you decide to study abroad you could also experience homesickness. The best cure that we could give you is to keep in touch with your family and your friends by social networks and Skype! You won’t loose your closest friends and maybe they will come to see you during your Erasmus experience! What is better than to travel with your best friends (or boyfriend/girlfriend across Europe?

Studying abroad is a unique experience destinated to every student. If you cross the scary barrier of the unknown, you will embrace another life, discover another passion and build a new future for yourself. We hope that after this foretaste, you will run to your Erasmus office to apply for an Erasmus internship!

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