Choosing your Erasmus destination can be a difficult task, as you often don’t know whether to listen to the advice of those who have already experienced it, or the advice of your parents, your friends, or all the online posts on the subject.
In this post, I will try to guide you through the process of choosing the right Erasmus destination for you. Below are a number of factors you need to consider when choosing your destination:
The language spoken in your destination country
Would you prefer to go to a country where you already speak the language or would you prefer to go to a country that fascinates you but where you do not speak the language?
This is a crucial aspect! In fact, the language of the country that you will choose, will be the language you will use in your daily life when you go shopping, take a taxi, and most likely (unless specifically stated) attend classes and take exams.
I chose Madrid in Spain because I wanted to learn Spanish. Initially, I was undecided between Madrid and Barcelona, but since in Barcelona, Catalan is more widely used (even at the university) than Castilian (=Spanish), I ended up choosing Madrid.
Also consider this: sometimes just choosing the country may not be enough. You might also have to select a city, especially considering that in some countries the linguistic differences between different cities are quite pronounced.
Big city or small town?
Being born and raised in a very small town made me a lover of large and chaotic cities! So, despite the fact that my parents were recommending me to go to a city smaller than Madrid, I choose Madrid anyway (and I never regretted my choice!). I could never live in a small town, because I love the idea of always having something new to explore and to do, but we are all different! So, ask yourself: Would I be happier in a big city or in a small town?
The choice of the University and its reputation
Once you have chosen the country and the city, you will also have to choose the university where you want to study. In fact, there may be more than one university offering your educational pathway.
Learn about the reputation of the university. Generally, no admission test is required for the students who have been awarded the Erasmus scholarship, as this is not a graduation program, but an exchange program. So why not taking advantage of having one less obstacle in your way and actually study at a university with an excellent reputation?
Is there a country whose culture particularly interests you? If the answer is “yes”, do not miss the chance to immerse yourself in a culture that fascinates you. An opportunity like this might not come around a second time.
Some countries are undoubtedly more expensive than others. So consider this factor when deciding on your Erasmus destination. Ask yourself a few questions, like…
Can I or my parents afford that?
Will the scholarship cover all the costs?
How easy would it be to find a part-time job if needed? Is it legal for a foreigner to work part-time in this country?
This is your experience and no one else’s experience
Among the Erasmus scholarship winners, I heard many people choosing their destination based on where their friends were going, because they didn’t want to be alone but wanted at least one friend from home. I saw many students from my own university going abroad and sharing an apartment with other students from the same university at home. To me this was just crazy! Why would I go far away from home to share an apartment and spend my time with the same people I used to see back in my home country? Let me tell you, I am not a cynical person who doesn’t believe in friendship, but I think that the Erasmus program is not just about studying at a different university, or learning a new language. Of course these are part of the experience, but an exchange program is more about you growing as a person and learning to be independent and even alone, which doesn’t necessarily mean lonely! So forget about what your friends will do or where they will go! Choose your destination based on what you want; this is the year (or six months) when you can finally embrace the unknown, experience adventures, and meet new people. Don’t let your fear of being alone compromise this journey!
The Erasmus program is an experience that can really change your life,make you a better person, and last but not least it can be a valuable addition to your resume. However, choosing the right place for you is not as simple as it looks, especially if this is your first time living abroad. Research, set your goals and priorities, and ask yourself what you want to achieve from this experience!