Erasmus Will Keep Students Connected to Europe | Redbrick | University of Birmingham

Erasmus Will Keep Students Connected to Europe

TV Editor Matt Dawson offers an insight into his Erasmus year, and how he feels more European post-Brexit than ever

With Brexit ever looming as we go into 2018, some reassuring news has come about with the announcement that the United Kingdom will remain as part of the Erasmus programme until 2020, beyond the scheduled end dates for the divorce procedures in 2019.

For those who don’t know, the Erasmus programme (or Erasmus+ as it has been branded since 2014) is an exchange scheme between countries of the European Union, sending university students to study for a semester or a year in partner institutions, or on internships in various businesses.

Having started 30 years ago, it is fair to see why the Erasmus programme is popular, as 600,000 students from the UK have taken part in total

As someone who spent the entirety of last year studying in France and Spain, the Erasmus scheme was instrumental in organising my time at the Université de Nantes and the Universidad de Extremadura, and without the additional funding they provide, it would have been difficult for myself and other students to have taken part in the programme.

Having started 30 years ago, it is fair to see why the Erasmus programme is popular, as 600,000 students from the UK have taken part in total, as well as the financial incentives of grants of up to €330 (£290) per month, depending on the location. But the programme is so much more: it offers a once-in-a-lifetime experience for students to break free of their comfort zones, often in a country where English is not the most widely spoken language and try to navigate a workplace or university system that is completely alien to them.

Of course, it’s not just exams and studying, the open-mindedness that the Erasmus scheme leads to lots of travelling, parties and doing things that you would never have done before

While this does sound incredibly daunting, it acts like a baptism by fire and you come out a changed person afterwards. You form close bonds between fellow exchange students despite communicating in a language you both might not feel comfortable in speaking daily. You suffer through all the bureaucracy together, the assignments at bizarre hours of the day together (7am exams are a thing, and they are as awful as they sound) and the seemingly never-ending lectures together, and by the end of it you’ve made friends for life.

As the language barrier may be an off-putting factor, there are more and more universities that offer courses in English, in particular areas such as the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Scandinavia. Of course, where you can go depends on your department and the partnerships they have, but it is definitely worth researching, especially as many European universities offer free courses teaching the native tongue of the country, which should help the ease of transition.

Because of recent political events, it is easy to feel disconnected from the rest of the continent. But after coming back from my Erasmus, it’s safe to say that I feel more European than ever

Of course, it’s not just exams and studying, the open-mindedness that the Erasmus scheme leads to lots of travelling, parties and doing things that you would never have done before, where the only excuse is ‘why not?’. It offers a chance to experience a different culture more than a simple holiday, as you get know a city’s hidden gems, or the delicacies of local cuisine. If I told myself two years ago that I would get to try migas extremeñas handmade by a Spanish grandmother, or the best homemade tomato and mozzarella salad I’ve ever tasted in rural Italy thanks to the families of friends that I met through my Erasmus studies, I would not have believed you.

Because of recent political events, it is easy to feel disconnected from the rest of the continent. But after coming back from my Erasmus, it’s safe to say that I feel more European than ever. In spite of ‘What do you think about Brexit?’ being the most popular question after introducing myself as British, I have had a chance to truly feel part of the mosaic of the continent instead of isolated as part of my island state. Erasmus draws together a melting pot of distinct European flavours, getting to know people from even the smallest member countries (before I couldn’t even place Slovenia on a map, let alone tell you that its capital is Ljubljana). So, I for one, am glad that we will remain part of the scheme in an already uncertain post-Brexit world. Here’s to another 30 years.

Final year Modern Languages student, TV Editor, using student journalism as a post-Erasmus coping mechanism. (@mdawson_96)



Published

27th December 2017 at 9:00 am



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