Yes, you guessed it right.
I’m going to Spain and it’s going to be an incredible experience!
Why am I so sure?
Well, I can never be certain but I am currently preparing and planning for my year abroad which is why I thought it would be useful to give all of you lovely readers who are thinking or planning to study abroad some useful advice.
Those of you that went or are currently going through this process understand that it is not an easy task, the challenges you will face will leave you stressed and extremely tired if you are not prepared for them. Luckily for you, I’ve made a list of the most important things to consider but bear in mind that it is a personal list and that everyone is different. Nonetheless, it is still a good starting point:
– Paperwork. The International Office will make sure that you are registered on Blackboard and they will provide you with a list of all the paperwork you will need to complete and their respective deadlines. Make sure you have a copy of every document. I scanned everything and saved it on my memory stick as well as emailing it to myself. My advice? Do it at your earliest convenience and when you send any document via email make sure to ask them to email you back confirming they have received it.
– Health insurance. If you are taking part in the Erasmus programme your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) should do the trick. You might want to consider private medical insurance as well but that depends on you. If you already have a EHIC then you will need to exchange that for a student EHIC. The application process is simple, just remember to send in your current EHIC with a letter from the university confirming you will be studying abroad. The International Office should send you an email with the details they require from you and you will be able to collect it in their office. Also, remember to ask them for a digital copy as well.
– Accommodation. The university won’t help you with this so I suggest looking at the host University website. As soon as I knew where I wanted to go, I started looking and asking friends and family. Everyone has different needs, I personally preferred RESA because it was on campus but there are lots of other places you can look for your accomodation such as Uniplaces and Easypiso which are quite helpful. If you decide to go with Uniplaces, you need to find out if your host university is connected with the Erasmus Student Network (if you are taking part in the Erasmus programme) so that you can enjoy their discount with Uniplaces. I will be writing about my experience with finding accomodation in Spain so do expect a post on this later.
– Budgeting. At Leicester, the Student Welfare Service can help you with this. It is worth booking an appointment if you feel that it will help you. I had a couple of friends who went for an appointment and said that it helped them a lot so I would recommend booking one if you are interested. Student Finance also offer travel grants so it is worth having a look at their eligibility criteria.
– Travelling. I love travelling. If you are passionate about this then make sure you do your research and consider this when you are budgeting. At first, I made a list of all the places I wanted to visit. Don’t do that. You don’t want to be disappointed if you can’t visit every single place so just have an idea of where you want to go and how far these are in relation to you, this will help you plan things effectively. Also, for those of you going to Spain, the public transport is much cheaper than in the UK so if you are worried about the distance from your accommodation to your university just bear that mind.
– Extracurricular activities. For those of you that know me, you will understand why I have this on my list. I am known for my passion for extracurricular activities; societies, academic representation, peer mentoring, there is just so many things you can get involved in at Leicester. It’s a great way to meet new people, learn new things and let’s not forget how good it looks on your CV. So why not look for similar opportunities on your year abroad? This is where you put those research skills into good use. Familiarise yourself with the host University website and look on social media for your academic department, you will be surprised with what you can find there. Most universities should also have a tandem scheme which is basically a reciprocal language exchange between two native speakers who want to learn more about each other’s language and culture. I signed up for it on my first year and I only met with my partner once so it wasn’t useful at all but don’t let that deter you, each case is different.
– Careers service. I can’t talk about extracurricular activities without mentioning careers. I have had such a great experience with our careers service, so much so, that one of the first things I considered when deciding which university to attend was the opportunities and events being offered by the careers service in each universitiy on my list. I only had three options so it didn’t take long for me to decide. It’s always good to know what is happening and what you can get involved in. If there is one thing I have learned at university is that proactivity and initiative are essential if you want to succeed.
– ULMLS Family scheme. The University of Leicester Modern Languages Society (ULMLS) runs a family scheme programme where they allocate “parents” to first year students. I joined in my first year and it’s been great so far. I became a parent this year myself. Essentially, you should take advantage of the fact that if you are on your second year, then your “parents” are currently in their year abroad and what best way to prepare yourself then to ask Mom and Dad about their experience so far? They will be able to help or direct you to someone who studied or worked in the country you intend to go. The family scheme is one of my favourite things about ULMLS and I absolutely love my modern language family, my “Dad” who has been in Spain, has given me some great advice so far and helped me put things into perspective when I was having issues with my accommodation (Gracias Papa VJ!)
– Module choices. This has been a nightmare! Choosing my modules has been the most tiring aspect so far. You need to make sure that you are aware of all the deadlines when filling out your Learning Agreement for both universities. Additionally, you also need to make sure that when you fill in your Learning Agreement with your module choices that your department stamps the document; better be safe than sorry. When I picked what I wanted to do, I had to check the timetable and see if any of my modules clashed with each other and a couple did so I had to go back and choose again. I also need to go and book said modules online next month and since they are operating on a first come first served basis it’s crucial that I have everything planned and organised so that I don’t risk having to study something that I don’t want to. This is why you need to make sure you understand all that is required of you so that you don’t miss out on anything important.
– Department Staff. There should always be someone in your department who can advise and help you. As a Modern Language student, you not only have access to your department coordinator who should be able to help clarify any doubts you might have but you should also talk to your language tutors; I went to see my Spanish tutor for help and she explained to me how things worked in Spain and what I was to expect. It just so happens that she went to the same university that I applied for, so she could tell me about her experience and what the University was like. Be proactive and ask around.
As I mentioned above, this is a reflection on my personal experience so far. There will be more posts about Erasmus so keep an eye out for them! Meanwhile, if you are looking for a more detailed list or guide for your year abroad then I suggest having a look at this post from The Student Room which I found to be quite informative.
Thank you for taking the time to read my post and don’t forget to share your thoughts/questions in the comment section below.
Until next time,