Going on a year abroad is a massive opportunity and could be one of the best experiences you get from university. However, there is the small matter of organising this monumental trip, and along with this comes several stressful hurdles to get through. Here are a few I’ve encountered so far, with some tips on how to manage them:
Picking your courses
As if picking courses at Leicester wasn’t stressful enough. When you go abroad you need to keep in mind transferring credits. Luckily with Erasmus exchanges, it’s a straightforward transfer. Each course counts for a certain number of credits, so you just need to make sure you have enough to meet your requirements and to get your Erasmus grant, you’re all sorted!
I’ve actually found it really exciting to pick my courses for the year, as I’ve been able to pick both psychology courses and topics from any other subject I like. I’ve gone for some history modules on the Middle East and Japan, as well as a jazz module which I’m excited to start.
Finding somewhere to live
Although most universities offer accommodation options to exchange or international students, which is often the easiest option when studying somewhere unfamiliar, I wouldn’t advise relying on this. Firstly, halls can be more expensive to live in, and there often little choice on where you get placed. Secondly, it isn’t always certain that you will even be offered a place in halls. Although I applied for halls, Leiden has very limited university accommodation, so I ended up having to find my own place to live, which is rather stressful when you don’t know anyone there and have never visited the city! However, I did eventually find a nice house to rent. Good tools I found to be useful for house searching are facebook housing groups, agencies associated with your university as well as housing websites such as Airbnb and Kamernet (for Dutch housing).
When you decide to take a year out, you realise very suddenly that there is a lot of organising, paperwork and applications to sort out. Once you’ve decided to go ahead with the year and been approved by your department, you also then need to apply to your host university and choose your courses. I’d suggest you start the application well before the deadline given, as it can be difficult gathering all the documents and filling out everything quickly if you either have coursework due or exams on the way. There is also a lot of paperwork to be done after you’re accepted, such as getting insurance for the year, student finance, and agreements to get your Erasmus grant. However, you do get to attend presentations from the study abroad team, which I found invaluable as they gave me all the information I needed on what to do before I jet off to the Netherlands.
Packing is one major cause of stress for study abroad students. You could be away for up to a year, and you need to fit your belongings into a suitcase. The key here is to be practical in your packing. Instead of looking around your room and stuffing everything you can think of in your case, write a list of everything you will need and/or will be difficult to buy in your new home. You really don’t need to take 10 hoodies just because you can’t decide on your favourite. If something comes up that you weren’t expecting, you can always buy it when you get there.
Make sure you save any nasty surprise charges at the airport by knowing how much luggage allowance you have before you fly. It may even be worth booking an extra bag ahead of time so that you have more room than you need. Investing in good quality luggage is also a good shout, so you’re not left lugging around loads of little bags and cases or even worse have all your belongings scattered around the airport when you arrive.
Hopefully with these tips in mind, preparations for your time abroad will go smoothly and you will enjoy your time away. However, if there is anything that you find stressful or feel confused about, use the resources you have around you to help! I’ve found my tutor, the Erasmus coordinators, the study abroad team and my family and friends to be the most help when you’re feeling uncertain or worried about any part of your trip, and the year you will have after organising everything will be worth it all.