16 Tips for an Unforgettable Erasmus

Erasmus is one of the most significant experiences in the life of a student. For those of you who have the fortune and possibility to go, Erasmus is an opportunity to be seized by the horns: it is an experience which will encourage you to mature and grow as a person. It is a fundamental phase in your life in which you will discover about yourself and the world. However, you will have to approach Erasmus with a certain amount of maturity and responsibility so that it can truly be a formative experience, a chance to meet a different version of you. Here I will give you some of my top tips to help you get the best out of your Erasmus experience.

1. Don't be afraid

Putting yourself outside of your comfort zone is the first step when you go on your Erasmus exchange. Don't be afraid to do it. If you have never lived abroad, this is the moment to challenge yourself and in the worst case scenario to learn from your mistakes. Often, in everyday life, we refuse experiences due to shame, fear of being judged by others or judging ourselves for not being good enough. Try throwing yourself in to any type of experience, accept the challenges that present themselves on a daily basis and confront them; this will make you emotionally strong and capable of facing any situation. As humans we grow in the moments in which we test ourselves; this helps us to know ourselves, better ourselves and to be stronger and ready to confront future challenges. I often found ways to put myself to the test during my Erasmus; it turned out to be a journey of self-discovery. You will amaze yourself when you realise how many things you can do and gradually you will find yourself becoming more and more motivated. You will understand that you will always be tested in any situation; at university, for example you will find yourself challenged and coming up against numerous obstacles - but facing them head on will help you to grow professionally. You will gain self-confidence, you will learn not to crumple at the first hurdle or at the first criticism. Often a word spoken out of place or even a glance can get past our defences and shake our confidence; you will understand where that criticism comes from and, once you have discovered that it doesn't come from a place of jealousy or envy, you will be able to rise above it and learn from it. Don't be timid and don't be afraid to get involved; only this way will you be able to create wonderful memories that will last a lifetime.

2. Don't shut yourself away

Shutting yourself in your room or your house is not a good way to approach your Erasmus. It happens often for a number of reasons, including laziness or social anxiety, and you may find yourself spending the entire weekend at home alone. Okay, you have spent your hard-earned money to rent that house, but that doesn't justify you spending a large portion of your time there! When you go back home, you will have all the time in the world to relax and stay home. Believe me: post-Erasmus depression absolutely exists, so you will almost certainly spend your days immediately after your return home in bed, remembering the good days and maybe even mourning them. So wouldn't it be better to make the most of the experience while you can? Unsubscribe from Netflix and get out and enjoy yourself, live every day to the max and return to your house to sleep!

3. Build up your independence and take responsibility

Erasmus will help you to develop a strong sense of independence. If, like me, you have always lived with your parents, you probably can't wait to become independent, sort out your own life and on your own, without anyone else's help. Well, this is your moment - to learn to muddle through on your own. Actually, you will be forced to learn because your parents and your best friends won't be around to help you. You will have myriad small, daily puzzles to solve, such as how to buy your bus tickets and passes, do the grocery shopping, pay bills, speak to your landlord or get a gym membership - all of this in a different language to your mother tongue. It all happened to me - I got a fine for buying the wrong bus ticket, I had to call a plumber to fix my sink which was leaking, I had to go to the doctor for treatment for a bad burn... I have so many stories of woe to tell, but despite the challenges I managed to overcome it all. Whatever difficulty you find yourself in, no matter how big or small, find the strength to face it - and when you go home you will be able to face anything!

Be independent but also responsible. Learn to manage your expenses, money, evening entertainment and studies. I have seen many students having to ask for help from their parents partway through Erasmus, because they had already spent everything on clubbing, alcohol and shopping. If you don't get financial help from your parents, look for a part-time job in the evenings or at weekends, which will allow you to earn a little extra. Take responsibility for your everyday life and remember that although you have your freedom, it doesn't mean you can do whatever pops into your head.

4. Adapt to different situations

During Erasmus things won't always go as we might hope. You may find yourself with unpleasant housemates, a dirty house, a room in poor condition, lecturers who you don't like or get on with. If the situation is something that you can change, good for you - change it. If it isn't be open-minded and learn to adapt.

5. Study and use your time well

Erasmus is often considered a "break from studies and real life" and this mindset encourages us to let go of our responsibilities and duties. Obviously, the first thing that happens to many students on Erasmus is neglecting their studies. Don't do it. This is one of the main mistakes that we make when we first arrive abroad. Reasons are many: the will to study reduces over time, lessons finish late, going out in the evenings, hangovers, travels... However it is important to remember the real reason that we are there: to study! Make the most of your free time and manage your study time well, leaving enough time for longer projects and exam revision. A common error is to leave everything to the last minute, which in turn creates a backlog and you will inevitably spend the last few days before an exam cramming. Many students will start their Erasmus with the intention of sitting lots of exams, but on their return, having passed only a couple, face the prospect of being dropped from the course. Of course you want to experience this time of your life to the full, but don't forget your duties to yourself; you can't escape them for long.

16 Tips for an Unforgettable Erasmus


6. Travel lots

Make the most of every spare moment to travel. Organise trips with your friends or go alone. One of the false myths which you shouldn't believe off the bat is that the Erasmus grant will cover all your expenses - it's not like that. Still, if you manage your expenses well and make a few sacrifices you can still put a small amount aside to travel. Use the weekends and days off to see more of the country in which you find yourself. Maybe you won't come back again, so it's better to make the most of it now!

16 Tips for an Unforgettable Erasmus


7. Learn something from the place you are in

Living for six months or maybe even a year in one place and not know it at all is shameful. I myself had classmates who, after three months on Erasmus, still hadn't visited many parts of their host city because they were distracted by other things. Be curious and explore. That place will become your second home and you will carry it in your heart forever - it would be shame not to get to know it well.

8. Do sport and keep fit

I have already mentioned in my other posts how important it is to do sport and eat well. Erasmus life is often a sedentary life, made of bad habits; even sporty people can find themselves slowing down and losing their previous good habits. It happened to me. Despite always having been active and passionate about swimming, for the first few months of Erasmus I completely abandoned the sport because I had other commitments. Not eating properly either, I put on a lot of weight until I realised I had to get fit again. For all that drinking with friends, going out dancing and getting home late is fun, it can also be damaging and compromise your psychological and physical health. So do some sport, keep active and, once you arrive, look around your local area for gyms offering student memberships.

9. Eat local

We Italians think that there is no food beyond pasta or pizza. This is not true! It's easy to fall back on McDonalds or get a takeaway with Uber, but avoid it! Learn to cook (it's a great way to share with your friends, too!), or if you really do want to eat out, try a pub, local restaurant and try out the local dishes.

16 Tips for an Unforgettable Erasmus


10. Don't give in to loneliness: make friends

Unless you go abroad with friends, one of the first emotions you will be battling with is loneliness. The first weeks will probably be difficult and you will be homesick, missing friends and family. The best thing to do is to get acquainted. Start by getting to know the people on your course and slowly widen the net of your friendships. There are lots of Erasmus associations that organise trips and international evenings and dinners with the express motive of getting to know your fellow international students. Do your research when you first arrive, look at the monthly programmes and events and throw yourself in. The friendships that you make during Erasmus may begin as a way to stave off the loneliness, but before long they will become some of the strongest, most invaluable friendships that you will remember for the rest of your life.

16 Tips for an Unforgettable Erasmus


11. Say it to the person you like

Don't just sit there thinking about the best way to approach the person you like. Just say it! You probably won't see them again after you go home; why would you? So as not to return home without knowing, just try it and don't be afraid.

12. Don't hang out with people from your home country

One of the very first errors that we all make is to seek friends from our own country. Just don't do it. Avoid them. You are there to face the world, to challenge yourself and to learn about other cultures. Surround yourself with people of different nationalities to learn new things, practice English or - why not? - to learn a new language.

13. Learn the language

Obviously, although English is important, use this opportunity to learn the language of your host country as well. Erasmus is the perfect time to put your language skills into practice and to improve your English, but don't miss the opportunity to learn a new language. Not only will it teach you a lot about cultural heritage, but it will also improve your job opportunities in the future. Sign up for language courses for foreigners, watch local TV, listen to different music and the local radio, read a lot - but above all, speak as much as possible to the locals. It is of course difficult to learn a new language in six months but try to learn the basics so you can begin to interact. Listen to the local people and try to assimilate the sounds, accents and intonation; it will help you to acquire a good accent. You may end up meeting someone who you really like but who doesn't speak English - and isn't this as good a reason as any to motivate yourself to learn a language?

14. Get noticed by your teachers

Whether in your studies or an internship, always try to give a good impression to your teachers. Get yourself noticed, be brilliant, show yourself willing, interested in what you are doing and in learning and doing. In doing so, you might even get an offer for further study, which would obviously be a positive help in your future academic career.

15. Stay in contact

Create a network of contacts and keep them. Whether with friends, teachers or classmates, it's always good to stay in touch. You may want to return one day, to study, to live or work in that country - and in that case, having contacts would definitely be useful.

16. Be grateful

Remember that these experiences happen few times in life, so be grateful for the opportunity that you have been given. Not everyone is able to go on Erasmus and the reasons are endless; some can't afford it, some don't have the opportunities with their course or university, and some have even more serious reasons. The selection is conducted on a curricular basis, meaning that you can "earn" your place on Erasmus by getting good marks. However, this does not excuse you from being grateful. Be grateful for everything that life offers you.

Whether you are already on your Erasmus or are preparing to go, know that you now have an incredible opportunity. Use it well, with determination and maturity. Make good use of it and you will not regret it.

Have a great trip, guys!

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Comments (2 comments)

  • flag- Emirhan Baran one year ago

    Hi I am Emirhan from Turkey. I really like to read your tips for Erasmus students.I will be at Bari in September and I think these tips are very grateful for me and the other Erasmus students.I will keep these in my mind thanks:))Have a good day!!

  • flag-jo Fadi Taye 2 months ago

    The best 16 tips ever ,,, Absuolutly amazing you have coverd all the aspescts that must be taken care of thanks man really

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