So… let me guess… You have heard so many nice stories about Erasmus and you wanna live that experience yourself? But you don’t know where to go and how to choose a destination… And here I am to help you by sharing my experience with you!!!
These are the 5 criteria I used to chose my Erasmus destination:
- The weather
Depending on the weather of the country where you go, the activities you’ll be able to do and your lifestyle will vary a lot.
As a Portuguese girl used to warm temperatures and sunny days I wanted to avoid cold weather countries as much as possible. I didn’t want to spend most of my winter semester indoors and I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money on winter coats that I would never wear when back in my home country. But there are very cool things about going to snowy place (especially if you’ve never been in a similar place). For example, you can ski and build snowmen.
Padova’s weather is very similar to my home town’s weather. Just slightly colder during the winter and slightly hotter over summer. It was a good choice.
2. The language
First of all, whenever you go communication is key. You should be able to go grocery shopping alone, to communicate with your University and to follow the courses. Obviously, you don’t always have to be fluent in the local language, but in case you are not, make sure it is possible to attend courses in English.
The trick to chose your destination is to either to choose a country where you know you can attend all the courses in English or to choose a country whose language you already know. You may also opt for a country whose language is very similar to yours, so it will be easy for you to learn it.
Second of all, it doesn’t matter where you go, English will always be your ally. There are some exceptions to this, but it is very likely that most of your friends during Erasmus will be other Erasmus from a range of different countries. That means that your mother tongues will be different and the common language will be English. I am not saying you need to be fluent in English (because you’ll improve it over your Erasmus), but you should know the basics to communicate in it.
I speak 4 languages: Portuguese, English, French and Italian. One of my goals for Erasmus was to improve either French or Italian. So, I was searching for places in countries like Italy, France, Belgium…
3. The University
The reception of Erasmus students is very different from University to University. For that reason, I would advise you to do some research before you chose the institution.
The easiest way to do it is by talking to your colleagues that already went on Erasmus and asking them about their experience. The ideal is to find a University used to work with foreign students and whose plan of studies is not that different from yours.
You may also check the rankings to find out about the quality and prestige of the University. It is always an advantage for you to do your Erasmus in a good University, but don’t get obsessed about it. Most of the companies value the fact that you have an international experience, doesn’t matter where.
4. The living cost
You must have already heard about the Erasmus scholarships. Well… although it is a good help, depending on the country you choose it might not cover the difference in cost of living from your home country to the host country.
My University advises students to use this website to compare the cost of living between countries and cities: https://www.expatistan.com/cost-of-living
If you don’t have much money I would advise you to either go to East Europe or to search for very small cities where the cost of living is always lower. You might not have as many things to do in your own city, but if you chose a well connect city it is easy to reach all those busy places anyway.
In that sense, Padua was a good choice because it was very close to Venice but far cheaper than Venice. But I still wouldn’t advise Italy for people who don’t have a good financial situation. It’s an expensive country comparing with Portugal (my home country).
5. The places you wanna explore
One of my favourite things to do during my Erasmus was to travel. Unfortunately, not as much as I had planned to because of the pandemic, but still the favourite.
By moving to a new country for some months, you get to live in a place where everything is new around you. Besides that, visiting the surrounding countries/cities becomes far cheaper than travelling from your home country there.
So, is there any region/country you are very curious about? Go there on Erasmus! In case it’s not a good choice for a number of other reason, pick a country close to it! For example, I really wanted to visit Austria, so I chose to go to a city in the north of Italy. I had this dream of doing this trip from Venice to Vienna by train and I was planning on doing it March or April. Unfortunately, that was not possible but you must admit it was a good plan.
I hope this post is useful for all the future Erasmus students in here. I wrote this one especially thinking about the Erasmus studies program, but the same criteria can be used to chose an Erasmus traineeship destination. The only difference is that it’s not mandatory that you do it in a University. You may also choose to do it in an enterprise, as long as they accept you.
Have a wonderful adventure! 🙂