5 years ago I made the choice to go abroad alone for the first time. Yes, I was going to be an Erasmus student (for the non-Europeans among us: exchange program initiated by the EU). The impression most have (including me) is that Erasmus students are on a semester or two long vacation with a minimum of effort studywise and a whole lot of partying with other international students. This is partly true, I definitely had my share of parties in Coimbra (Portugal), a town that is known for its strong student party culture and its festivals Festa das Latas and Queimas das Fitas. On the other hand, being an exchange student gives you a great opportunity to learn a new language (or three: in my case a mix of Portuguese, Spanish and Italian), get to know a new culture and meet a lot of marvelous people.

Most European higher education institutions have formal exchange agreements with other EU/EEA/candidate countries, which allow you to go abroad from 3 months to an academic year. While being abroad, you will receive an Erasmus grant depending on your destination/university of origin. Check with your international office or Erasmus coordinator where you can go, when you must apply and how to get a grant. You can also read more about Erasmus at the British Council’s Erasmus page or at the European Commission page.

100_1768

When you’ve decided where to go and have questions about housing or any other type of advice – several universities or cities have organizations working for free to give you the best insight info on parties and excursions and whatever else you’re interested in knowing. The biggest one probably is Erasmus Student Network (ESN), which exists in 343 higher education institutions. I worked with this organization for 1 year in Bergen, Norway, arranging parties and excursions. Of course, the only locals you will get to know through this organizations are the ones working for it and those showing up at Erasmus parties..

To get to know the locals, why not have a look on Couchsurfing if someone is up for a coffee, or make an effort to get to know your classmates! Going out to other places than the regular Erasmus parties also might help, and try to learn the local language!

PIC_0045

Happy partying studying!

Kathrine Opshaug Bakke Kathrine Opshaug Bakke, editor at Travelettes from 2009 to 2013, wrote this post. Originating from Norway, she has been living in Berlin, Lisbon, and Stockholm the past 6 years.

She loves cities with imperfect facades, photography, traveling by bike, vintage hunting, and everything that comes with cheese. Follow her visual diary at anchoredpaperplane.com.