I love living in Tallinn, but right after I was accepted at TTÜ I started looking at the possibility of spending a semester somewhere else. To me, an Erasmus experience was the perfect opportunity to live in another city and learn about yet another culture, so doing this was always in my mind and fortunately I had the opportunity to spend 6 months in the amazing city of Stockholm, Sweden.
The application process for a semester abroad, though, can be a bit daunting. Anastasia has already talked about it in this previous post, and in this one I will give you a few tips that from my experience, will help you have a successful Erasmus application:
1. Be prepared to spend A LOT of time looking for a suitable destination
TTU has a lot of partner universities to choose from, but only two or three will have all the courses that you need. And I’m not gonna lie, looking for a university that has all the requirements you need is a tedious job: you have to read all the descriptions from your own program courses at OIS, and then you need to go through all of the partner universities’ webpages to look for courses that match the ones you need to complete your program (beware of compulsory courses that are given only once a year at TTÜ! If you don’t take them abroad on the required semester you will most likely fall behind on the schedule and not graduate on time).
You also need to make sure that the courses are given in the right semester, that they are open for exchange students, that they are given in English, that you meet the prerequisites to take it…
2. When in doubt, ask your program coordinator about the courses you want to take abroad
If you are unsure about a potential course, you can contact your program coordinator and ask him/her if the ones you have chosen are suitable. Technically you are required to do this only after you have gone through all the application process, but my reccommendation is that you start doing it beforehand, this way you avoid unpleasant suprises after you have done so much work already.
In my case, I had to take one course from TTU remotely (I obviously did not attend the lectures, but I took a look at the slides, did a team project with the help of Skype and Google Drive and then took the final exam). But in order to do this, I had to ask my program coordinator and the teacher who gives this course for permission; if they had said no and I had done all the application process already, I would have had to cancel everything as that one course would have completely messed up my program schedule. So, to sum up, it’s better to be prepared and look for solutions for potential problems before you continue with the application process.
3. Be aware of your finances when choosing your destination
Do some research about the average monthly expenses in the city you want to go to. If you go on an Erasmus program within the EU, you get between 400 and 500 euros per month and for a cheap country like Hungary, that is probably enough to cover most of your costs, but if you decide to go to an expensive region like Scandinavia, that will cover little more than just accommodation, so you will need to use some savings or ask your parents for help as it is not allowed to have any other scholarship besides the Erasmus one. Additionally, take into account that you’ll have some more expenses like another residence permit, flights, an additional healthcare insurance or accommodation deposits. And if you go to a non-EU country for an exchange semester, you will not get any scholarship, so it’s up to you to find a way to finance it (this is technically not Erasmus).
4. Try to find someone who has gone on Erasmus before and ask him/her for advice
There are so many things to consider when going on Erasmus: accommodation possibilities, courses, budget, sending the right paperwork, applying for another residence permit… so if you know someone who has been through this before, especially if he/she is from your same program, it will be very helpful for you. In my case one of my teachers was previously a student of my program who also did an Erasmus in Sweden and he gave me so many good tips that I am forever grateful to him for helping me figure out how to solve some issues that I would not have been able to do on my own.
It’s also good to ask what your chances are at particular universities. For example, Sweden is a very popular destination and usually it’s the people with really high GPAs the ones who get those coveted spots, so if your GPA isn’t almost perfect, then maybe there’s no point to apply to those universities and instead focus your attention on other places.
As you see, there are many, many things to consider, so don’t be shy and ask questions to anyone you think might be helpful: the Erasmus coordinator, your program coordinator, the Dean’s office or other students. You can also attend the Erasmus info session that will take place next Thursday, 9th of February, 13:30 in room SOC-415.
I really cannot recommend enough taking this opportunity to learn from another country, another university and another culture, the Erasmus program really is a wonderful experience!