Thinking of Studying Abroad?
There are more reasons to study abroad now than ever. Whether you’re an undergraduate and your home university can offer you a place on one of their exchange program or you’re a postgraduate and you’re thinking of doing a Masters overseas, this kind of experience cannot pass you by.
The sheer prospect of being sponsored by my home university to go and study in another country was enough to persuade me to go along to the seminar that was discussing the Erasmus program. The Erasmus program provides foreign exchange options for students from within the European Union and it involves many of the best universities. I had the choice of three options. In the end, I opted to go to the Netherlands, which trumped the opportunity to go to either Canada or the Czech Republic.
If you’re already considering that placement overseas let me convince you by way of conveying my experience.
I registered to go and study in Maastricht, Netherlands, the bottom apex of the Benelux, a city that is like the axle of wheel, connecting France, Belgium and Germany at its borders. The spirit of the place was always changing as people from these nationalities were passing through.
My home university, The University of Salford, had put all the measures in place so that I could have the best experience possible: they had arranged grants and scholarships and furnished me with a wealth of information as to how to settle in and gone to great lengths to make sure that there were relations between them and my exchange university, The University of Maastricht.
The night before my flight overseas I could barely sleep because of the excitement but as I arrived the very next day I was met at the airport by a student of Maastricht university and they got me safely to my accomodation. It was a beautiful building and I made some good friends out of my flatmates there.
The first week was one I’ll never forget. Like freshers week over here, we were taken to loads of events, my two personal favourites being a trip on a speedboat on the river Maas and a music festival in the Markt town square. There were plenty of opportunities to make friends and meet new people in this first week. There was also lots of extra time to check out the locality, experience the food, nightlife and all those other extracurricular things that make student life worth living.
The university itself was located behind large-walled veneers of buildings that ran down cobbled streets. Doing an Erasmus or any other exchange program will transplant you into this other-worldly culture that will just blow your mind. Sure, it might take a little getting used to at first but once you find your way around you’ll feel like you’ve made the place your own, which really enhances your indepedence, not to mention your confidence.
The year progressed as my studies progressed and I found great delight with hosting dinner parties for my International friends and likewise going to theirs. These would be great places to make friends and the more we learned about the city the more we went out to explore.
I was also very lucky that I landed a job at the student newspaper. I got €30 per week to write a column about what other exchange students from all over liked the most about European life. My remit as a local journalist even got extended to include writing features about local movements. One movement which I was heavily involved in was called Landbouwbelang, an old factory that had been taken over by a youth movement called Kraak. They’d turned the interior into an art gallery, music venue and people’s kitchen. The people’s kitchen was a popular hang out even for the middle class of Maastricht with the kitchen taking advance bookings up to two weeks prior for table reservations.
My language skills improved and my grades were good.
The sun rose and set upon Maastricht over and over again and before long, after much fun (and hard work too) my stay came to an end. The sense of achievement I felt after is one thing I can guarantee you’ll feel too if you decide to go abroad to study. So do what I did, and just go for it. You won’t regret it.
After completing my Journalism degree with a 2-1 I’m thinking of doing a Masters. With the rise of tuition fees the reasons to study abroad are better now than ever. I’ll be making sure that I find a university in the European Union that will be tuition free! And I am positive that my postgraduate studies abroad will prove to be as good as my exchange program was.
So, what are you waiting for?