We asked 3rd year students to answer some questions 1st and 2nd year students of the BSc Tourism have about the minor. We talk about the application procedure, language requirements, how to choose courses, and we talk about some of the social aspects of going on an exchange. The questions are answered by Lianne, Anna and Paula. Lianne Michon is currently doing her minor abroad at Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, in Madrid Spain. The minor is called ‘Economics and Business Administration’. Anna Buter is currently studying in Canada at the University of British Columbia (UBC). Paula Meekel is studying in Brazil at the University of São Paulo!
How did your application procedure go? What steps did you take and what was your experience during this process?
Lianne: My application process started with doing a lot of research. This means going over the list of universities at least 30 times and figuring out which universities (and cities) interested me the most. After that I made a selection of around 10 universities and looked into the courses they offered, and made my top 3 out of this. Since I am just an average student with average grades, I also had to think about where I would have the most chances of getting accepted. Luckily, I got accepted for my first choice! My experience during this process was that it was a lot of work and you are never 100% sure you are making the right choice. The websites of the universities are almost never as clear as the one from Wageningen University for example, but don’t let this discourage you as everything you need to know will be on there somehow. Furthermore, every university has a specific board for Erasmus students, who are all happy to help you with any questions.
Anna: The hardest part about the application process was choosing the university for an exchange. There are so many universities and countries to choose from (if your average is high enough). The hardest part is going through the university websites. It was a shock how many universities have really bad websites which makes it hellish to go through them, searching for minors or course information. Really bear in mind that the search is very time-consuming and you will probably change your top 3 universities a few times (I changed my list 4 times). Also, some universities have restrictions on minor options. For example, some universities only allowed taking courses from the faculty of agriculture. So you might find an awesome city you want to go to, but then the partner university only allows you to study certain courses that are not of your interest. Once you have puzzled your way through the websites and decided on your top 3 universities, you still need to request some forms, which can take up a few weeks as not every institutes replies immediately. Thus, do not wait until the last few days to get started on your application!
I got accepted into UBC and once you get your acceptance letter, the rest of the application went quite smooth. UBC is well organised and has a big exchange program. This resulted in my emails always being answered within three days and the staff is very helpful and knows a lot. UBC will send clear emails saying what you need to do and when. Their application is quite late though so be patient as most of the things get finalised in mid-August. For example, I had to send a list of my top 10 choices for courses, but only the list of courses from the previous year was available. This caused that some of the courses I really wanted to follow were moved to term two this year and I could no longer follow them. Also, in the end I had to follow 5 courses and UBC will choose them for you. I received half my course list somewhere in August when I was on holiday, and the other courses came online only a week before I left to UBC. I did not receive all the courses I wanted and some of the courses were already full by the time I arrived at UBC. However, you can still change your courses until two weeks after the term starts. It is a hassle though to find courses that fit in your time schedule, but GoGlobal (UBC exchange program) is very helpful. In the end it is important to make a good first impression to the professor teaching the course you want to follow because he or she can permit you in the course even if it is full.
How do you make sure you choose a minor on exchange that fits multiple masters?
Lianne: Since I am not sure if I want to do a masters after my bachelor, I did not make my minor decision based on this. I chose an economic minor because for me it would be a safe option, since it would come in handy in almost every degree.
Anna: Some masters require previous knowledge on certain subjects. Luckily, our degree is quite broad so there are some masters you might get accepted without specific prerequisite courses. To make sure my minor was useful, besides a unique experience, I went to a few master open days at a few universities that I like. For example, I went to the Erasmus University and Wageningen University master Open Days. I explored some masters that took my interest and followed their presentation. If they still seemed interesting afterwards (and a lot of them did not) I asked the professor what the requirements are to get accepted to this master. Besides exploring masters, the Open Days also gave me an impression on what courses I might like to follow during my minor.
Do you ever feel left-out of conversations because the students speak their first language?
Lianne: I mainly hang out with other Erasmus students, and we all communicate in English. Because I only chose subjects which are taught in English, the majority of the people are international and there are very few Spanish students in these classes. This is in some way very comfortable, but I would also love to meet more locals and improve my Spanish this way!
Anna: Being in Canada made sure that everybody speaks English, so this was not really a problem for me. However, there are of course some slang words and Canadian words that I did not understand in the beginning. But you get the hang of it quite fast, being surrounded by them all the time.
Do you have to know Spanish or Portugese to go study in Spain or Portugal (or Brasil)?
Lianne: A few years ago, I had one semester of Spanish classes. So before arriving to Madrid I knew the very basics, but I could definitely not have a proper conversation at all! It was a bit overwhelming in the beginning, especially because people in Madrid can barely speak any English. However, this means you are forced to learn the language quickly which I really like. Also, the university offers Spanish classes at a very low price. If you want to do subjects in Spanish it would be helpful to have an intermediate level in Spanish (B1 or B2 would be sufficient since you would learn really fast).
Paula: At the Universidade of São Paulo there are some courses available in English. However, the amount of courses are limited, and it is uncertain if it is enough for 30 ECTS. Moreover, in my opinion the courses in English are less interesting and challenging than courses in Portuguese. For the courses in Portuguese you need to manage the language, but I would argue that a very basic level is sufficient. A language exam was not required, and you will learn about the language throughout the semester. Furthermore, the professors at USP are really understanding, and most of them allow you to make exams and assignments in English, even if the course is given in Portuguese.
Thank you Lianne, Anna and Paula for answering these questions!