In this post, 3rd year students Lianne and Anna talk about information sources, the cost of going on exchange, and housing abroad.
Where do you get information if you want to do your minor abroad?
Lianne: I got most of my information from the website of the different universities I was interested in. Besides that, I read a lot of blog posts of Erasmus students who have already done their minor there. This was very helpful because you can get an actual sense of how daily life looks like while you’re there.
Anna: Wageningen University has a very well organized website and a lot of information can be found there. They also have a page where students who went abroad write a reflection of their exchange from that country. That really helped me to get a feeling on how the exchange might go if I choose that country. For example, I first wanted to go to Singapore, but after reading the reflection I decided not to because the people who went there said that the locals are very quiet and keeping mostly to themselves and I want to engage with the locals when on exchange.
I also asked around a lot from the people in the year above me who just came back from their exchange. Since they just got back I got a lot of interesting stories from them, and they really helped a lot with choosing the right country or university, as they could personally tell me their ups and downs from their exchange.
Is it more expensive to study abroad?
Lianne: Because I’m in Spain, everything is a little cheaper compared to The Netherlands. So for everyday life I do not think it is more expensive to study abroad. However, you have to take into account that you want to be able to do fun stuff and go on some trips as well, which are an extra expense. But these don’t have to be expensive at all! ESN offers very cheap trips and even arranging them by yourself can be cheap. For example, I just got back from 3 full days in Portugal with some friends and only spent around €130 in total (transport, accommodation and a lot of food included!).
Anna: Yes! It probably depends on which country you choose to go to. I had to fly to another continent which is quite expensive to begin with. Since I had to come by plane I could only take very little with me and therefore I had to spend a lot of money in the first few weeks getting myself settled. For example, my room only came with a mattress on a bed and a desk. When I arrived, nothing looked familiar (besides the IKEA) and therefore I had no idea whether I was at an expensive shop or a cheap one. The currency is also different so in the beginning I was not very aware whether I was spending a lot or not. This causes that you spend your money super fast. However, after the first month you kind of get settled and hear from the locals where to go and what to avoid if you do not want to burn through all your savings.
Also, once you go on exchange you want to experience a lot if things and go for weekends away to explore the country. These kind of trips are definitely a must (the reason you choose this country ;)), but also makes your life more expensive than when you stay at home where everything is familiar.
Do you have a job abroad?
Lianne: I wanted to enjoy my time here to the fullest and not worry about finding a job. So I worked a lot before I left to save up enough money to do everything I wanted here. I think finding a job in Madrid is also quite difficult if you can’t speak the language well. Getting a job as a student here does not pay very well, so it would mainly be an experience and an opportunity to meet new people.
Anna: No, Canada does not allow you to get a job if you are staying for only one term. If you are staying for the whole year you can request a study permit, which allows you to get a job. I also do not think you have time for a job when you are on exchange because when you are not busy with classes and school work you are out having fun with your friends and exploring the country. Try to save up as much a possible before!
How do you arrange housing once you are accepted abroad?
Lianne: There are a lot of websites which offer student rooms in the city centre where you can book them from abroad (e.g. Spotahome, Aluni). These websites are sponsored by the university and the rooms and owners are approved so you won’t get scammed. Lastly, if you’re thinking of going to Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, I would highly recommend getting a room close to the centre instead of staying in the official residences on campus. The campus housing is located far away from all the fun (and even supermarkets) and is highly expensive.
Anna: The housing application is a bit of a gamble. You can apply for student housing following the email instructions you will receive. However, there are so many applications to student housing that they cannot provide a guarantee that you will receive it. It is based on a lottery system. Luckily, students of Wageningen Univesity are priority students so we have a better chance to get it. Yet, I met quite a few students from the Netherlands and 1 from Wageningen who did not receive student housing. They are quite late by announcing whether you received student housing or not so then if you do not get it you only have a short amount of time to find another housing option. Luckily, I received student housing and am really happy about it because campus is a bit far from the rest of Vancouver and I have 2 classes starting at 8am. Also, it is a really nice and large campus so it is nice to live there and experience the campus life style.
If you are lucky, you get into the student housing program at the University of British Columbia, which causes that you receive a room in one of the campus buildings. However, if you did not get in, which is a real chance, there are a lot of Facebook groups for student housing in Vancouver. I heard from all of the students who did not get a room that they found their room via Facebook or via friends and relatives who have been in Vancouver before.
Thank you Lianne and Anna for answering these questions!