A semester abroad is a great opportunity to explore a different culture and improve your language skills. With Erasmus, you can study at a different university for free and also get financial support to pay for the living costs. If you are thinking to do one or two semesters abroad, then it can be hard to choose where you would like to study. Especially if your university has quite a few partner universities across Europe, you will need to make a decision between different cities.
So, here is an overview of the best destinations for an Erasmus.
If you think of Portugal, then the first city that comes to your mind is probably Lisbon. Although it is definitely worth a visit, Porto might be actually the better choice for your Erasmus. It is the second biggest city in Portugal but not as overrun as Lisbon yet. The living costs are low, and with a bit of luck and some Portuguese you will be able to find a flat right in one of the old houses in the city centre.
Generally, Portugal ranks very high among other European countries when it comes to the quality of life. Porto is located next to the river Douro and close to beautiful beaches where you can do surf courses that have lots of discounts for Erasmus students.
At night, the streets will turn into a busy nightlife, especially the Rua da Galeria de Paris. And the nights in Porto are long. Usually, you won’t go out for pre-drinks before midnight as the clubs won’t be busy before late morning. So, you are not very likely to find anyone on the streets before 10am.
So, if you don’t mind late night outs, then Porto is the perfect mix of stunning architecture, history, summer weather and student-friendly living costs.
Also this city is probably not the first one you might think of when you hear France. However, it is a secret jewel for Erasmus students. Located in the south-east, most of Lyon is registered as UNESCO World Heritage site. With over 2000 years of Roman architecture, this city is perfect for your Erasmus if you love photography. Take a walk through the secret passageways that were once built for merchants or visit the Basilica of Notre-Dame de Fourvière.
The living costs are a bit more expensive than Porto, but still reasonable for an Erasmus semester. Although Lyon is not located close to a beach, you have the mountains right next to you and different national parks. And you can enjoy those warm summer nights either at the Rhône or the Saône river in one of the many cafes which offer exceptional food, giving Lyon its reputation for being the gastronomical capital of France.
Although Eastern Europe has a lot to offer, it is often underrated among students when they choose an Erasmus destination. However, Eastern Europe has a rich culture which differentiates from the UK, so your Erasmus will be for sure an experience. One of the best destinations for that is Bratislava.
The capital of Slovakia is surrounded by mountains, and its city centre is for pedestrians only. The city’s architecture is a mix between medieval, gothic and communist-era blocks, providing you with all kinds of Eastern European styles.
If your budget is tight, then Bratislava is the right Erasmus for you, as the living costs are generally very low. Especially when it comes to food and drinks, you won’t need to worry about spending too much. A pint ranges from 1-3€, making the city very student-friendly. It has a vivid nightlife and is always worth a visit for its Christmas market.
Another advantage of Bratislava is that Vienna and Budapest are right around the corner. It’s just a one-hour ride by train to Austria’s capital which has by far higher living costs than Bratislava. Also, when it comes to living quality, Slovakia’s capital is more authentic than Vienna’s, since there are fewer tourists. Although you might be a bit sceptical of an Eastern Europe Erasmus, it is definitely worth it.
It always takes some confidence to get out of your comfort zone and study abroad. Erasmus is an excellent opportunity to do a semester abroad, even if your budget is low. Once you have decided on a city, you can then start to look out for accommodation. Always take a look where the university halls are – sometimes they are quite far away from the city centre.
When you search for a flat, then you should be careful with agencies as they usually offer flats at a much higher price. Even if you don’t speak the language, you can try to set up an account on a property site. With some luck, you will find a much cheaper flat, and you will potentially share it with native speakers.
Also, if you are from the UK, you will need to keep an eye on the further Brexit developments. If you are still able to do an Erasmus after Brexit, you will need to organise a few other things, not just your flat. For example, your European Health Insurance Card might not entitle you to free healthcare anymore in some, or more likely all, of these cities after 2020. Thus, you will need to make sure that you invest in travel insurance before you spend the semester in Europe.
Banking is also something to keep an eye on, as you will likely not be able to use your current UK bank account abroad – without substantial charges and fees, that is. So, consider looking into a temporary foreign student bank account or travellers account, so that you can easily and freely access your money for the duration of the semester.
Apart from the cities mentioned above, there are also a lot of other destinations that are certainly worth studying abroad. For example, if you love snow and don’t mind the cold, then Örebro in Sweden is a hotspot for students. Even if your choice of partner universities is limited, your Erasmus is always going to be an experience that you won’t regret.