Your 101 guide on applying for Erasmus

Lara Monahan provides a step by step guide on all things Erasmus

You’ve barely made a dent in the new pens and paper you bought at the beginning of the semester, but already Erasmus application deadlines are fast approaching. With all the excitement of the first semester back in college, it’s hard to think ahead to your Erasmus exchange next September. I remember this time well, and having just done my year abroad in Paris, I know it can feel incredibly overwhelming; here’s the seven things I wish I knew when I applied.

1. Meet your deadlines

God knows we have all sent that email at an ungodly hour begging a professor for an extension. It is practically a landmark college experience at this point. But with Erasmus applications – and ahem, with college work of course – submit the application, and any other admin, at least a few days early. Each Trinity department has its own internal Erasmus application process and deadline so make sure to find out when this is, and make a schedule for when you intend to have your application done and dusted. 

“Link up with someone who has done your Erasmus course the year before”

2. Find your forebears

When I spoke to other students who went on exchange last year, they unanimously agreed on one thing: how helpful it is to link up with someone who has done your Erasmus course the year before. As one of the students said, “a lot of the advice and paperwork will be quite niche” to the specific college and city you are wanting to go to; someone who has gone through it themselves last year will know how to navigate these niches. They might also have impressions of specific colleges, cities or even modules, helping you in the decision-making process. Seeking out these students might feel intimidating, but it will be worth it. 

3. Make a group chat

When navigating the admin of applying for Erasmus, the second-best thing to finding the students who have gone before you is finding the ones who will be going with you. Make a group chat and sort out your Learning Agreements (LA) together. It will feel a lot less demoralising knowing someone else is just as lost as you, and hey, they might just know their onions – or their zwiebeln, or cebollas. And of course, it’s great to know a friendly face when you reach your host university. You will look back with nostalgia together at the trials and tribulations of the application process, and look forward to the life-changing cultural experience, whether you end up sipping Glühwein in Germany or Sangria in Spain. 

4. Choose carefully, based on what kind of experience you want

When choosing which colleges to list in the application, take a step back and first consider what you want your year to look like. Student Ella Burkett encouraged prospective Erasmus students to “think about what your priorities are for a year abroad. Learning the language? Academics? The cultural experience?” Be honest with yourself about this, and consider which city or university would best serve these priorities. Research the academic vigour of each of the colleges, or the cultural experiences available in the city you are looking at, and decide which colleges to list from there. 

Eoin Adamson, a Computer Science and Language student who attended Université Côte d’Azur explained that he “thought more about the location” and suggested that students should “find out, is it difficult” and base their decision from there.

5. Our house. In the middle of which street?!

While some countries have internal systems which help students to find and pay for accommodation – for example, France has the CROUS residences and the CAF financial support system – don’t leave it too late to start researching your accommodation prospects. Once you have a place to live, the rest of the admin gets easier; something about knowing which size sheets to bring just makes things feel more real. 

“Your housing certainly doesn’t have to be perfect, but at the very least it should feel safe”

I am a big supporter of the sentiment “well, I’ll only be sleeping here”, and your housing certainly doesn’t have to be perfect, but at the very least it should feel safe. Even if it doesn’t seem like it now, you will feel the benefit of sacrificing having a bigger space for being in a more safe and central location.

 Another thing to consider when finding your accommodation is that some universities have multiple campuses; find out where most of your classes will be taking place and factor that into your decision too. 

6. Vis-à-vis visas: start early

Look into whether or not you need a visa early – and I mean pretty much as soon as you get your offer – and figure out how to get one. I spent a very unnecessarily stressful August going back and forth to the Wandsworth French visa centre ahead of my departure for my Erasmus course in France. Learn from my mistakes; don’t assume that just because you are doing an exchange within the Erasmus programme that you don’t need a visa. This process can take months, so getting started on it as early as possible is crucial. 

7. Don’t fear applying

A lot of people are put off applying because the allocation of places is based on previous academic performance. Let me reassure you: I personally know many students who were allocated places even though they didn’t fully meet the grade requirements. Plus – in the words of my mother – shy bairns get nowt! If you don’t ask, you don’t get. It could be you, and you will only find out if you apply.

“Grab this opportunity and don’t let go until your feet touch the Continent”

Don’t let fear hold you back from doing an Erasmus. The opportunity to live and study in another country, learn about another culture and gain invaluable independence doesn’t come around very often. I won’t lie to you – there will be a lot of administrative work, budgeting, and travel planning. But learning these life skills in the relatively sheltered environment of an Erasmus exchange will lend you a strength of character that supports you going forward, not only in college but in life. So grab this opportunity and don’t let go until your feet touch the Continent.