Before starting your Erasmus year
1. Get an ISIC card (International Student Identity Card)
With an ISIC card, you have access to over 150,000 student discounts and offers in around 130 countries. In most of the major European cities, the card could be used for getting cheaper public transportation as well.
2. Join the local Erasmus FB group
Looking for accommodation or new friends? Search for local Erasmus student groups - a lot of students will probably travel at the same time as you, why not meet them and share the experience?
3. Use apps to make travel easier and more fun
One thing you most likely won’t leave behind is your smartphone. There’s now literally an app for anything, and travel is no exception. Not too long ago we wrote about some of our favourite travel apps to make your travel easier and more fun.
4. Plan your trip carefully
Check out some of the mistakes you want to avoid while travelling. Crunch some numbers and take a good look at your bank account, as well as checking if you can freely use your credit card while abroad - extra fees are never fun! You may want to swing-by your doctor before you go, he can perhaps give you advice on any vaccines you may need, as well as getting an extra prescription, if you’re on some special meds. Making sure you’re covered under a health insurance plan is also crucial, as well as sorting what’s covered and what isn’t.
5. Make sure all your travel documents are up-to-date
As obvious as this may seem to you - make sure your passport doesn’t expire while you’re abroad and that you’ve covered all visa requirements. Otherwise you may travel only as far as the airport and back. Take a look at the embassy website of the country to which you’re headed, as well as any others you plan to visit during your Erasmus stay.
6. Think “smart packing”
No matter how long you’re going for, it’s never too early to get accustomed to the idea that you’ll have to leave a lot behind. You can always buy the small necessities once you get there, so only take what’s absolutely necessary - considering clothing, bear the weather in mind. You might consider packing your dusty raincoat if you’re heading to Paris for instance. Or London. Or Berlin. Just bring that raincoat with you, will you!
7. Inquire on your eligibility for an Erasmus grant
The amount will vary depending on your country of origin and destination, as well as your level of studies and travel purpose. It can be a huge help for food and housing. But please note that If you’re going abroad to study, make sure you actually do register at an academic institution, otherwise you may have to pay the grant back.
8. Consider buying a pre-paid SIM card at your arrival
What would we do without the internet nowadays? Cheap, prepaid SIM cards are available at every corner and may help you save some cash on your cell phone bill. The alternative would be to rely almost entirely to WiFi, which would greatly depend on where you’re going to. Sofia for example has WiFi pretty much anywhere - out in the streets, in public transit, parks, coffee shops, restaurants… can’t say the same for Germany.
9. Keep in touch
Leaving home is different for anyone. You may not think about it now, but feeling homesick is part of the game. With Whatsapp, Viber and Skype, staying in touch with your friends and family has never been easier!
10. Learn a foreign language
Just because you can get by speaking mostly English, it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t or you can’t use your time abroad to pick up the local language. Your new friends will love and appreciate your effort and you’ll find it very rewarding for yourself as well! Trust me, I’m a Frenchman.
11. Discover the local food scene
Deborah Cater said that “you have to taste a culture to understand it”. I have nothing to add. Again, I’m a Frenchman.
12. Explore the city
New countries are necessarily different from your hometown. Use this opportunity to go around the city - or even the country! Whether it’s culture, history, or simply unique landscapes, there are tons of stuff that you can explore. Try something new every week. Don’t forget to take pictures, they’ll be some of your most precious memories after your trip!
13. Take part in local events
Joining local events will make you feel like a local. You’ll meet and blend with the folk and perhaps even discover a new “home”. Check the Free Tours, concerts, shows, and even simply going to a local bar. And perhaps the best advice that I could give you is that while you’re away, say “yes” to everything - you won’t regret. Except Amsterdam - I can think of a thing or two where you could probably think twice ...before saying “yes”.
14. Buy a few tissues before coming back
There’s a French saying that goes something like “In the north of France, you cry twice: once you get there and once when you leave”. You’ll be happy to come back home, but leaving probably won’t be as easy as you think.
Simply put, your Erasmus trip will be one of the best experiences in your life - as long as you are well-prepared for it. Subscribe to stay tuned - we regularly post cool travel tips and useful information.