Hello, my name is Hilary and I am a third year law student currently on Erasmus for a whole year at the University of Vienna. I am here to give you some proper advice on preparing for Erasmus and why you should do it: none of the waffle that you hear on random websites. I am here to tell you the truth, MU student to MU student, current Erasmus student to future Erasmus student. This article is essentially all about things that people tell you not to do on Erasmus but will probably happen anyway so you might as well be prepared.
1) Booking everything you absolutely need at the last minute.
I am sure there is one of you out there saying:
‘OMG that’s so ridiculous, why would you do that?’
Hear me out, okay! If you are planning on spending your year abroad in Europe the deadline is the end of February. Last year we did not find out where we were studying until mid to late April which for most students was right in the middle of the deadline period for many assignments and exams. So, when I found out I got accepted to go to Vienna. I celebrated of course, told my friends and family but I had to put that aside to work on one of the many essays thrown at you in college.
As a result of this when I was finished college at the end of May and started looking for
accommodation, a lot of it was already taken as the applications for it were due during our
exam period. We all know what Maynooth is like, finding accommodation can be a
nightmare sometimes. So naturally, I wasn’t feeling too great about that.
Luckily, I managed to find student dorms near the university that I am very happy with.
My point being, you may think that you are applying for something like accommodation,
flights etc pretty early but in reality, it might not be as early as you may think.
2) The Learning Agreement you wrote in May will look completely different come
There will come a point during your Erasmus when you hear the words ‘learning agreement’ and you feel triggered. Basically, your learning agreement is a list of modules you plan to take when your on Erasmus.
The way the University of Vienna works is that they have a course catalogue to choose
courses to do there on your Erasmus. There are a few problems with this:it is something you need to adjust to as it is so different to Maynooth, you need to make your own timetable and it can be difficult to organise your classes and get enough credits to pass the year.
To anyone that may have this problem at their host university, my advice would be, to
register for as many classes as possible as early as possible. Don’t just register for the exact
amount because (from my experience) there will be a class or two that you won’t like and
will want to drop out from.
So, if you must change your learning agreement don’t stress about it, we’ve all done it.
3) You will probably get a fine or be close to getting a fine.
When it comes to getting a fine on the streets, European police will be like Oprah Winfrey:
“You get a fine, you get a fine, everyone gets a fine”.
You can get a fine for pretty much anything over here. I went to a party at a friend’s
apartment where they were playing music (that wasn’t even that loud) on a Friday night and the police were called and fined the tenants €40.
If you jaywalk on the street and are caught by the police, it is said that you will also be fined.
In Ireland, in order to get pretty much anywhere in the country by foot, it is necessary that
you cross the street before the green man shows up. If you don’t you will be there all day.
Don’t lie; you’ve done that at least once in your life.
However, it is different in Vienna, people actually wait to cross the street over here which
was hard to get used to when I arrived. I heard that you do get fined if you are caught
jaywalking, al though I have never seen it happen. Nobody is caught jaywalking here unless
they are rushing to get a tram that is just about to drive off on the far side of the street…so it
has to be true.
Even on small little roads with a traffic light that probably aren’t bigger than three meters and there are no cars in sight, people will wait for the green man to show up. So, save that
Erasmus grant and try to avoid a fine. Speaking of the Erasmus grant, let’s get to that.
4) The Erasmus grant will not suffice.
I hate to break this to you but the grant will not even come close to the amount of money you will need, my friend. Unless you plan on living on bread and water and sleeping in a box for the nine months, then fair enough, but that isn’t exactly a fun Erasmus year now is it?
My advice would be to get a part time job over the summer before Erasmus to try earn and
save as much as possible so you can sign up for and take part in as many trips, activities and nights out as you want.
5) There will be elements of your host country that you will prefer to Ireland.
I swear lads, Vienna’s public transport system would put Dublin Bus to shame. It is (now
prepare yourself for this next bit) RELIABLE. I know right, how shocking!
Also, something to know, (this will be good news for students) a certain beverage that
students have on nights out that most clubs and societies at Maynooth refer to as ‘grape juice’ is far cheaper over here than back home!
Also, if you choose to study in Vienna next year, prepare to be blown away by how amazing
the Christmas markets are. If you go to one of these and go to a stall for some ‘Glühwein’ or a hot chocolate, instead of a coffee cup, they give you a mug that you can either take home or give it back and they give you some of your money back which I thought was a great idea
because it is brilliant for the environment.
So yeah, there is nothing wrong with preferring things in your Erasmus country compared to home. Having said that though, you won’t prefer everything.
6) You will miss home in ways you will not expect.
Yes, most people tell you that you will be homesick, but it will surprise you what exactly will make you homesick. Of course, you will miss your family, that’s obvious.
However, you will also miss home comforts that you cannot get abroad such as a Dairy Milk
bar or a spice bag after a night out. For me it would be Kerrygold butter, ttrust me you’ll feel the same way next year. There will be things that you took for granted back home that you wouldn’t expect to miss.
I said to my roommate last week that I miss the rain back home (yeah, it’s that bad, I don’t
know why. It doesn’t rain that much here and now I miss it).
Also…Penneys. I miss having a Penneys ten minutes away from where I live.
Also, it might not feel the same watching the Late Late Toy Show in your apartment on RTE
Player compared to watching it on the sofa back home with the family.
But no matter where you decide to study abroad, Austria or Australia, Spain or Siberia, it is
something you will definitely not regret signing up for and your time abroad flies by, so you
will be back home in no time.
So just go for it and apply!