Do you want to make the best of your Erasmus (or any other abroad) experience? If you are active you can really have the year of your life!!
I have been organizing stuff for Erasmus for 5 years already, and I have seen that most of them are quite passive, they don't look for activities or things to do unless it's really shown in shiny colours in front of them. Same goes with University information, you will be surprised how many people start asking you things about subjects of their respective faculty before ever having googled the Uni website.
And don't even get me started on people who don't know exactly where is their dorm or Uni until they arrive at their destination!
I was an Erasmus too and instead of being part of the passive mass I started this website and organized tours and travelled to more than 20 countries, all for around 430€ per month!! You can see in an objective way that I made the most of my time in Slovakia.
So, instead of complaining about passive people and being a useless article, I will make a list of things to do if you want to become an active foreigner and have the best of your time!!
1) Know where you are going
Before choosing the destination, make a list with several options and evaluate each of them, in my case I had 6 values to rate:
1) Language of studies
2) City location
3) City life
4) University quality
5) Price of living
6) Options of traveling.
So, I ended up choosing Bratislava because: Studies were in English, it’s in the centre of Europe, It's a medium sized capital and "Partyslava" is its nickname, CU University had a lot of hospital practices instead of theoretical lessons, Dorm+Food+Transport= 130€ per month, between Vienna and Budapest airports. My second option was Olomouc (Cz Rep) for similar reasons.
Mistakes I have seen in this point: Choosing Kuopio (Finland) and later rejecting it because not realizing classes were in Finnish, choosing "University of Prague in HK" not knowing HK is not Prague but Hadrec Kralove (130 km from it), Coming to study Mechatronic Eng. in Zaragoza (faculty of which is 40km from the city)
2) Open. A. Map.
We live in XXI century, Google Maps exist... USE IT! Use it even before choosing the final destination to know the position of the dorms, the uni... and once you have chosen it... Learn the city! Locate hospitals, train/bus stations and other places of interest!!
People in my Erasmus still had hard time with the central streets even after 1 year living there or people were surprised when I told them that the biggest ski resort in Spain is just 2h away from Zaragoza (Even if Pyrenees are present in every map)
I created custom maps for Zaragoza and Bratislava, so you can get the idea.
3) Read previous experiences
If you google "Erasmus in ******" for sure you will find a ton of small blogs of people telling their story. Read some of them, you may learn which are the coolest bars, how to avoid taxi rip-offs and some hidden secrets! It's also really useful since they often mention which apps are the best to get around the city.
I recommend Erasmusu.com for starting to check personal experiences
4) Schedule fast
The beginning is a bit chaotic, I give you that... but the sooner you get your accommodation, the transport card, your class schedule and exam period... the better you are going to live!
Second week I made a timetable and thanks to it I was able to travel every single week without neglecting my marks or other plans!
5) Meet as much people as you can the first days
In the first weeks, everybody is friend of everybody, but as the months go by, people who you got wasted with won't talk much to you since they got another group. That's why it is so important to meet as much people as you can in the first parties/events, maybe later you become closer with another group and not your initial one!
Common mistake: if you don't go out the first weeks, people won't count on you for next parties. Even if discos are not your passion, I really recommend going out the first weeks for the sake of your future social life.
6) Organize Stuff!!
Do not wait for local international associations to organize a trip to somewhere... do it yourself! Many travel agencies will even offer you a 100% discount if you can bring 10 or more people to their tours (like StudentTripNetwork)! Or simply with your closest friends... Rent a car!! Choose a city to discover! Make a traveling group!
For example, Barcelona is just 1h away by train from Zaragoza, yet some people don't go there if there is not a big event... and will return later paying for plane tickets.
7) Be Active
Being active is not just dancing until 7am when going out, it means joining several activities and meeting with your friends often! Do you like basketball or football? Then why not join the university team or even make an Erasmus one? Or go to the tourism office of your city and get to know several weekly activities or workshops (like photography, dancing, hiking...), or come to my tours if you want to have a nice day!
8) Plan your studies
Don't be a donkey, plan how you will study! Asking your local classmates will really help! They can give you notes and tell you which subject is hard and which is not (For example Geriatric Medicine exam is harder than Surgery in my faculty). It's also important to know deadlines for your different works, and above all, have good communication with your Erasmus coordinator!
I hope this helps you to make the most of your Erasmus stay, remember that if you are twice active, you live twice more!!
Welcome to the place where you can learn about the coolest things and places of Europe and beyond in a funny way!