So, you didn’t get in to your first choice…

It’s the day the results come through. You’re sat, refreshing your email to see if MyPlacement has been updated and you can finally find out where you’re going to study abroad. Which university will I be allocated to? Which city will I next call home? Sydney, Melbourne, Hong Kong?? The anticipation is palpable. 

For me, I had my heart set on Paris. I know you’re supposed to be prepared to go to any of 8 top choices, but naïvely, I’d already fallen in love with the idea of strolling down the Seine during lunch breaks, taking in the cityscape with my morning baguette and visiting galleries on the weekend. In my head, my top choice of partner university, was the only choice I was going to be happy with. 

Then look, it’s an email from the IPO, new activity on MyPlacement. Here we go, Seine, galleries, baguettes…. Oh. Jean Jaures in Toulouse… Well, it’s still France, I told myself. I can still take a train up to the capital, I tried to reassure myself.

I won’t deny the initial disappointment. I was so set on my first choice that I hadn’t properly considered my other chosen destinations. After a couple of hours of moping around because of the allocation and a few encouraging words from my family, I decided to let go of my initial envision of my study abroad and start focusing on my new reality. Once I detached myself from being solely invested in one destination, it all changed.  

My eyes were opened to this new city, this new university, this new adventure. I started exploring Toulouse on Google Street View, investigating the best bars and clubs, looking into the different societies at my partner university and started falling  for the little quirks of my new city. I was excited in a whole new way. Unlike when I was considering going abroad or filling out my application, now, I had a confirmed place. These Google Street tours and university Facebook pages would soon be a reality. I was reassured with the knowledge that every partner university was Manchester approved. Even if it was not where I thought I would end up, I was guaranteed a high standard of teaching and a location, full of opportunities for international students. Realising that adventure lay in all potential destinations, taught me a whole new approach to study abroad. There will always be unpredictability when going away, but this doesn’t need to sour your experience. What actually affects your enjoyment of your time abroad, is how you respond to that change in circumstance. I learnt to make the most of whatever situation I landed in whilst I was away and most of the time, situations that may have seemed initially disappointing, normally worked out for the better.   

To anyone else who may be disappointed or worried about not being allocated their first choice, I would like you to know, what truly makes study abroad great, is universal across all of Manchester’s partner universities. For me, at the heart of study abroad is meeting students from across the world, living in a foreign culture and environment, learning your degree from an international perspective and challenging yourself. Whether you’re going to be studying in one of the campuses across the USA, or you’ll be moving into a high-rise flat in Singapore or your weekends will be spent in the mountains of Norway, you will all experience the fundamental qualities that make study abroad great. So, just know, regardless of if you are allocated your 1st, 3rd or even your 8th choice, there is an incredible adventure waiting for you. 

I ended up having the most amazing time in Toulouse and I’m planning on returning after I’ve graduated. I strolled down the Garonne on my lunch breaks, took in the medieval architecture and always had my morning baguette. I even got in my weekend trip up to Paris, the city I was initially so disappointed to miss out on. However, now, when I look back on my allocation, I wouldn’t have had it any other way.

Returning to Budapest and having to quarantine!

By Nicolas Purslow, ELTE University

Coming back to Budapest in February 2021 was a little tricky, as it was right in the middle of the third COVID wave. Hungary was only allowing people with certain exemptions to enter the country, and one of those justifications was if you were returning to study. To prove this, I had to get a certificate of student status from my ERASMUS coordinator in Budapest and then apply for permission to cross the border from the Hungarian police. Thankfully, the process was pretty straightforward, and I received my permission the day after applying for it.

At the airport, I just had to show my permission slip and sign a couple of forms, and there were no issues in getting through customs.

I was required to quarantine in my flat for 10 days upon arrival, which obviously wasn’t ideal as I was looking forward to seeing my friends (you were allowed gatherings of ten people at the time). However, my courses were well underway (wholly online) and I also had a part-time job that I was doing remotely, so I had plenty to do. It was a bit frustrating not being able to go outside when the weather was nice, but it was worth it when I was able to enjoy the sunshine when my quarantine was over.

For anyone in a similar position, I’d recommend having an understanding of the administrative requirements for getting into the country (your coordinator in your host country should be able to help with this). I’d also suggest that you have something that will keep you busy during your quarantine, whether that’s academic study, remote work or something else that you can focus your attention on!

Budapest Airport – Covid travelling measures
Temperature checks at the airport
ELTE University

A Semester of Socialising

By Nicholas Purslow

When I first arrived in Budapest, I was expecting to only meet people through classes or societies. However, multiple Facebook and WhatsApp groups were created to accommodate the incoming Erasmus students and to ensure that everyone had a chance of making new friends. Even better were the welcome events, particularly those run by Erasmus Life Budapest, a company set up specifically to run social events for Erasmus students in Budapest. They run around five events per week, and this was especially helpful in the early days when I was keen to meet as many people as possible.


Once I met my group of friends (mostly Belgian, with a few English and Irish people), there was no shortage of parties to attend. Pre-lockdown, the clubs were never quiet, with the “Morri Mondays” at the Morrisons 2 Club being a particular weekly highlight throughout the first semester. In terms of one-off events, I hold particularly fond memories of a party at the Citadella (drinking with views of the whole city in the evening light), and a Halloween party at the Instant club. I’m not one for photos, so you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say a good time was had by all!
As for the more boring stuff, the Google Translate app, with its photo-scanning capabilities, is a lifesaver for trying to read food packaging in supermarkets. I’d also recommend downloading the BKK Futar app, as it will tell you which bus/metro to get on if you want to get to a particular destination.


All in all, I had a great time during my first semester in Budapest. I’m not sure what the second semester will be like, as the Covid restrictions are getting tighter over there, but if my experience is limited to the first semester, I’ll have no regrets about my decision to take part in the Erasmus programme!

See the source image

What to Expect Coming to Bergen…

By Blake O’Sullivan

When preparing for Bergen I knew that nature and the incredible views were in abundance, however what I did not know was just how quickly you will be thrown into it. Luckily, due to me studying geology and geography, I was somewhat prepared by bringing with me boots, fleeces, hiking trousers and other hiking wear. 

Me on Trolltunga

Hiking was the best way to meet new people here, as in our accommodation group chat people constantly said they were meeting up to go on hikes and whoever wanted to join was more than welcome. So hiking is definitely the best way to meet people and to explore the stunning scenery that is directly behind your accommodation. I live in Hatleberg which is situated behind multiple hiking paths ready for you to tackle and to start your way through the 7 mountains of Bergen. Within the first few weeks of being there I was already on my way to hike 16km to Trolltunga, one of the most famous view points in Norway. Though the hikes can be tough you are all soon to realise that you can take these hikes as leisurely as you want during summer and have no real rush to the end especially if you are camping. However hiking in winter is a different story as you are racing against the sun.

My friends and I on a city break to Stavanger

If you don’t want to spend a lot of money on equipment, like most students in Norway as it is pretty expensive, you can use BUA. BUA is a hiking rental service and for students under 20 they rent to you for free, from tents, boots to sleeping bags. But even if you are over 20yr it is only around £10 for a sleep bag to rent for a week. You can also pay for a membership with the university hiking group BSI Friluft. The membership means that you can sign up for there weekly hiking trips, whether it be camping, climbing, kayaking, they do it all. If you are a member you can also rent equipment it from them. 

If you don’t like hiking don’t let this put you off as you soon adapt and find that everyone is on the same level but obviously you get those people who are use to hiking but remember to take it at your own pace. I have had many enjoyable non hiking trips to city’s and towns and that is what matters as well.

Conquering Personal Boundaries

By Holly Tran, Summer School in South Korea, Seoul National University

Having spent more than 18 years of my life in a tiny village up North West of England, I have always resided cozily within my little comfort zone. Last year, I decided to make a change. In order to further challenge myself, I took the opportunity to study abroad at the Seoul National University (SNU) in South Korea.

holly0
(Gyeongbokgung Palace)

Continue reading “Conquering Personal Boundaries”

Sevilla – more than just a touristic destination

By Ayoola Bode, Summer School in Spain (Sevilla)

For as long as I can remember, Spain has been the number one destination on my wish list. Maybe it has something to do with my obsession with Spanish music, culture and lifestyle, but when the opportunity came to apply for the summer school in Seville, it was an opportunity that I wasn’t going to let pass me by. What more could I ask for? It was the perfect chance to further develop my Spanish skills while being in a city that I could see myself being culturally immersed in.

Ayool

Continue reading “Sevilla – more than just a touristic destination”

Erasmus, disabilities and long-term health conditions

As a former exchange student and a student with a disability, I thought I knew all there was to know about the funding and support available to disabled students, but alas I was wrong.  Indeed, there are more options than I first thought.

When I decided I wanted to go on exchange, I was adamant I did not want to study in Europe and instead wanted to go as far away as possible, as I felt this would make the most of my time away.  Since I have been back, I have found out more about the options available in Europe, which are particularly helpful to those who feel they would be unable to study abroad due to their health condition, without the help of additional funding.  Whilst I am fortunate that my disability proved fairly unproblematic, as I didn’t have to transport equipment or copious different medications, had I realised the benefits to staying in Europe, I might have given it a chance.

What benefits?

Firstly, is the additional funding available through Erasmus+.  Not only are you entitled to the Erasmus grant, but you are also able to apply for a higher amount to help cover additional costs arising as a result of your health.  Whilst there is no absolute guarantee that you will be awarded this additional sum, it is worth considering, especially as there is no set limit of funding through this avenue.

Secondly, is ‘other funding’.  This is quite difficult to access information on but worth exploring. For some courses, it is possible to obtain funding from private bodies, notably Google have scholarships for technology-based degrees, but there will be different options available to you, depending on your course.  It is also worth contacting different societies (e.g. the Epilepsy Society) and charities to see if they are able to help. It isn’t always possible, but you may find they are able to help, especially if you are willing to promote their cause.

Thirdly, is proximity to home.  As I have already mentioned, I wanted to get as far away as possible and it is absolutely possible to do this with a disability or health condition.  This said it is worth thinking about the likelihood of problems with your health- if you are really unwell its much easier to fly home for the weekend, or for a hospital appointment if you are in Poland compared with New Zealand!

Finally, is the law (sorry, I am a law student, so it had to be said!).  Although the laws in European countries do differ, there is a greater consistency when compared to other parts of the world.  There are some clear benefits of European laws, including the prohibition of discrimination on the grounds of disability (EU Charter of Fundamental Rights) and the protection of rights of persons with disabilities (UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities).  Interestingly, the EU is currently contemplating a European Accessibility Act, which aims to increase accessibility for all, but with a particular focus on education, which could make a huge difference to those with disabilities and health conditions studying in Europe. Of course, there are many countries with disability legislation of their own and so this maybe be unproblematic, but I would really recommend having a look at the protections legislation can offer you in your desired country.  Remember, what is considered a disability in the UK may not be considered a disability in another country!

My Advice

There is definitely more to consider when applying to study abroad when you have a disability or long-term health condition, but it doesn’t make it impossible.  The greatest advice I can offer to students thinking of embarking on an exchange is to first disclose your condition to the university and more specifically the exchange office and secondly, to really consider all options.  I have friends who studied in Europe and absolutely loved their time there- it doesn’t really matter where you go, it is what you do with your time that will shape your exchange.

Sorcha

 

The End

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

My first ending was my last haircut which was followed by ‘have a safe flight back and do come visit!’ a bit absurdly premature at that point since I still had another 2 monthes to go till D-day but it felt poignant nonetheless. From them on I tried to experience everything with the consciousness that time was running out and everything was a special moment worth savouring; an exhausting ambition. Also very hard to do, when you spend the large part of a year investing a lot of time, emotion and energy into carefully crafting a little belonging in a new place and you get to the comfortable place of starting to take this for granted, it feels completely counter-intuitive to throw all that effort into peril by telling yourself it will all soon just come to a halt. Much like wiling away ours melting chocolate, mixing ingredients, baking the bases of a cake with three different icings and toppings which you bring together to make a tremendous three-tier layer cake. Then the point at which you have laid out the plates to eat it and the knife is poised to serve it, you abruptly stand up and throw it in the bin. And the weirdest thing is: you are vegan (true story) and were never going to eat it in the first place! You new this peculiar fact from the first bag of sugar but got carried away with the exhilarating baking process so that it was still mega painful to watch that masterpiece topple out of sight.  I may have veered a little off-piste with that metaphor but it is to stress the weirdness that is having an end date on a life which you are ending on one level wilfully and on another with a lot of sadness (I realise this sounds a bit like I am talking about suicide, which is also more dramatic than I intend)

Continue reading “The End”

RE-ENTRY: Part 2 of a year in Melbourne

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

I was apprehensive about returning to Melbourne for second semester after being so rudely abandoned by my family. This is actually not really a matter of jest; it was truly one of the most traumatic experiences of all my young years. The shock of leaving home was muffled by the adrenaline of starting afresh in a new land and having no clue what waited for me on the other side of the plane. Getting used to this new life and being reunited with my family who got an insight into it, before then upping and leaving again was something quite different.

Continue reading “RE-ENTRY: Part 2 of a year in Melbourne”

End of Semester 1 Reflections

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

It has taken longer than I thought to feel I have grasped something of what it feels like to live in Melbourne. The city feels pretty vast; the CBD itself is rather compact but the extensive suburbs make Melbourne feel much bigger. As is often the case with Uni life, it is equally as easy to busy yourself with your neighbourhood and the campus and look no further. But do!!

Continue reading “End of Semester 1 Reflections”

Academic Differences

Astrid Kitchen – Social Anthropology – University of Melbourne – Australia

The participation expected of students at Melbourne is very different from my experience at Manchester. It’s hard to pin this down to cultural differences or differences in the standards of the universities themselves, since Melbourne is regarded the best in the country. It may also be the result of differences in degree programs as I have chosen modules from different disciplines outside of Anthropology, such as Politics. Either way, my experience is students are far more self-assured and articulate and so engage in debate constantly in tutorials and lectures of their own accord.

Continue reading “Academic Differences”