A simple glance at your newspaper of choice is all that is needed for a reminder of the uncertainty over Britain’s future within the European Union and especially a lack of clarity of Cameron’s renegotiation plans. Whilst the ramifications of a Brexit would be far wider reaching than simply impacting students’ ability to have a jolly in Europe for a year, a Brexit could signal the end, or at least a fundamental change, in the Erasmus experience for UK students.
Having no access to student loans and requirements to pay full tuition fees (EU nationals are currently exempt) as well as stringent visa rules and sponsorship requirements are all examples of barriers that would be imposed following a Brexit. These financial changes could prevent or dissuade a significant number of students other than those relying on financial support from their family.
Current or soon to be students could be the last of the breed. You should therefore harness any opportunity to embark on an Erasmus year and there are infinite reasons why. The atmosphere in Europe has arguably never been so electric. The debate not just over Britain’s future, but over the future of the EU as a whole is raging fiercely and you really do feel this within whichever community you live. If enthralling political debate doesn’t capture your enthusiasm there are of course many other reasons. These predominantly come in the form of ‘cultural experiences’. The obvious examples of sauntering along the seine a Paris or indulging in Berlin’s music scene don’t even begin to do justice. In fact the likes of Timeout and Lonely Planet will appear drab against your diary or scrapbook of adventures. Possibly the biggest pro-Erasmus argument is the diversity and dynamism of people that you will meet, rivalling even the assortment of characters on offer during freshers.
Hopefully you will be interested and perhaps even excited about the academics of it all too. Studying in a foreign language is actually surprisingly challenging and teaching methods are distinctly different. Like the variety of cultural distractions, each country and institution is unique. The comfort that you get so accustomed to at British universities is quickly displaced. Anyone considering France will have to endure the wonders of French administration and the possibility of four-hour long lectures starting at 5pm. However students take the most from these challenges because you are forced out of the confines of your own security and exposed to whole new approaches. Final year will certainly feel a whole lot more relaxed by comparison. In an odd way these challenges help focus your own specific career or life ambitions and of course being able to demonstrate strong academic performance combined with international experience are skills that graduate employers absolutely relish.
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Anyone can travel to another country for a period of time and immerse him/herself in culture. But not everyone can study abroad as facilitated so easily through the Erasmus programme. Brexit could deny this opportunity to many students and what a pity that would be. If you have or will have the chance then there is no reason for idle contemplation. Get started by talking to your academic or study abroad department, browse the Erasmus website and the many blogs for inspiration or feel free to contact myself with any thoughts.
Contact Tavistock Tutors for more information.