Ana-Maria Broscatan is an Erasmus+ Student Ambassador who spent a year abroad studying in Maastricht University in the Netherlands. She has just completed Law with Legal Studies in Europe at Reading University. She reflects on her experience and gives some handy hints to students going abroad or thinking about taking part.
1) It’s never too early
"If you haven’t thought about going on an Erasmus+ study or work placement, think again. If I could do it all over again, I would. Join your International Societies to get a taste of it before applying; this helped me to realise that it really was something I wanted to do.
2) Look at your options
Look for courses that complement your course at home and perhaps offer a different view point or topic. I managed to find exactly the area of Law that interested me which I couldn't do in the UK – Art Law – and that is now what I want to do with my future.
3) Embrace the differences
Be prepared to be taught in a different style; the lessons in Maastricht were much more structured than what I was used to in the UK. It was a little surprising at first, but I quickly realised that it allowed me to focus on my work. The examination structure and the duration of the courses were also different, but I believe that experiencing this made me a much more flexible and disciplined individual, and it prepared me well for my final year.
Maastricht is on the border with Belgium, so after a 1km cycle from the student accommodation, I was in another country.
4) Be practical
Learn to pack ridiculously lightly because this will save so much money when you travel! There will be flea markets for cheap essentials and you might find students who are leaving wanting to get rid of their stuff – I was able to get a chair and a desk for free this way.
5) Venture beyond your room
Once you’re abroad, make the most of all the opportunities that come your way. I went to every single event in Welcome Week; the International Student Network was brilliant and really helped me to settle in, they organised so many trips and activities to help me experience Dutch Culture. I never wasted a minute, whether it was staying out until sunrise, or going out on bike rides in the evening to explore other towns. I travelled like there was no tomorrow – which is much easier and cheaper to do on mainland Europe. There were people from so many different cultures there, and I just wanted to talk to all of them and to hear their stories.
6) A profound effect
When I started my year, I had the crisis that many students have of “what am I doing”, but I cannot recommend studying abroad enough. It will have a profound effect on you, personally and academically. Living in a different country exposes you to so many new opportunities and challenges, and it helps shape you into a brilliant individual. I thought I was independent by moving away from home to University, but I genuinely became independent and much happier with who I was when I studied abroad.
Main square in Maastricht
7) Reap the benefits
Now that I have started applying for jobs, they all ask about my Erasmus+ experience. It differentiates me from the majority of other candidates, and it’s something that I genuinely enjoyed, so I thoroughly like talking about it. Because I was able to study a range of subjects, I have become more well-rounded and I can offer numerous skills that I acquired abroad. Also, being around so many international students increases your cultural awareness and teaches you different ways of communicating with a range of people, something employers love."
I guarantee you’ll find new interests, new skills and some of the best friends you could wish for who will forever have a special place in your heart, and room on their sofa!
Thinking about going abroad? Check our Advice for participants section for more useful tips and resources.