Erasmus: The How To Guide

Rachel breaks down all you need to know about studying abroad with Erasmus

Written by Rachel O'Neill


What is Erasmus?

The European Region Action Scheme for the of Mobility of University Students is an exchange programme for EU students which was created in 1987. It allows students to spend one or two semesters abroad in an EU university of their choice. The student is given a grant from the programme depending on the country that they’re studying in and the length of time that they’re studying for.

What is the purpose of Erasmus?

Roughly 3 million students have taken part in the Erasmus programme. The purpose of it is to broaden student’s horizons by allowing them to live in a different country and experience life there. With approximately 4,000 institutions taking part in the programme, the possibility of immersing yourself in a new culture and opening doors to new opportunities has never been stronger.

Why should I consider doing an Erasmus? 

Some courses especially any that have a language element to them will require you to spend a year abroad in the country of the language that you’re learning. For those of you who do have to do one, an Erasmus can open up many doors for you. Competition in the job market is ever increasing and anything that makes you stand out as an applicant is good. Employers may look favourably on the fact that you’ve spent time in another culture or made the effort to challenge yourself by living alone in another country. It’s also possible that the institution that you choose to study in abroad can offer you certain courses that you would not have access to in Ireland.  

How do I apply for Erasmus?

Firstly, you need to make sure that your degree programme/college allows you to partake in the Erasmus programme. Some universities in Europe may not have programmes that match up to the courses you would miss if you were to study abroad.

For example: I wanted to study in Europe as a Neuroscience student but very few institutions offered the modules that I needed in order for my university to allow me to study there. Without those modules, my credits would not be recognised and therefore I would not pass the year.

Irish institutions will generally have agreements with certain institutions in Europe where you can carry out your Erasmus and gain the number of credits required for you to pass the year. You can find out which institutions your college has an agreement with by checking with your International Office or looking at your college’s website.

Once you’ve found an institution to study in, you need to contact the Erasmus administrator in your school (science, arts, engineering etc.) and make sure that your credits will match up. You will then have to fill out an application form with your international office before a deadline (usually around February). Your international office/coordinator will then contact your host institution in Europe and they should contact you directly. They will then set out what you have to do to finish the application process.

How do I find accommodation?

Some host institutions have on-campus accommodation that you apply for via their international office. Check their website to see what accommodation is on offer in the area. Accommodation in Europe is generally cheaper than Ireland depending on where you go so do keep that in mind.

What does my grant cover?

Depending on which country you move to you will receive either €220 or €270 a month. This is used to cover living costs like food, travel etc. Accommodation costs will generally have to be covered by you.  In order to obtain the grant, you must fill in all forms from your home university including the Erasmus Grant Financial Agreement and the Arrival Certificate which tells your home institution that you have arrived in the host institution. If you are living abroad for one semester, you will received 100% of your grant as soon as you fill in all the required paperwork. If you’re living abroad for two semesters, you receive 80% at the start and the remaining 20% in the second semester.

What is the learning agreement?

Your learning agreement is the agreement between your home and host institutions that the modules/programmes you’re taking will be recognised as part of your degree. Any changes that you wish to make to the modules you’re studying must be signed off on by your Erasmus coordinator at home and your coordinator in your host institution.

Do I have to take a language test?

This depends on your degree programme. Those going on Erasmus to study a language will have to take a language test before you go to assess your fluency. Depending on these results, you may be eligible to take an online language course that will be tested at the end of your exchange. Your host institution may also ask you to learn the language of the country depending on how credits are assigned. This depends on the host institution and your degree programme.

I’ve arrived in my institution; What do I do next?

You’ll need to register with your host institution and sign all necessary forms like the arrival certificate etc. You may also have to register with the city you’re living in order to pay certain taxes (Example: the TV/radio tax in Germany). It is also a good idea to register with the Irish embassy of the country you’re living in.

Can I drop out of the programme?

If you do not complete at least 3 months of the programme, you will have to repay your grant in its entirety unless it’s exceptional circumstances. In exceptional circumstances like a natural disaster, you will only have to repay the money you’ve spent. With credits and modules, it depends on your home institution. 

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