Hello! Welcome to what I hope will be a very useful and (maybe) enjoyable blog on my year studying at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands. My name is Kyle Taylor and I’m a third year History and Politics student from Belfast, Northern Ireland. I’ve only been here for one month but I have already met the most wonderful people and had very enjoyable experiences. BUT before I get to that, we have some administrative stuff to get through…
Many students are anxious about the application process to study abroad, though do not fret too much. I urge you to attend the Study Abroad Fair and various College events. I received great advice from previous Erasmus students. If you are confident about where you want to go, I really encourage you to try and get into contact with people who have gone there before. I managed to get into contact with two students who had also studied History at Radboud University, and their advice about courses, applications (and the best local bars!) was invaluable. In terms of the paperwork, you may hear rumours that there is a mountain of it but in reality it’s just a steep hill. Keep in contact with the Study Abroad team and your coordinators if you have any problems and you will not need to worry! If you’re feeling particularly desperate, you can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org and I will try to help you.
Courses & Destinations
In terms of courses, you would do well to check thoroughly the options you have available in countries you will potentially go to. It’s all well and good going to Miami for the weather and the bars but it won’t be great when you find out you haven’t got a lot of course options! As partner institutions of Glasgow University, any institution you go to should have enough course choices to fulfill your credit requirements. In any case, check with your course coordinator that these choices are appropriate for your programme of study in order to receive credit for your time abroad. I chose the Netherlands for a few reasons. The course options were diverse and interesting, it provides brilliant access to travelling to neighbouring countries (my flatmates and I cycled to Germany last week!), and I wanted to experience a culture completely different to that which I am used to. One month in, I can say that the Netherlands has provided all of this and more! You may have a number of options of where to study and can rank these in order of preference. I was fortunate in that I did not use my 2nd or 3rd preferences and secured my 1st choice. However it would be valuable to have other options in the off chance that you do not secure your 1st place. For example, I have another friend here on Erasmus exchange from the UK and Radboud University was her 5th (5TH!) choice, but is having a fantastic time. Keep your options open!
Pre-Departure & Accommodation
Once I got over the initial spasms of over-excitement at being accepted to study abroad, it was not long before preparation began. I researched the options for accommodation during my stay, and wherever you go you are likely to have similar options. The most common and straightforward is to go into student halls of accommodation like you may have stayed in at Glasgow in 1st year. This is what I opted for. In most places you go, you’re likely to have the cheap and cheerful option and the more luscious and pricey option. I went for the former, staying at a 16-room flat in Hoogeveldt (355 EURO per month). I figured that the less money I spent on accommodation, the more I would have left to spend travelling through Europe. I was asked to rank accommodation in order of preference. The earlier you apply, the more likely it is that you will be accepted to your halls of choice (with priority given to us internationals!). The other option is to go private. This may work out cheaper for you, though it may be more complicated to arrange flat-shares from overseas and arrange contract signings etc. Though if you wish to do this, most cities should have a forum or Facebook group where people arrange private accommodation. It’s entirely up to you. In terms of paying for accommodation, I cannot recommend Transferwise enough. I had to pay for my first month’s rent before departing, and instead of paying a a 25 quid overseas transfer charge from Santander, Transferwise sliced it down to less than 4 quid. Tasty.
Flights & Final Preparation
I booked my flights as soon as I was accepted for accommodation and my start date was confirmed. The earlier you do this, the cheaper your flights will be. Make sure you are aware of train/bus schedules if you need to travel further once your flight has arrived. I booked my flight for Amsterdam Schiphol Airport and reserved a train ticket from the airport to Nijmegen the same evening. It pays to do this in advance as some departures may be fully booked when you arrive! If you are going on Erasmus, you should absolutely order a European Health Insurance Card. It is free to order and will entitle you to basic healthcare provision in EU countries. I made copies of my passport and other important documents such as my rental contract, learning agreement and birth certificate. I continued to slave away on the bar in Wetherspoons at home right up until the week I left (the more money the better!) and my departure became imminent…
On a typically freezing Sunday summer morning in Belfast I quadruple-checked my documents, boarding pass and suitcase to make sure I had everything. I only brought one suitcase and a backpack with the intention of picking up some basic essentials when I arrived. I headed for Belfast International Airport, had the sad goodbyes with my family and boarded the luxurious 5-star rickety EasyJet flight to Amsterdam. The nerves set in. Not only my first flight alone but the prospect of living alone without my family for a year and having to make an entirely new set of friends was equal parts exciting and daunting. I arrived and boarded the 1 1/2 hour train to Nijmegen feeling hopeful. It was a long day and a busy week lay ahead, but I arrived on time and checked into the hostel I was staying in for the night. In my room there were many other international students who were staying the night before checking into accommodation. We all talked about our home countries and our excitement for the year ahead and I immediately felt at ease. Anxiety is normal, fear is common, reservations are plenty, but they pale in comparison to the opportunity and adventure available if you study abroad.
If you’re still reading, thanks for not falling asleep! I hope you found this first blog useful. Please keep up to date on my own and all of our blogs and I hope they will be as useful to you as previous ones have been to me. Watch this space, as in the coming weeks I will talk about the Orientation Week, first impressions, initial adventures and (drum roll) my courses!
Tot de volgende keer!