Poland, Poznan – Olivia Bridger – 2007-2008

General Life in Poznan

PoznanPoznan is the 5th largest city in Poland located in the West approximately 3 hours from Berlin. There are a number of universities in the city with most having ERASMUS students. At the Poznan University of Economics there are approximately 40 international students (most of which could not speak Polish) in each semester. Most Polish people were unable to speak English and although all ERASMUS modules are taught in English I would recommend taking the beginners Polish course to learn vital phrases. The city has everything anyone could wish to do, with numerous shopping malls having been built in the last 10 years, markets, bowling, cinemas, ice-skating, museums, an endless number of clubs and bars and restaurants ranging from 80p a meal to about £15 maximum. The local Lech Poznan football team can be fun to watch and there are lots of different sites to see.

Weather varies from the coldest of about -15 C in the winter although averaging at -3 C to 30 C+ in the summer.

Social Life

PoznanSome may say life is one huge party on ERASMUS in Poznan. There is a beautiful old square in the city centre where most bars and restaurants are located. As not many tourists travel to Poznan prices are lower then in other cities like Krakow and Warsaw. Most of the ERASMUS students tend to stick together, however Polish students are very sociable. You may find that you are the only English student at the university and so everybody may want to practice their English with you!

Lectures

Most ERASMUS lectures are taught in English. I did find however that many of the modules I had chosen before arriving in Poznan had been cancelled and I had to make alternative choices. The subjects available can therefore be relatively limited. Expect to have approximately the same number of contact hours as you do in the UK. Unfortunately some lectures do have an 8am start!

Accommodation

PoznanI would recommend applying for university accommodation as they tend to put ERASMUS students in the nicest halls. It may be possible for you to request a single room although it is common for most people to have a room-mate. It is generally the case that there is 1 bathroom between 4 students. I paid approximately £15 a week to stay in Feniks Halls so compared to Exeter it was much cheaper. It was thankfully clean and relatively new, and most ERASMUS students choose to live in halls. There are also many Polish students about. Feniks has its own gym downstairs (although most of the machines were a little dated) and it is a located a short tram ride away from the city centre and university. There is a large park nearby which is great for a jog in the summer or a snowball fight in the winter!

If you do decide to not live in halls but in private accommodation I would be careful to not be cheated and over-charged for not being Polish.

Travel

Horse and carriage in PoznanTo get around Poznan, a student month tram and bus pass costs approximately £6. Trams run from two stops near halls and go about every 5 minutes to the city centre. Throughout the night there is a night tram as well as two night buses which all run every 30 minutes which is helpful when on a night out. Taxis are very cheap and cost about £2 to halls from the town centre

Travelling around Poland is incredibly cheap. There are many lovely cities to go visit, including the seaside in the North in Sopot and the city of Gdansk and south of Krakow are the mountains around Zakopane where it is possible to ski in the winter. There are lakes about an hour from Poznan such as Powidz and Skorzecin where it is possible to go swimming in the summer.

Poznan has its own airport where it is possible to get cheap flights with Wizzair, Ryanair and BA to the UK. There are also flights going to most other European countries and it can be possible to get a good deal. (I travelled to Stockholm return for £12.) It is located about 25 minute bus ride from the city centre.

Conclusion

Being an ERASMUS student in Poznan is incredibly fun, and with prices much cheaper then the UK it is possible be busy every night and still not spend all of your student loan and ERASMUS grant.

Italy, LUISS (Rome) – Anthony Lambrou – 2007-2008

Arriving in Rome for a year can seem daunting: the language; the heat; the mopeds… But it really doesn’t take long to get into the slow paced way of life (domani, domani, sempre domani!) and understand that there really is no point in going out until 11pm!

The University

I started my time at LUISS with the language crash course. For those that have a good grasp of Italian this course may seem a little slow and for those without much, it may seem a little fast, but it is a simple way of gaining 4 credits before your academic year has even begun. The course is also a great way to meet your fellow Erasmus students that you’ll be with for the rest of the year. Before the start of the year, LUISS throws a lavish welcome party. If you have never before had anyone wait on you with a silver tray and would like to, then this is for you.

When it comes to choosing your modules for the coming semester, the people at LUISS are very helpful in guiding you towards the more friendly lecturers. In general, all the teaching staff are friendly to the Erasmus students, but I’ve heard rumours that there are one or two that are not impressed if you are not making enough of an effort, but the people who help you choose will steer you away from them. In the beginning it may be a good idea to weight your modules so that if you’re not very confident with your Italian you take fewer modules or more English taught modules in the first semester. That said, you may prefer to have more free time in the summer and so weight the year with more to do in winter.

It is also a good idea to take modules that are taught with a textbook as these can be easier to follow when studying at home. LUISS has it’s own book store but it is cheaper either to buy a book between friends and photocopy the pages, or even go to one of Rome’s book shops and they will photocopy a book for you and deliver it to your house (this is a breach of copyright law and so they may drop it off under the cover of darkness!)

The lectures at LUISS can seem very long especially when trying to concentrate in another language, but it doesn’t take long for the students to cry out for a “pausa” and everyone goes out for a caffeine fix before the lecture resumes again.

Exams

The exams are like nothing you will have experienced in England. LUISS has a mixture of oral and written exams. For written exams most lecturers will turn a blind eye to some fairly blatant cheating, at least for the Italian students, I don’t know any Erasmus students that have strayed into the Italian exam technique! However there is nothing really to worry about as you’re seldom asked to explain things, merely describe them and this as you will discover, is purely a test of your memory. For the oral exams it is worth taking some food with you as you are generally called out separately from the Italian students, some lecturers preferring to call the Erasmus students first and others at the end of the day. Even if your module has been taught in Italian, some lecturers will let you take the exam in English (provided they speak it!) if it makes the whole process easier for you.

As with all exams, you can have 3 attempts per exam period. So if you were to take all your modules in the first semester, then this can equate to 6 attempts by the end of the year, and remember, if you’ve passed and you don’t want to take it again, you must sign for it at the date they give you. They will not open the exam books on any other day.

Life in Rome

The main universities in Rome have groups for their Erasmus students which regularly have events open to all Erasmus students. At LUISS this group is called Consules. Once a week they hold a party somewhere and the same goes for the other groups. On Monday night they all get together for a party at Loft. This is a club with a 10 Euro entry and an open bar, which will be pretty quiet until around midnight, when the Spanish have just finished their dinner and head out to town!

Throughout the year, Consules will offer trips to different parts of Italy, which is a great way to go to the lesser known parts of the best known tourist cities.

There is also a 5-a-side football tournament set up for the Erasmus students from all the universities of Rome, with a well coveted first team prize.

Being the capital city, it is very easy to use as a base for travelling, whether that be within Italy or internationally. The main station, Termini, has rail links to all major cities and regions of Italy, and even night trains to parts of France. There are different types of trains and the general rule is that the slower the train, the cheaper the ticket. So the regionale trains are the slowest (and cheapest) with Eurostar being the quickest and most expensive. Rome has 2 airports, both of which have cheap flights to the UK and the rest of Europe. Both are fairly easy to get to from the centre, if slightly costly.

The shopping experience in Rome is quite different to a typical British city. In the centre, it’s hard to find shops that aren’t trying to flog plastic colosseums or statues of the pope. However, a 45 minute bus journey (free – included in the 18 Euro monthly travel ticket), will take you to Porta di Roma shopping centre, a bizarrely situated, yet enormous centre in which you can find some more familiar clothes shops such as H&M or Zara, as well as more European clothes and entertainment shops.

Of course, one of the major perks of living in Italy for a year is the food. If you like pizza and pasta you’ll be just fine! On almost every street you will come across little outlets that sell pizza, you choose the size and the topping, and then they’re weighed to establish the price. Eating out in restaurants is surprisingly cheap, as long as you stay clear of the tourist hives. Supermarkets are slowly becoming more modern, but are not as efficient as British ones. The opening hours are generally about 8am – 7pm and many are closed on a Sunday. Smaller shops close for several hours in the middle of the day.

Germany, Sara Palmer – Reutlingen – 2007-2008

Eating Cake pic

BA Business Economics with European Study

General Life in Reutlingen

Reutlingen is a very sweet little town in the South of Germany, near the city of Stuttgart. It is in a beautiful part of Germany, sitting in a valley of the Swabian Alb, near the Black Forrest. It is a small town, so very easy to find your way around – you can find everything you need there; shops, restaurants, bars, nightclubs, a gym, swimming pools, bowling, cinema etc. The town centre is just a ten minute bus ride from campus, or a fifteen minute walk. If you are used to a bigger city life, Stuttgart is just 40 minutes on the train for better shopping opportunities, nightlife etc. if needed.

The weather is quite predictable, although I was expecting more snow! It is generally quite cold in the winter (down to -5°C), but much hotter in the summer (with many fantastic thunderstorms!).

The University Campus

The campus is small, and if you live in the GWG student halls, they are just 2 minutes from where you will have your lectures. It’s very easy to find buildings because they all have numbers written clearly on the outside! There are supermarkets just 20m away, or if you want more choice, you can walk just 10 minutes further! There is also a bank and pharmacy at either end of the campus. The doctors is very easy to find. There are 2 bus stops right by the halls and campus that take you directly to town. They run like clockwork, usually every 10 minutes during the day and every half an hour on evenings and weekends.

The University has a sports hall, studio etc. where you can go along to free classes from Aerobics, Yoga etc. or just join in with basketball, football, badminton etc. You can find a sports timetable online at beginning of semester. There aren’t really teams you can train with to compete (like at Exeter) but it’s very casual, so you can just go along when you fancy it. If you are sporty, you can join the gym ‘Mr Fit’ in town which is huge and open 24 hours, for just 17 euros a month. There is an outdoor pool just a five minute walk from campus, and a nice place you can run behind the Reutlingen football stadium behind the campus.

 

Lectures / Teaching

Buildings in ReutlingenWhen you arrive in Reutlingen, you will be provided with an information pack about Reutlingen and life at the University. The staff are all very helpful and easy to find in their rooms. You will get to know the ‘Auslands’ office for foreign exchange students, and otherwise Iris Walker will answer all your questions. She is fantastically helpful! If Mr Gilbertson (an English ex-teacher from Exeter I believe) has not yet retired, he is also super helpful!

As an exchange student, you can expect to not have too many classes – especially compared to the German students who have 25 hours of classes a week at least! Lectures are 1 ½ hours long, or a double is 3 hours with a 15 minute break inbetween – I recommend taking a snack and drink to help you keep going! You have a big choice of classes, in German or English (or other languages you may want to take on) at different levels. I recommend taking at least one module in German to help your language skills, but choose wisely as you don’t want to make it too difficult for yourself! You are not restricted to doing modules only from your year of study, although it is cheating a bit if you just take first year modules! It is unlikely you will struggle with a subject, especially as many are offered specifically for foreign exchange students, but do discuss it with Iris or your lecturer if you do have problems. Try to talk to German student if you can, to help your German but also they have a different style of study. ‘Fleissig’ is the only way to describe them! You will probably take about four exams at the end of each semester, and you may have a few presentations or papers to write.

I strongly recommend you do the three week ‘Sprachkurs’ (language course) at the beginning of the winter semester. It will cost around 200 euros, but it is two weeks long, you will meet your friends for the year most likely and they take you on trips to help you find your way around Reutlingen and the surrounding area. And of course, it will help you feel more confident with your German.

Accommodation

I would recommend applying for student halls with the GWG, you will receive all the forms when you apply to the Fachhochschule. The halls are of a good standard with single rooms of a decent size – generally very clean. You will share a kitchen, showers etc. with others (usually a good mix of students from all over the world!) which are cleaned regularly. It’s good to get to know the people you live with and get involved with floor activities. I took on the role as a floor speaker (had to pay 60 euros a month less rent!) so arranging floor meals etc. really helped me get to know my ‘Mitbewohner’.

If you decide to get your own flat off campus, you will have to organise this yourself. The rent is much lower than you would pay in Exeter, but I strongly recommend living in halls at just 200 euros a month to meet more people and enjoy the experience.

The Housemaster Herr Zorn is not a very sociable being. His office hours are from 11.30-12.00 Monday to Friday (yes, just half an hour per day) and you’d be lucky to catch him otherwise!

The Social Life

Drinking BeerI had a fantastic time in Reutlingen and met so many fantastic new people. If you do the Sprachkurs, you will meet other international students and stick together, as you will not have to study as much as the full time students and life will be one big party! It is important to also get to know some German students, so you learn more about the culture and to help your language. As an English student, people will take the opportunity to practice their English with you. You will not learn any German this way! From my experience, once you establish a language with someone, it stays that way. So start off speaking German as much as you can (even if you struggle), because you can always ask in English if you need to.

There is a bar on campus – CaRE – open a couple nights a week where you can get some cheap drinks, dance, play pool etc. and the bars in the halls are open regularly, usually themed nights put on by students to raise money for the floor. As an Erasmus student, you can expect to be at a different party every night – and if nothing is on on campus, there are plenty of bars and nightclubs in town! You can also venture out to Tübingen or even Stuttgart for something different – Stuttgart is quite a happening city in terms of nightlife!

Travel

I recommend you take every opportunity you can to go travelling. Your loan will cover living costs (food, going out etc. is cheaper in Germany!) so in my opinion your Erasmus grant should be used purely for travelling! You will pay about 50 euros per semester for a Naldo ticket, with which you travel on all local buses and trains for free. I also recommend getting a Bahncard (discount rail ticket) because it pays itself back very quickly. The transport system in Germany is fantastic, as generally in all the surrounding countries and you would be surprised how far you can get by train. You will need this website:

or just ask in the office at the train station because they are very helpful. Flights can be cheap, although this is questionable now with the rising fuel prices. The best websites were:

Stuttgart airport is 40 minutes on the bus from Reutlingen, and your Naldo ticket will take you there for free. I recommend picking up a timetable for the airport buses from the Rathaus in the town centre. A taxi to or from the airport takes about 30 minutes and will cost approximately 55 euros.

It is likely that you will travel with other international students you meet, so talk to people about your plans of where you would like to go etc. and you’ll be surprised how many others join in! It also makes it cheaper to travel if you are in a larger group, and you can book your own room in hostels together. It also makes it more fun if you go with friends, and potentially safer.

You can buy a Baden-Württemberg Ticket for 27 euros, which allows up to five people (and a dog!) to go anywhere within that Bundesland for the day – this is very handy for when you go to Stuttgart. You can also buy a Schönes-Wochenende-Ticket for 35 euros which lets up to five people travel anywhere within Germany for one day – this can be very handy although only works on slow trains, so is only viable for short distances i.e. Frankfurt or Munich. A 23 hour train journey to Berlin would not be so fun…

Having a travelling guide can really help you plan your trips, or otherwise just use the internet. It’s good to read up a little bit on where you are going, particularly for safety reasons. Be careful when you go travelling, particularly of pick-pockets in big cities. That is why insurance is compulsory for Erasmus students. You need private insurance, but also make sure you have a ‘European Health Insurance Card’ which you order from the NHS. I recommend packing lightly whenever you go away, although lockers in train stations can be very handy and are usually very safe.

Conclusion

Group of peopleOn arrival to Reutlingen and the Fachhochschule, all will come clear very quickly and your will know your way around within days! So have no worries! Although I recommend not leaving things to the last minute in Germany, because the customer service is not like the UK – ‘it’s your problem and you should be able to look after yourself’.

My Erasmus year was the best year of my life and I strongly recommend you take the fantastic opportunity to do it! It will do wonders for your personal development – it really opens your eyes to the world, so to speak. I also looks great on your CV! I enjoyed every minute of it. I met so many fantastic diverse people and was like one big continuous party! My German improved very much, you just have to be patient and let yourself make mistakes – how else do you learn? Reutlingen is a lovely town and Germany is a great country with a real community spirit – get involved with local ‘Fests’ and cultural events! The Christmas markets are particularly spectacular! But don’t forget everything is shut on a Sunday…

Germany, Reutlingen – Ada Anteyi – 2007-2008

The Pre-Semester Course

The three week course consists of three sessions a day of language tuition, excursions and assistance, in order to fill in the appropriate forms. It only costs €200 and also offers a very valuable and relatively easy 7.5 credits. It is more than just a language course and I can not stress enough how valuable this course was to me in terms of making friends, improving my language skills and travel opportunities.

Lectures and Teaching

Regardless of your fluency, I would not recommend burdening yourself with too many lectures. The permanent students are constantly loaded with university work and even the 1st year German students struggle to keep up with their studies. Furthermore, your Erasmus year is about travelling. Thus I recommend a well balanced schedule which allows for this. Initially you might struggle, thinking it is impossible to make up 30 ECTS credits per semester when each module is usually around 5 credits and demands 3 hours per week. But it only needs careful consideration, and perhaps signing up for the Pre-Semester Language Course (7.5credits). I would suggest not aiming too high initially with module choices or opting for only modules taught in English. Remember you are there to immerse yourself in the language but taking Business law in German is a whole new ball game, so think wisely.

Accommodation

To avoid too much accommodation stress, I recommend applying early. Also to apply for student accommodation. It is far too much hassle and inconvenience to look for accommodation elsewhere. German efficiency/bureaucracy will just annoy you. The GWG is used to dealing with international students and they do a great job of allocating places. The Theodor-Litthaus and Adolf-Reichwein-Haus are the nicest and also the newest, but Wurm-Haus isn’t too bad. Rent is around €200 per month for a single room (slightly less for a double) and €30 for the key deposit, payable upon arrival. However, rental payment is to the GWG directly and they are very flexible concerning payment. All 3 mentioned student accommodations are on Pestalozzistraβe, which is also where Campus is located, so they really are ideal. Plus this is also where most of the parties are situated. Each building has 7 floors and each floor has 18 rooms, 4 showers, 1 reasonably sized kitchen and a balcony. The communal areas are cleaned twice a week. Each floor has a floorspeaker who is responsible for the smooth running of the floor. I lived on the 7th floor of Adolf and I loved it. Great atmosphere, great mixture of people, great sunsets. And you’ll find that because there are both international and permanent students mixed together, as well as many people from the business schools, you will never feel isolated. This of course is in contrast to living in town. I have many friends who chose to find their own accommodation and they sadly regretted their decision.

The Social Side

As I have already mentioned, most student parties take place around the campus area, and the general attitude is work hard-play hard. At the beginning of each semester, the parties are numerous and constant. This is the best time to make friends with the German students, as they tend to settle down after the first couple of weeks and are rarely seen outside their rooms during the examination period. This is especially true for SIB students (ESB will party even when there are deadlines looming!). However, you will never be short of exchange student friends. They are usually in the same situation as you and it’s a great way to make friends from all over the world.

Travel

It is very easy to get around Reutlingen and the Bundesland Baden-Württemberg. For €47 you can purchase a ‘Naldo Ticket’, which is valid for one semester and allows you to travel on most trains and buses in and around Baden-Württemberg for free. In order to get this card, you will need a confirmation letter from the Hochschule stating that you are a student. You are usually given this during your first week. The ticket covers the Number 4 and 11 bus, which take you directly from Reutlingen Stadtmitte to Pestalozzistraβe (where the university and student accommodations are located), and the x3 Express bus, which goes from Stuttgart Airport to Reutlingen Stadtmitte. Upon arriving, you usually have two ways of getting to Reutlingen if you have flown. You can either take a €50 taxi or pay roughly €7 for the bus, and this covers you from the airport to Pestalozzistraβe. But be warned, the x3 takes around 50 minutes, so if you are on a Herr Zorn (Hausmeister) deadline it might be worth taking a taxi as it takes around 20-30minutes.

If you want to travel outside the Naldo Ticket zone there are 3 ways to do that. Either by car and share the petrol, using the Schöneswochenende Ticket or using a Bahncard. A lot of the time a car is the best option and that’s how I travelled most of the time. However the other two are equally good. Travel outside Germany is equally viable. It is a lot cheaper to book flights in euros (exchange rate) and also a lot more convenient.

Shopping

Turning right out of one of the three student halls and walking a hundred meters or so down Pestalozzistraße you will find yourself at Penny Markt. Covering all your needs from food to toothpaste, this mini supermarket is great. Turning left and walking past the campus you will find E-Plus. A little more expensive, with different variety of products but still reasonable. Opposite Penny’s, at the bottom of the road is a mini Edeka. The most expensive of the three, Edeka offers a more international shopping experience- but do not expect too much (i.e. Uncle Ben? Yes. Bisto Gravy? No).

Next to Penny are the banks Volksbank and Kreissparkasse, both of which offer free student accounts. I would recommend opening a German account but not before you arrive or in your first few weeks. There is no rush so take your time. Think carefully: which have connections to your home bank (Barclays is partnered with Deutsche Bank for example)? Which provides the best rates for money transfers? Which is more accessible? (Volksbank and Kreissparkasse are nationwide). Do not think you will not need one, or rely on just withdrawing money from your home account. This ends up being expensive and often inconvenient.

With regards to clothes shopping…well it ain’t no London, nor Exeter. In fact I did most of my clothes shopping during home visits. Not to say it’s awful, but imagine Exeter without the new Shopping Centre- a little boring after a while. And to be honest Stuttgart pales to Exeter- and that’s really saying something!

France, Chambéry – Ed Argyle – 2007-2008

Choosing courses is one of the most disorientating things about the ERASMUS year at Chambery. We’re so used to things being plain easy, and things just happening. The best advice I can give you is forget all that and don’t worry when things don’t seem to be working!! Sounds crazy I know. I’ll do what I can to make it a little more clear though. You will be assigned to a school (same as in Exeter). It’ll probably be IMUS (Institut de Management Université de Savoie) but this doesnt really mean anything, its just for admin, which the French love. You can then sign up to ANY courses in ANY school. The ones I can remember are:

IMUS (as above) lots of marketing, and business theory/management courses.

AVOID finance or accountancy unless you’re French is ace and you love numbers. They have a different accounting system to us!

LLSH (languages/social sciency stuff) get yourself of the “Theme” courses, these are translation from Eng – Fre, or Fre – Eng. The latter being easiest. You’ll be pretty popular as an English speaker and obviously they’re quite useful. The “Civilisation” courses are good too, the teachers are pretty cool and they teach in English, also these are worth 5 credits, which you’ll find to be an absolute gold mine.

LEA (Langues etrangere appliqués). LEA was quite good its for language students, but has a couple of business modules, which are simplified for them. The economics courses are easy, the international management courses such as “Marches mondiaux, stratagie, achats internationaux” and there was an international business law module I did, which was quite good. Read through the course descriptions Anne will be giving you, they help quite a lot.

DRI does courses for Erasmus students, there aren’t that many but a few you’ll find to be useful

The courses themselves are more like A levels. Getting slides is virtually impossible. You just have to go and copy everything you see, learn it and regurgitate it for the exam!! Its not easy but your written French will improve and the teachers are mostly pretty friendly with the foreign students. Whack ERASMUS on the front of all exams and highlight it! It’s all quite daunting but well worth it. You’ll miss being the odd one out when you come back.

In terms of what to take…. anything you can but its probably best to avoid paying excess baggage and buying stuff out there. You wont have a duvet or pillow or anything, but we all just ended up buying stuff, its kind of what the grant is for i suppose.

Do you know what accommodation you’re living in? There are plenty of surprises depending on where you end up!

Your ERASMUS year will be the best year of Uni. Its totally different, but so so good! Chambery’s not bad either. If you ski join the uni ski club, about 15€. You then get bussed to major resorts and pay very cheap ski lift prices.

France, Chambéry – Harry Evans – 2007-2008

Located at the base of the Alps, Chambery is a gateway to a wealth of alpine activities. The university is quite small but very friendly and welcoming to foreign students. I spent the entire year there and would recommend it to anyone, even if you can’t ski!

Getting There

By Air

  • Lyon airport is a 45 min drive away and has a TGV station at the airport
  • During the ski season Chambery and Grenoble both run flights to various cities including Exeter.
  • Geneva airport is the main airport that students use, with most of the cheap airlines flying there. There is a train to Geneva and then a bus to the airport.

By Train

  • Chambery train station is linked to all major cities in France and also has a TGV service that runs.

Accommodation

There is a variety of accommodation in Chambery, whether it be at the University, private residences or private flats

The best two, in my opinion, were Univercity Arpej and Comte Verte. Arpej is a private residence and you have a single room with kitchenette and bathroom. Comte Verte is the same sort of residence but you share your kitchen and bathroom with a French person, a good opportunity to improve your French.

A cheaper option is Foyer des Alps which was very popular with some international students.

A few students rented privately and shared with French students, enjoying it immensely

Bank

I set up my account with BNP Paribas. They all seem to be the same, but make sure you take a student account or you are charged for use of a debit card and chequebook. Firstly you need to make an appointment to open an account – this can be on the day or you may have to wait.

Take with you

  • Passport + driving licence (you can’t have too much ID in France!)
  • Student Card (either Exeter or Chambéry)
  • Attestation – This is a proof of residence, as you won’t have any record of bills or previous bank statements to show them – ask at your reception when you move in.

I recommend that you make it clear that you want a cheque book with this account otherwise you have to wait another week or three for it to be made up for you.

On the day you open the account they hand you a sheet of RIBs (basically a copy of all your bank details until your card arrives, which you will need to set up any direct debits for electricity, accommodation etc).

Université de Savoie

The first thing to say is that there is going to be inequality between Erasmus students over the amount of work you have to do. Some students have to write 2 essays for their home university and do no exams whereas others have to do 60 credits and take all the exams. We are unfortunately the latter, but you just have to deal with it. At the end of the day you will get much more out of it, improve your French significantly more and will make some good friends on your course.

Lessons start at 8am and can go on until 6.30pm, a massive shock to the system for the first few weeks! You take a lot more courses than Exeter but because of this the content is slimmer, making it easier come exam time. I hardly ever received any homework and there were no essays or projects to hand in. There are two exam periods, one in January and one in May. When choosing courses it is a bit of a run around looking at boards, there is no online guide or handbook, you have to hunt around for notice boards and visit various departments.

Most of all, ask the teachers and French students for help, you’ll be surprised how many notes you can get!

Shopping

There are various supermarkets around town. There are 2 Carrefour’s that can be reached by bus, an E.Clerc near Comte Verte and a Monoprix in the centre of town. However, as you are in France, why not shop like the French? There is a market every Saturday and there are boulangeries and patisseries galore.

Chambery isn’t the best for other shopping but Grenoble, Lyon and even Paris are a short train ride away.

Out and About

chambery-harry_evans_out_and_aboutThere are a variety of day and weekend trips around Chambery. By far the most popular was Lac du Bourget, a 15 min bus ride. A beautiful lake with a diving board, small beach and volleyball net.

If you are more cultural, Lyon, Annecy, Grenoble and even Chambery itself have some great tours and on certain weekend s everything is free.

You will find the French a lot more culturally aware than the British; there is generally an exhibition, show or parade every weekend.

The university also organises various trips to Vineyards, Cheese makers and historical sites. It runs hikes most weekends in the mountains, which I highly recommend.

chambery-harry_evans_mountainSkiing

You can’t help but notice the mountains when you arrive in Chambery and if you enjoy skiing you’ll be itching to get up there. The closest main ski resorts include les 3 vallees, les deux Alps and espace killy. The university runs a coach with very cheap ski passes most weekends, just make sure you sign up quickly. If you want to ski for an afternoon there are small ski areas dotted around the surrounding mountains that can be reached by bus. There is also a train to Bourg St Maurice where you can get a Funicular up to les Arcs.

For beginners and those without equipment there are ski sales all year round and you can pick up a decent pair of skis very cheaply

chambery-harry_evans_nightlifeNightlife

For quite a small city, Chambery has a surprising number of bars and clubs. The main haunts for Erasmus students were O’Pogues, O’ Cardinals, Charlys and Melodys, but there are plenty of other bars to visit. The main club is Opera but there are smaller ones, RDC and Cocktails the most notable. There are also a few clubs around the outskirts of Chambery with transport to and from organised by students.

There are also loads of restaurants for you to taste French cuisine, not to mention and unbelievable amount of kebab houses, bizarre!

Some people change their course because the thought of living in another country and leaving their uni friends is unbearable. Erasmus is a fantastic scheme; you make closer friends, you improve your language skills tenfold and you have a once in a lifetime experience, not to mention the fact that it looks good on your CV and the grant from the EU allows you to enjoy yourself without the strict constraints of your student loan.

Spain, Valencia – Aurelien de Meaux – 2006-2007

People on the Beach

My experience in Valencia was absolutely fantastic and I must say that it has so far been the best year of my life. Valencia is a good-sized city of about a million inhabitants down the east coast of Spain, Three and a half hours south of Barcelona by car.

The weather is very nice down there, winters are mild, summer is hot and it is sunny all year. The “Tarongers” campus which is the business and law school of the university of Valencia is located between the city centre and the beach, about three tramway stops from each ends. It goes without saying that this is very convenient since you can go to your lectures and spend the rest of the afternoon at the beach playing football, getting the sun and swimming in the Mediterranean.

If I had to pick a few words to describe Valencia I would probably say: beach, sun and fiesta. Indeed, the Erasmus community hangs around the beach quite a lot, gets the sun and then go and party. The city is not too big so you actually know it quite well after one semester and not too small so there is always a club, a place that you have not seen.

I will try to make a few points in chronological order that you might find helpful if you intend to go to Valencia.

Finding an accommodation

Getting an accommodation is actually a good way to discover the city as you go around a lot visiting flats. You don’t have to worry about booking a room in advance, all the Erasmus students (apart from a few very organised Germans) go down to Valencia in mid-September, stay in a hostel for a few days and start looking for a place to live. Doing so you will meet lots of foreigners also looking for a room somewhere, meet people in the flats you’re visiting: make contacts, and improve your Spanish. It does not matter if your Spanish is not very good since all the Erasmus find themselves in the same situation and it is accepted that you have just arrived and cannot speak great Spanish at the beginning. Contacts are very easy in the first weeks, you hear someone on campus at the cafeteria speaking quite poor Spanish with a foreign accent and say “Erasmus?” and you will end up having a drink with him/her or them talking about where everyone’s from and what they are studying. Back to the accommodation, you will find plenty of announces in the street mostly stuck on lampposts saying that there is a free room somewhere and there will be a phone number attached with it. If you go around campus in September you will find entire walls covered with those… you need to decide more or less where about you want to live, how much money you are willing to pay (accommodation is much, much cheaper than England, say 250 Euros a month=170 pounds for a good room all included). This will narrow your search and you will be able to pick a couple of numbers, make calls and then visit these flats. The best combination is a flat with Spanish native speaker(s) and Erasmus as well. Say a flat of 4 with 2 Spanish and 2 Erasmus or 1Spanish and 3 Erasmus. I would recommend getting a flat near the campus of “Tarongers” by the main avenue “blasco ibanez” but if you look around a few days you will probably see for yourself that it is the nice and lively student area.

One last option is to get an entire flat through an agency. You get a good flat in the area where you want, get the best room and then put an advert on the website: www.loquo.com and on a couple of displaying boards on campus. You will get many calls, organise visits and then choose the people you want to live with from the ones that are interested to move in. So in the end this last option is a little more work but probably a good one.

Going around Valencia

You can go around Valencia with the bus, metro, tramway and it comes out quite cheap, but for everyday short distances what everyone does is get a second hand bike from the market on Sunday morning(very early!)by the Mestalla, Valencia’s football stadium. You will find a decent bike for about 25 Euros. It is important that your bike does not look too good otherwise it will be quickly stolen (I unfortunately experienced it…) and you should also get a good lock from one of the many bike shops. Many bike spaces are provided on campus, Valencia is flat so cycling around is not too tiring and there are many cycling lanes on the sidewalks, also distances are never too long, campus to the beach or campus to town is a ten to fifteen minutes ride. And again the weather is so nice that the bike is just the best way to go from one place to another.

www.Erasmusvalencia.com

Erasmusvalencia is awesome; it is a non profitable organisation (ran by a Spanish guy and some ex-Erasmus students) that organises activities for the Erasmus students of Valencia throughout the year. They can help you get an accommodation, they organise parties every week, 5 days a week at different bars/clubs; and most of all they organise amazing trips!

There are about 4 trips throughout the year with each time about 200 to 300 Erasmus involved, it is the best way to discover Spain, meet some people or get to know better some you already know by sharing this experience and have a lot of fun. The trips are: 1) Barcelona; 2) Madrid and around; 3)Andalusia: Granada, Seville, Cordoba 4) eventually in the end of may there is a final trip to Ibiza…

All trips are good from what I heard, I took part in the last two, they were both amazing but I have to say that the trip to Ibiza is outstanding! It is absolutely fantastic: 300 Erasmus in a residence close to Ibiza city going to the beach during the day and partying at night…very good to end a fabulous year. Ibiza is just 3 hours with the ferry from Valencia; there is an even faster ferry which takes you to Ibiza in two hours. The trips are amazing and cheap because Erasmusvalencia gets discounted group price for everything: hotels, clubs, bus, ferry and so on. If you want to have a look on the website, there are plenty of photos and things going on.

I would also recommend that you visit Alicante for a week end, just two hours south of Valencia with the train. The beach is beautiful, the city is nice and the fiestas amazing!

Futbol!

FutbolThis part is mainly directed to guys, sorry girls.

You will find when arriving in Spain that football is a big part of the national culture, many hours are dedicated to it, and football passion is everywhere in shops, bars… You can get tickets to Mestalla (Valencia FC’s stadium) for reasonable prices, say 30 Euros for a very decent liga game and you can also go and see some of the champions league fixture, Valencia being a good side it is worth seeing the team play from time to times.

An agency called “Universal student”, which is located on the main Avenue “Blasco Ibanez” is quite handy if you want to get accommodation, go on trips… and most of all they organise twice in the year the Erasmus cup!!

The Erasmus cup is a thrilling thing to take part in; it is a sort of world cup that you are playing! Teams are exclusively made up with Erasmus students most of them from Valencia but also from Madrid, Seville, Barcelona…The tournament takes place at Valencia F.C’s training camp, referees are official ones and the cup is handed in person by Valencia F.C’s president! T.V covers the event and coaches of supporters come to watch! It does feel like playing the world cup! Signing up a team is cheap (10euros per person including: return bus+ food+ football Nike outfit offered) and easy and everyone takes the event seriously so if you are a football lover like I am you will definitely enjoy this.

Fallas!

Fallas

The “Fallas” is Valencia’s festival, the biggest celebration of the year. Each district makes up a “falla” which is a massive sort of “statue” of wood and wax and displays it during 5 days in mid-march. At the end of those 5 days a winning “falla”, the most beautiful “statue” according to a board of judges is designed. The district which made it then gets a prize in money and a lot of pride from it. The rest of the “fallas” are burnt down on the last night, for an impressive huge fire that thousands of people come and watch . About two million people come from the whole of Spain and Europe to attend the “fallas”, there is music everywhere at night and it is basically a massive party every night.

(The city centre gets packed during the day for exhibitions and shows)

The whole city stops working during 4 days, there is a lot of noise, lots of people, DJ’s from around the world mixing in open-spaces. The party happens in the street for a very cheerful atmosphere.

People at Fallas

(I am the guy with the whistle down the right…)

(Not a very good photo but I thought you would get the picture of what it turns in at night-time)

People at Fallas

From Fallas to the End

From the “Fallas” fiesta up until the end of the year time goes very fast. Only two months left during which you have to prepare for exams, go on trips (including the one to Ibiza!) and enjoy the beach as much as you can since the weather becomes so nice. Time flies and it already feels like summer because of the warm climate. You go and see the places in Valencia you have not seen yet, your life moves from the city centre to the beach-port area. The port has become really nice since the America’s cup last year, it is all brand new and going out there at night is very enjoyable: it is beautifully enlightened, full of nice bars and restaurants with terraces so you will probably end up being around the port quite a lot at the end of the academic year.

Exam time is obviously not the most pleasurable period of the year but it is not as much pressure as it is here because Spanish are more flexible and being an Erasmus you can get as much support as you like.

The End

Group photoThe end of the year is kind of sad because everyone is going back to his country and after a year of parties, trips and other activities you get to know people from all around Europe(especially Italians since there is so many of them in Valencia!) and it is hard to leave all of this behind you. Everyone promises to visit and wishes a good summer to his fellows. Every night someone organises a goodbye party generally at the beach to celebrate the end a great year.

This was mine (I am the guy at the bottom with the hat on) and every time I look at it I feel very nostalgic. On this photo there are English, Irish, Italians, French, Argentineans, Swedish, Finnish, Spanish, Germans, Austrians, Swiss, and Norwegians!! We are still in touch through MSN and Facebook and have organised to all meet up for New year’s Eve in Paris. There should be about 50 of us!

I would strongly recommend the experience to anyone. I had a great time and so did all the Erasmus in Valencia. The people doing the Erasmus are by definition open minded and all good fun. You will receive a grant that covers for your accommodation and food all year! You learn Spanish, know some people from all around Europe and more; Get to know a different culture, party and have a great, sunny time so without a doubt… go for it!

Sweden, Lund – Daniel Hayward – 2006-2007

So you’re thinking about going to Sweden? Let the first thing I tell you in this report be, do it! During my time in Sweden I found it to be not only a beautiful country in terms of cities and landscape but also in terms of the people you’ll meet there. Sweden is stacked in a rich history to rival that of England or any other European country. At the same time Sweden is a modern liberal thinking country which will surprise you everyday with it’s innovative approach to problems which even here in the UK we fail to tackle. I can think of no better place to advance your studies particularly if you, like me, study economics for which Sweden is an amazing living example of social democratic government intervention in action. However I will let you discover this for yourselves, in this report I will try to stick to the useful. Below you will find a few short paragraphs which will hopefully give you some idea of what to expect if you choose to study in Sweden. I will also try to give you some hints and tips which I personally found useful during my stay in Lund. I hope you find this report helpful and may I also say good luck if you do decide to go!

Getting There / First Day

In the age of budget airlines European travel is no longer expensive nor epic. During my year I used the Ryanair to Malmo Sturup route to commute between home and Lund. These flights depart from London Stansted and arrive in Malmo Sturup and can be bought for well under £30 each way inc taxes. Malmo Sturup airport is located on the outskirts of Malmo*. It is small and handles very few international flights, however it is efficient and offers and excellent route into Lund. On arrival you will need to find a bus to take you to Lund. Simply stroll out the front doors and turn right. You will be presented with an easy choice of buses: Malmo or Lund. That’s right, you’ve got it, the Lund bus is the one for you. This bus will take you into the heart of Lund. You’ll be able to enjoy a brief tour of the city and university whilst on your journey before eventually disembarking outside Lund central railway station. This should be apparent by a loud “Central” cry over the speaker system, if not, don’t panic, most commuters will get off here so just follow the crowd.

On arrival you will have been told to register at the AF building. The AF building is mainly used as an administration centre for the university. The easiest way to find it is to follow an experienced student or simply walk away from the station, through the main shopping district and towards the cathedral. This walk should only take about 3 minutes although if you have heavy cases as I did it may take a lot longer. The AF building is a brown castle like structure located beside the cathedral and opposite the impressive white ‘main university building’ (Sandgaten ‘road’).

Once there you will need to wait inline, register, wait in line, receive your room keys, wait in line, collect your Swedish language text books and then you can go! This process took about 3 hours when I was there so use it as an opportunity to make some friends. Once back outside, Lund student mentors will provide you with lifts to your respective accommodation. This is most helpful especially if like me you are assigned to the isolated depths of Greenhouse…

* I’ve been told recently that this route may not operate by the time you begin you Erasmus placement. If this is true you will need to fly via Gatwick to Copenhagen with Sterling airlines. Once at Copenhagen you can easily take a train, over the bridge to Lund via Malmo central station. Check other reports for clearer instructions.

Accommodation / First Fortnight

Most students will be able to successfully find accommodation with the International Housing Office (IHO). If this is the case you will pick up your keys on the first day and even be offered a lift to your new pad. Student halls like in Exeter vary in their price and comfort. Most are up to a high standard so do not worry. Unlike Exeter the halls are spread throughout the city so you may find yourself a long way from where you lectures are held. Again don’t panic, this is what buses and bikes were invented for.

I was slightly unlucky in my accommodation allocation. I was placed in Greenhouse*. Greenhouse was a beautifully maintained building with soft beds, good internet access, Ikea furnishings and a extensive kitchen and living area. Unfortunately it is placed on the outskirts of town which meant a bike was a necessity and friends rarely had the strength to visit. Parties are also rare in Greenhouse as so few students are even aware of its existence. Most accommodation including Greenhouse is separated into Swedish and International so don’t be surprised to find not a single Swedish student in your building. If you are placed here I suggest you make good use of the buses which leave from outside the Linero ICA supermarket, these will take you everywhere you need to go including the town centre and university. However you will also require a bike. Bikes are like mobile phones in Sweden, everyone has one whether you use it a little or a lot.

When buying your bike be careful, many students including myself panic and buy the first piece of crap they find (usually from the sale outside the AF building in the first few weeks). Relax…wait till you find a bike which will survive a Swedish winter. You’ll want something comfy, with wide tyres for the winter snow. You’ll also need lights so see if you can get these included in the price. I was fleeced for my first bike which eventually died one cold night, I suggest looking here www.blocket.se , This site hosts adverts for local sellers selling everything from bikes to laptops. A good second hand bike from here should cost no more than £100. Money well worth spending if you live a long way away from the action.

Other accommodation may not require a bike so urgently, in the second semester I moved to Spoletorp which is placed in the centre of town and only a 10 minute stroll to lectures. Prices for accommodation will vary. Students will pay for proximity not just facilities, however you will have little choice in where you stay to begin with, simply expect to pay less then you currently do in Exeter (£2000-£2500PA).

Your first fortnight will be spent making friends and getting to know your surroundings. You will almost certainly be attending the crash Swedish language course on offer. These lectures run everyday and are a great way of meeting fellow Erasmus students. At the end of this course you should have a basic understanding of Swedish and a host of friends to make you time in Lund more enjoyable. Also in your first week you will be offered the chance to attend the Erasmus welcome party, if you do, give the DJ a slap from me but also make sure you enjoy a pre-drink first to avoid early bankruptcy. Many students will be assigned mentors, this sounds a little needy but in fact the mentors are a great source of local knowledge and again a great way of meeting fellow students, I suggest you use this scheme, at least in the early stages.

* Many international students are only in Lund for 6 months. This means many will leave and not be replaced after your Christmas break. I was angry to find that all but 3 people had moved out of Greenhouse over the holidays leaving me to come back to an empty corridor and an email asking when I would be moving myself. If you are in Greenhouse be prepared to move before the Christmas break to avoid this lonely period and to have first choice of vacant accommodation in other buildings. I didn’t hear of this being a problem in any other building.

Study

The university of Lund is well organised and you will have few problems selecting courses or tracking down timetables. Most business and economics lectures are held in the economics building on Tunavagen. Modules generally last between 6 and 8 weeks with an examination at the end. Not all modules will have a written examination, many will assess you on essays alone. These short time frames make the modules considerably easier to pass than in Exeter, mainly due to the sheer reduction in revision required to adequately answer exam questions. You may choose any module you like (providing it is taught in English), this gives Erasmus students a large selection to choose from. If you are grade conscious I recommend the Swedish Area Study courses (SAS…), these courses are designed as introductions to Swedish study and require no prerequisites. These courses are generally quite easy and rarely have written examinations attached to them. Equally do not be afraid to take on advanced courses (D). I found advanced development economics extremely interesting and received one of my best grades from this course without any previous development knowledge.

Exams are listed as lasting five hours for most subjects, don’t panic this is only the maximum time limit. Most students finish exams after 3 hours or less. This gives a much more relaxed feel to exams as running out of time is not an issue. You are also allowed to take food and drink into exams. I was amused on many occasions to see experienced Swedish students stopping for a mini picnic halfway through a tough exam.

If you are interested in continuing your Swedish language course, I suggest you sign up at the earliest opportunity. Demand for this course is high and many are often disappointed. I did not personally take the course but am assured that it was fun and extremely passable.

Nightlife / Activities

Nightlife in Lund is certainly not what the town will be remembered for. Lund is an academic town all the way through and resembles Cambridge in such respects. Therefore don’t expect large nightclubs and international DJs to be making appearances. Nightlife in Sweden is simple, you spend a lot of money in a bar or you go to a student nation. Student nations were designed to give Swedish students a sense of comradeship among students from similar areas in the country. They are hence named Lund nation, Malmo nation, Vastgota nation etc etc. Nowadays students are free to join whichever nation they wish, international students are invited to do the same. The nations act as cafés, social clubs, meeting venues, ball rooms and of course night clubs. You’ll need to join a nation when you arrive in order to receive your nation card. Afterwards you’ll be able to attend any nation in town for a small cover charge (there are 14 nations in Lund). The nations are not open every night so you’ll need to shop around to see what’s open on which week nights. Vastgotas on Wednesday night was always a huge night for all visiting Erasmus students to let there hair down.

The nations vary greatly so take your time finding the ones that you like, some are small and have a pub atmosphere whilst others are large and feel more like Mambo on a Friday night. Beers are considerably cheaper than other venues costing around £1.50 a bottle, making the nations the first stop when going out in Lund. Guest passes are also available if friends come to visit you.

Cities such as Malmo and Copenhagen offer more varied clubs and gigs however transport and door charges often make these trips expensive to do regularly. Make sure you get down to the free Malmo music festival in your first few weeks in Lund.

Lund university doesn’t offer the same sort of student activities as you can expect here in Exeter. There are few societies which I discovered, with most events being organised by the nations. The nations will organise sports teams particularly in Football and Volleyball however these sessions may well be taken in Swedish so its worth checking. During my year I joined the Lugi rugby team. Lugi is the name of the Lund university athletic union. They offer a wide range of sports many of which are no longer even associated with the university itself (such as rugby). Head to this site to see what’s on offer http://www.lugi.se/. If you decide to join the rugby club you will be joining an international team, coached in English (well Scottish) with one of the best team atmospheres I’ve ever experienced. I can’t recommend this team enough, it was simply the best part of my year in Sweden by a long way. If you’re looking for a more individual approach to leisure then Lund also offers a great swimming pool, two cinemas, a pool hall (Bredgaten) and a small bowling alley. If you need more simply hop on a train to Malmo which has all the facilities associated with any large city.

Weather

Let’s face it, if you’re thinking about going to Sweden then you can’t be expecting too much in terms of weather. However you will be surprised, Sweden has two seasons: Summer and Winter. Unfortunately winter lasts a lot longer than summer. I was told that my year in Sweden was particularly mild however I’ll try and prepare you the best I can. When you arrive take shorts and t-shirts, you will need them! The Swedish summer is wonderful and can get quite hot when it wants too. Soon though, around October winter will set in and not budge for 6-7months. Temperatures will drop to below zero in the depths of winter and a good coat and gloves will be essential. As if to over compensate, all Swedish buildings are super heated so once rapped up tight and warm you’ll only need to stroll into a shop before you’re on your back gasping for air. Snow will be a factor however in the south where you’ll be rain is much more frequent. I bought myself some cheap waterproof trousers and a coat from England to save money. There is nothing worse than riding to lectures in the cold and wet then being forced to sit in wet trousers for two hours, be prepared! You’ll also be much further north than here in England, this means that it will get darker sooner. If like me you enjoy a mid-day lie in then you may not see much daylight. In the middle of winter it will get dark at 3pm. Don’t let it put you off though! The Swedes are like us Brits, they love complaining about the weather. An endless source of conversation is arguing over who’s is worse!

When summer arrives be prepared for some partying. Like a hibernating hedgehog, the population emerges into the parks and cafés to begin drinking and celebrating. Smiles cover the faces of locals and Lund looks stunning. It’s such a shame that your time there will almost be up. Make sure you use you last few weeks to hit the beaches in the south and generally be outside.

Hints / Tips

  • Willies is the cheapest supermarket, it in the north near Delphi Halls. Next cheapest is ICA followed by COOP.
  • Buy spirits in UK duty free on your way over to save cash at early parties.
  • Use Blocket.se and the flea market on Sondravagen (Sat mornings) if you need second-hand goods e.g. Bikes, clothes, abba lps.
  • If you want to travel, do so in groups. It’s a lot cheaper. Renting a car is a great way to see the country.
  • Ask local students about the DC++ Lund network for all your film and music needs.
  • Buy a Swedish simcard to make calls home, again it’s cheaper or get a Skype account.
  • If you use the buses and trains frequently buy a travel card from Skanetrafiken (at the railway station)
  • Don’t spend all your Erasmus grant on ol!

Have Fun

Spain, Barcelona – Michael Taylor – 2006-2007

Barcelona: Universitat Pompeu Fabra

Congratulations, I assume that in reading this, you are interested in studying in Barcelona. Wise move. Do it.

Arrival and accommodation

The university run a welcome week for Erasmus students, which I’m told is really good, I was doing an internship at the time, so couldn’t make it. However with city tours, tapas crawls and general orienteering programs it is a really good way to meet people and settle in quickly. With regard to accommodation, there are two options.

  1. Hall of residence. The halls are run privately by RESA and they have 2 halls specifically for Pompeu students (Campus del mar, Ciutadella). Places are limited and so if you wish to stay in hall you will have to apply in your second year. This is what I did, and I thoroughly enjoyed hall. Rooms are en suite with a tiny kitchen, but most importantly you will be living with Spanish people!
  2. The more popular option is to get a flat in the city. There is an abundance of accommodation so finding a flat is easy. The university website has links to student accommodation offices, and flyers in the uni and across the city will be constantly advertising accommodation. Many people book into a hostel for their first couple of weeks and then look for accommodation; this allows you to meet potential flat mates as well. Basically, although it seems daunting, it really isn’t.

The University

Situated next to Parc Ciutadella and just back from the beach it really is the perfect location (metro Vila Olimpica). Most of the other universities are based in the hills of Tibidabo, a real trek from the centre. However be warned the streets become home to a tribe of transvestites after 9, don’t be lured by the pvc! So uni by day red light by night, that’s pretty typical of Barcelona as a city, a mass of contradictions.

The language centre is based in a campus on La Rambla the most famous street in the city, so if you wish to take Spanish courses these will be based on a separate campus to the business and economics modules.

Modules

There is a list of modules available to business Erasmus students. It’s fairly extensive and offers courses in Spanish, English and Catalan. You are free to choose whatever you like but be warned there is a huge spectrum of difficulty levels. The economics modules are much more mathematical than in Exeter as a general rule, so I would advise that you speak to the lecturer to gauge what will be expected come the exam.

When choosing modules you have two weeks to sample classes before committing. However, once the course fills you will not be permitted to take it. This happened to me in my first term, and I wasn’t allowed to take 3 of my preferred modules. What happens in reality is that students sign up to literally tens of courses, then they sample them and follow only the ones that interest them. So play the game sign up early and don’t lose out.

Exams

This is the Erasmus students biggest worry! Its quite simple, if you keep on top of your work and take your language study seriously you will be fine. Many modules are examined with multiple choice tests, and past papers are available on the uni website (similar to webCT) so make sure you find the most appropriate courses during the first 2 weeks of each term!

NB: The pass mark is 50, not 40!

Language

Getting by in Barcelona city is easy as it is such a global city. However in the classroom this is not the case. I would advise taking a mix of English and Spanish language modules, as at the end of the day you have to pass and the Spanish lecturers aren’t very understanding or accommodating, don’t ask them to speak slower! What is essential is that you really make an effort to improve you language skills, and in time you will become used to the speed of lectures, and you will cope without difficulty. If you are worried then speak with the lecturer, it is occasionally possible for Erasmus students to take extra coursework or do a presentation to replace a part of the exam.

The City

Barcelona offers something for everyone. To get the most out of the city buy a good guide, Lonely Planet and Rough Guides are good. These are most useful in your early days. I picked up a brilliant book in Waterstones called ‘a weird and wonderful guide to Barcelona. Le Cool’ This book basically tells you about tiny secret bars and quirky things to do etc… it is written for students, and even recommends the uni library as a place of calm in the middle of the busy city!

The city is split into districts or barrios. Barrio Gotico, the gothic quarter is the most charming, comprising of tiny bars, restaurants and quirky shops all set along a maze of tiny streets and alley ways. The rest of Barcelona is designed in a block format, with long straight roads. The central areas for shopping lie along the Pg De Gracia, leading away from the Plaza Catalunya, and the Carrer de Angel, running parallel to La Rambla. Here you can find all the major Spanish high street shops. What is great about Spain, and Barcelona however is the abundance of privately owned shops, unlike England, not every Spanish high street is identical!

Transport

Public transport in Barcelona is very good (bus/bicycle/tram/metro ). The metro is quick, clean and much cheaper than the tube! You can buy termly passes for 100 euros that are also valid on buses and trams. When going out at night in Barcelona taxis are essential (the metro closes at 12pm) Taxis are not expensive and it will never take more than a couple of minutes to find one wherever you are in Barcelona, there’s no need to pre order. A word to the wise, make sure you watch the route your driver takes. Taxi drivers have a tendency to take the longest route possible to squeeze the money out of you. If you speak Spanish though this shouldn’t be an issue, its more a trick played on naïve tourists.

National travel in Spain is reasonable. I really recommend you take the opportunity to travel throughout Spain, the Costa Brava is beautiful, but further a field don’t miss Valencia, Madrid, Salamanca, Toledo….Lisbon is great as well.

Nightlife

The nightlife is vast in Barcelona, quite simply you will never grace every venue! That said here is a rundown of my favourite places.

Clubs: Razzmatazz. Huge club in Marina, the killers/ arctic monkeys/ Jarvis cocker / 2 many DJ’s all performed here during my year! Need I say more?

Danzatoria: A converted mansion house on the hills of Tibidabo, this place feels more like a house party, and is very elegant and cool, pricey though.

Carpe Diem: Very cool, sofas, lounging beds, and a haunt of Barcelona FC stars Ronaldinho and Henry, right on the beach, this place is great

There are so many other places, Erasmus nights are typically held at baja beach club, which is a dive but fun, Port Olimpic has a strip reminiscent of the tackier offerings in Spain.

The Xampaneria is a hidden gem, you won’t read about it in any guides, and I don’t want to spoil the surprise, so you will have to discover it for yourself.

Money

I would recommend opening a Spanish bank account, for ease and so you don’t face bank charges for using your card abroad. Also most landlords will want to be paid from a domestic account. I used Banc Sabadell and had no problems, Caixa Cataluna however is the choice of most students.

Things you must do!

  • Watch FC Barcelona at the Camp Nou.
  • Spend an afternoon in the xampaneria
  • Laze on the beach
  • Pass exams
  • Get involved in the La Merce celebrations
  • Do a ‘Monica Lewinsky’ shot
  • Make friends with Spaniards!

France, Grenoble – Emma Hanes – 2006-2007

Why do an Erasmus year?

I can’t think of any reasons why not to do an Erasmus year! The EU give you a big fat grant to live abroad for a year and you have the time and the freedom to make whatever you want of it. Don’t read other people’s accounts of Erasmus and think to yourself “that’s not for me” because everybody’s Erasmus experience will be different, according to their own personal goals. You could spend a year studying hard, making friends with French students and integrating into their friendship groups. Or you could spend a year working behind a bar, partying with the international students and learning a whole lot of other things about life.

Of course, the type of Erasmus experience you have will depend greatly on the level and confidence of your French at the outset. I started out with a relatively high level of French, having studied Advanced I and II in my first and second years at Exeter. Do not imagine that you need this level of French to do Erasmus – if anything, it made my life harder because I was at such a flat point in the learning curve. If you go with relatively little French and work hard at it, you can improve very rapidly in the first term alone. For me, the most important thing was to speak french in a wide variety of contexts in order to learn more technical vocabulary and, most importantly, to learn how to choose the appropriate style of language for each situation I found myself in. It was therefore just as important for me to be attending lectures and listening to a high-brow, academic French as it was to be going to parties and bars with French people learning colloquialisms and swear words.

About Grenoble

I would highly recommend Grenoble for a year abroad. It’s a large and dynamic city with plenty going on. It’s culturally very rich too, with regular jazz festivals, street markets and a good selection of museums, galleries and performance venues. There are daily markets until 1pm at Place aux Herbes and outside Les Halles St. Claire. There’s also a great farmer’s market on a Sunday morning at Place St. Andre.

Grenoble is of course also an excellent base for winter sports. The temperature tends to be very cold in the winter and very very hot in the summer. Grenoble is well located for trips to Paris as well as to Provence and the south coast. The other advantage of the city is that it’s not very touristy, so locals tend to assume you can speak French, rather than automatically speaking English to you like they do in Paris or the more touristy towns. The Grenoble accent is very easy to understand and similar to the French you learn in school.

Accommodation

I spent a long time weighing up between the ease and convenience of university halls versus living in nicer private accommodation with French people. It is possible to find flat shares from England, and I know people who found good apartments through internet sites like www.colocation.fr but I think it’s probably safer to come out to Grenoble for a week over the summer to try and find somewhere. At least this way you’ll get a better feel for which areas of the city you’d like to live in. Don’t think that living with French people will automatically mean you speak lots of French. In general, French students tend not to live with their close friends in the way that British students do. This makes it easier to find a flatshare with people you don’t know, but it seems that most people don’t expect to spend much time with their flatmates. Many French students go home at the weekends so you could get quite lonely at the beginning. Living in halls, on the other hand, you’re likely to make plenty of friends but the majority of them will probably be international. This is a mixed blessing. Getting to know people from other countries was a fantastic experience, and we did usually speak French to each other by the end. However, once you’ve formed a tight Erasmus group, it can get pretty difficult to get out and meet more French people.

I chose to live in Residence Berlioz. They are the more expensive halls, but the rent’s still far less than what you’d pay in Exeter. Berlioz is fairly basic – the shared kitchen facilities are limited, but the rooms are quite decent and ensuite. I’d say Berlioz was definitely better than Lafrowda, although not as nice as any of the other Exeter halls. You will receive Government housing support from the CAF office of around 100 euros per month. Don’t worry too much about applying for the CAF immediately as once you do apply you’ll receive any backdated payments as a lump sum.

I think the best thing to do about accommodation would be to initially apply for the uni halls and then to move out in the second semester. If you’re in Berlioz, you must give three month’s notice before moving out, so you need to hand your notice in almost straight away if you want to move out at Christmas. For the cheaper halls like Condillac, you only need to give one month’s notice. Flatshares come up all the time, so you’ll easily be able to find somewhere for the start of the second semester. One person I know had the most luck by putting up posters around uni asking for a flatshare. She also found plenty on the internet. The advantage of doing it this way is that you can spend one semester settling in, making friends with other international students, and getting to know the city and then one semester living with French people. Looking around flats is also a good way of meeting and talking to French people – I ended up being good friends with a guy who my friend met whilst looking around his flat, even though she never even lived with him.

Lectures

There are two different degree courses available in the business school – an economics degree at levels 1,2,3 and master, and an IUP course for people with two years of another discipline. This is available at level 3 and master, but most of the other students have no prior knowledge of economics so the courses are first-year standard economics taught at a fast pace. I would certainly recommend taking IUP courses if your French isn’t very good – they’re also good because the classes tend to be small and the IUP group makes a lot of effort to get to know each other, especially at the beginning.

I would recommend taking a mixture of courses which interest you or will be useful to your home degree, courses which will help with French, and, to make life easier, courses which give you easy credits (for example topics you’ve already studied). I would also highly recommend taking courses from outside the business school. I took several Erasmus language classes from Stendhal, one of the other Grenoble universities. I found the translation classes far more useful than the business school French lessons (which were fairly dull but easy credits) and the grammar classes also very interesting. You may not initially be told about the Stendhal classes – I only knew about them through other Erasmus friends. It’s worth making enquiries about what other modules are about. I also took credits in beginner’s German at Stendhal. I had to pay for these because they’re aimed at language honours students, but I think it was well worth it. I found the lessons good fun and a fantastic way of meeting other French people.

Things to Do

I took on a voluntary job as a waitress in a homeless café. The other staff were lovely and really took me under their wing – the manager even invited me to her house for a meal one weekend. I just worked one lunchtime shift per week, but thoroughly enjoyed my time there. Many of the people come in to eat because they’re lonely and want to talk to someone, so this was obviously a great way of speaking French to a very varied selection of people. They always need volunteers – if you want to get involved, pop into Café Nicodeme, next to Styx cocktail bar in Place Claveyson, just off Place aux Herbes.

Skiing – even if you’re not too sure about learning to ski, it’s worth giving it a go while you’re in Grenoble. It costs 30 euros to join the uni ski club, and after that a day’s ski pass is only 10 euros (20 with transport). The cheapest place to hire skis and buy equipment is Decathlon, a giant sports shop at the Grand Sablon tram stop (you can walk there from Berlioz). You can buy all the ski equipment you need for one season relatively cheaply as long as you don’t care about having trendy stuff.

Cycling – My 20 euro bike was by far the best purchase of the year. You can buy “second-hand” (i.e. probably stolen) bikes from the Sunday market by the river, or often there are ads on the residence noticeboards. It’s a very flat city with plenty of bike lanes and it’s also nice to go cycling along the river into the countryside around the city. Be warned though, bikes get stolen all the time – so either buy a very good lock, or a very cheap bike.

Travelling – take advantage of your time in Europe and travel as much as possible! Holidays are shorter in France, but there are still half term breaks and plenty of bank holiday weekends to take advantage of. You can also usually get away with skipping lectures for the odd week here and there. I took a week off to go to Rome (budget flights from Grenoble to Rome with www.blu-express.com), and spent one half-term break visiting Prague, Dresden and Berlin (flights to Prague from Grenoble or Geneva, and to Berlin from Lyon or Geneva). Closer to home, it’s definitely worth going to Paris at least once. A good long weekend trip is Montpellier and Nimes – two beautiful towns on the south coast, a fairly short train journey away. Montpellier is a big student city with plenty going on. It’s also worth visiting Avignon, Marseille, Nice, and the coast in between. Lyon shouldn’t be missed for a day trip and nearby Chambery and Annecy are also good daytrips. Annecy is a small Alpine town on the edge of a beautiful lake. There’s a lovely campsite just above the town, overlooking the lake, and hundreds of fondue restaurants – it makes a good weekend trip when it’s hot.

If you’re planning on taking the train a lot, it’s definitely worth buying a young person’s rail card (une carte 12-25) at the beginning of your stay. I would also highly recommend couch surfing, www.couchsurfing.com as a good way to travel for the more adventurous. The theory is, you stay on people’s couches for free, and in return you offer your own couch for travellers to stay on. However, if you live in halls and can’t offer a couch (or don’t want to) you can still be a member. I wouldn’t couchsurf on my own, but with a friend I never felt unsafe and all the people we stayed with were very welcoming, keen to show us around their towns, introduced us to their friends and spoke loads of French with us.

Grenoble info

I joined the town library (13 euros student rate) as this is a good way of having access to lots of easy fiction. I started off on the teenage fiction section and worked my way up through trashy romance novels to more serious literature. The central library is near the Maison du Tourisme, and there’s a bigger one at Grande Place shopping centre (on tramline A)

Bars and Clubs: The most international student bars (with the best music) are London Pub, the Couche Tard and Bukana on the riverside. For a more French clientele, try Tort Boyaud, a tiny and always packed bar that specialises in flavoured wines. The Metropolitain, next door, is smaller still and usually has good rock music. Barbarus is a nice rum bar in the same area. Notre Dame is the best area for café culture at its finest – the cafés in Place St Andre and around the Notre Dame fountain are always popular with students. The best cocktails are at Styx in Place Claveyson and Shaman, opposite Notre Dame fountain. Shaman serves a free aperitif buffet with any drink on a Friday evening. La Boite aux Sardines is a nice chilled out bar opposite Styx, on the corner with Place aux Herbes. On a nice day, take the Téléférique up to the Bastille and have a coffee on the terrace at the restaurant on top. The views are superb, and the coffee much more reasonable than the food.

Le Vieux Manoir is a pretty grimy club on the opposite side of the river. If you wear a short skirt, be prepared to get hassled all night. But it’s a fun night out, free on a Thursday, and stays open till 5am.

Eating: Eating out is much cheaper in France than in England, and usually of a much higher quality too. I took great pleasure in exploring the culinary delights the city has to offer… Le Pain Quotidien on Rue Lafayette serves excellent, if rather pricey, lunch and coffee. Le Cafeneion on Rue Très Cloîtres is a fantastic and very reasonable Greek restaurant run by a very friendly French/Greek couple. La Tête à l’Invers on Rue Chenoise is an unusual restaurant entirely run by one man. His 9 euro platter of six different desserts is definitely worth a try. For traditional regional food, try La Ferme à Dédé on the corner of Place aux Herbes. Grenoble has a large Arabic population and as a result there are some excellent Moroccan restaurants and Shisha bars. Try La Rose des Sables, Rue Bayard, for good Moroccan food, and La Rose Bleue (Rue Chenoise) or Dar El Shisha for shisha and a good selection of teas in a comfy and friendly environment. There’s great Lebanese food at Au Baalbek, tucked away on Rue Abel Servien and fantastic Jamaican and Caribbean dishes at Le Bouzou on Rue des Alliés although it is a bit out of the way. If all else fails, you can always be sure to get a reasonably priced pizza in one of the 30-odd Italian restaurants on the other side of the river.

Finally, do not let yourself get stressed by the prospect of going abroad – everything will be far easier to organise when you get there. Have an incredible year and, as the French would say; profiter au maximum!