Florence and Shardob tell us about how they managed to engage in these opportunities while not relying on the Erasmus grant that so many of us are familiar with, proving that there are other ways to finance your exchange abroad.
Florence - went from the UK to Germany
Shardob - went from Sweden to Ukraine
What kind of exchange programme did you take part in on your mobility experience?
Florence: Germany runs their own exchange programme called DAAD (Deutsche Akademischer Austauschdienst) that I discovered online and decided to apply as I was studying German at the time.
Shardob: I initiated the exchange myself with support from the university, opposed to going through a regular exchange programme - I was really keen to go to Ukraine and my university didn’t have ties to anywhere in the country so I looked into it myself.
For how long were you on exchange?
Florence: Only one month.
Shardob: One semester.
How did you support yourself financially?
Florence:The DAAD provided funding in the form of a scholarship to cover my course fees, and I used my savings to cover everything else like accommodation and living expenses. I had luckily managed to build up a lot of savings as I had just gone on a year abroad and had worked during it.
Shardob: I relied mostly on Swedish student finance, as Ukraine was quite a cheap country in comparison to Sweden, and my student loan went a long way in the host country. I also had my savings to fall back on when needed.
Did you find the paperwork and application complicated at all?
Florence: Yes, as it had to be completed in Germany. Part of the application involved an essay explaining why I should be awarded a spot in the programme, and I also had to find a referee in the UK (these are preapproved people that are normally in universities, but my university didn’t have one). The hardest part of the application was, however, probably the juggling of it with my studies and work.
Shardob: Very! I had to visit the country and complete all the paperwork myself before going on exchange. As I didn’t speak Ukrainian, there were a lot of language barriers that slowed down the process, as well as the inevitable bureaucratic delays.
What did you enjoy the most during your exchange?
Florence: The opportunity to meet new people and use my language skills every single day opposed to only in class as I was used to.
Shardob: Experiencing the Ukrainian culture that is heavily influenced by the Eastern Orthodox church and traditions from Slavic mythology. As much as Sweden also still has very strong ties to their history with the Vikings, it is a whole new level in Ukraine.
Favourite place you travelled to during your time away?
Florence: Oktoberfest in Munich. It is such a German event, made even better by the fact I was able to communicate with the locals there in their native language, and experience their historical “volksfest”.
Shardob: The Carpathian mountains. These are one of the biggest mountain ranges in Europe, something that really appeals to someone that is always drawn to tall land masses.
Top skill developed:
Florence: Learning to be confident in myself, and pushing myself to speak German as much as possible.
Shardob: Learning the Russian language - it is everywhere in the country and has come in handy ever since.
Weirdest thing you ate:
Florence: Schweinshaxe, or pork knuckle in English. It isn’t pig’s trotters but actually a part of the leg, but it definitely looks weird!
Shardob: Salo, a dish made from cured pork fat. It looks almost like a type of cheese, but as soon as you bite into it you will know otherwise...
The Big Question:
Would you recommend this mode of mobility to others?
Florence: Yes, but only if you can secure funding. Short-term mobilities are a lot easier to cover the costs than longer mobilities, such as a semester or academic year. It is definitely a great way to experience mobility for a short period of time in an affordable way.
Shardob: The good thing about this experience was that it was very different to what I had been experiencing in my home university. Although an international student already in Sweden, I had a very good grasp of English and so did the Swedes, so living in Ukraine where I was the only exchange student was quite a challenge. Overall, I would definitely recommend it if you are looking for a different experience, as well as going to a cheaper country to make it more affordable.