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The Erasmus Iceberg Illusion

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Reading time: 4 minutes
For the normal student who doesn’t even think of going on Erasmus, an exchange programme comes with a couple of prejudices and stereotypes. I’m here to break them down to you and show you what Erasmus is really about.
girl looking at some icebers

Erasmus is just partying.

This is probably the biggest misconception. People think that Erasmus students just party for 6 months in another country, with no worries, living a parallel life, getting drunk 24/7. But this is not true. Erasmus students also study, a lot, and volunteer and some even work. Going on an exchange program does include partying, but the partying part is around 10% to 20% of that.

If you go on Erasmus, you’ll travel a lot.

When you go on Erasmus, you do have the opportunity to travel more because you’re more independent and all your friends have the same mindset, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that you’re going to visit every European country there is. Travelling is expensive and there’s only so much time to do so. So if you actually don’t even leave your Erasmus city, don’t think you’re missing out on your Erasmus experience, exploring your host city can be fulfilling as well.

Erasmus is like a vacation - just longer.

This is actually something I heard from my dad and distant relatives. Just because you’re going to a different country for 6 months, doesn’t mean you’re on vacation. You’re going to move to another country to study, so everything you did back home, you’re going to do on your mobility - go to classes, study, have exams and essays to write. If you go on an internship, you’re going to work. An Erasmus isn’t a vacation, it can be stressful.

laptop and suitcase open
credit: Anete Lusina

Everyone that goes on Erasmus loves their Erasmus.

I wish this was true. Everyone’s experience is different and not everyone loves their exchange. Some people have bad experiences and hate the fact that they did it and wouldn’t do it again. I personally know a girl that went to the same place I went 6 months after I did and did not like it at all. It’s not the place, it’s the person. Sometimes it’s the people we meet, how ready we are, how the university treats us, how open-minded we can be. Or sometimes, we’re just not in the right state of mind, at the time, to do it. Some people aren’t made to go on Erasmus. So no, not everyone loves going on Erasmus. But most do.

Going on Erasmus is really easy - you just apply and go.

Oh, man. It really isn’t. There’s so much paperwork involved. Before, during and after. The words “learning agreement” haunt me to this day. The learning agreement, for those who don’t know what it is, is the paper that states what classes you would have had back home and those that you’re going to have at the host university. But sometimes (or a lot of the time), you have to change it because of bureaucracy, or because the class doesn’t take Erasmus or you learn that the class is completely different from what you thought it would be. Going on Erasmus is a lot of paperwork, it’s not that easy.

Everyone gets easy good grades on their Erasmus

Again, not true. After changing your learning agreement for the 100th time, you start going to classes and start studying and learn that the grading system is different, you might have to start studying for real. Winging it won’t do it. You do have to study on Erasmus, going on an exchange program doesn’t guarantee easy good grades.

people working on table, from above with laptops, phones, notes
The Erasmus Iceberg Illusion

Erasmus in big cities is better than Erasmus in small cities

When we think of going on Erasmus, we might think of going to the big European cities and how amazing it might be to experience them. You might automatically ignore the small Polish town or the tiny Spanish city in the South with a couple thousand inhabitants. Small cities can sometimes make your Erasmus the best because you’ll get to know the city even better and you’ll know everyone there. The size of the place isn’t equal to the quality of your exchange.

People with disabilities can’t go on Erasmus

This is false. People with disabilities can go on Erasmus. They just have the extra step of having to look for more information, looking for accessible cities and searching if the university is accessible and if the city is disability friendly. But this doesn’t stop people with disabilities from going on an exchange.

Older people can’t go on Erasmus

The average age of people that do Erasmus is around 24. Usually. But older people also do Erasmus, there’s no age limit. As long as you’re attending university and taking some sort of degree, you can go on Erasmus. I had the pleasure of interviewing a woman that went on an Erasmus aged 38, you can check that article here!

Even though the word Erasmus can come with some prejudices, it shouldn’t stop you from knowing more about the Erasmus+ programme and actually going on an exchange. Getting informed before you even apply is key for you to get the best out of what can be the best experience of your life.