A new country, new culture, new people... it wasn’t a piece of cake, but a life-changing experience – that is how Alex Grove, a third-year journalism student at the University of Sheffield, who spent six months studying in Abat Oliva University in Barcelona last year, described his time on Erasmus.
Erasmus+ is a European Union funded student exchange programme which has been allowing students from across the EU to study in another country for over 25 years.
In the academic year of 2014-15, the University of Sheffield welcomed nearly 500 students into the city on Erasmus and over 400 students from the university got the opportunity to study abroad, making the university one of the largest players in the programme within the UK.
Alex Grove, from Wolverhampton, was one of those students who went to study abroad. He believes Erasmus was the best decision he has made at university.
He said: “Studying in Sheffield is great, but I am glad I also got the chance to spend time in another beautiful city like Barcelona.
“I have always wanted to spend time living abroad and Erasmus made it financially viable. ”
All students across Europe who take part in the programme receive a grant from the EU and students at English universities are also eligible for support from student finance.
Dörte Stevenson, the university’s Head of Global Opportunities & Exchanges, said: “We prepare our graduates to develop their cultural agility to be able to work in multicultural settings and build key global competence through internationalisation, both at home and abroad, such as second-language learning, and study, work and volunteering periods abroad.
“We have been participating in the Erasmus+ mobility programme since it was introduced and are now one of the most active higher education institutions in the UK.”
Fourth-year International Law student Mary Fleet Tear, from Beverley, is another University of Sheffield student who had the opportunity to study abroad with Erasmus. She spent an academic year studying in Utrecht.
“The first few weeks were daunting, trying to adjust to life in another country, but once you find your feet it’s exciting to immerse yourself in another culture,” she said.
Mary loved how easy it was for her to travel while in the Netherlands. She said: “I visited Budapest, Vienna and many more places.”
In the same way, students from the university’s partner institutions relish their time in Sheffield. Helene Offer-Ohlsen, a fifth-year architecture student from Norway who is studying at the University of Sheffield for an academic year, is also trying to make the most of her time by travelling around the UK as much as possible.
“It’s interesting to see how another university works - it makes you realise there’s more than one way to learn. Besides, I have gained a lot of confidence speaking and writing in English,” she said.
Elena Mizerakova, a third-year economics students at Charles University in Prague who will be in Sheffield for nearly six months, agrees with Helene. She said: “I have met so many new people, which I love because it allows me to get to know other cultures while improving my English. It’s really enriching.
“Erasmus is an unforgettable experience that I would recommend to everybody. It broadens your horizons, makes you more flexible and helps you understand other cultures.”
To find out more about Erasmus+, visit: www.sheffield.ac.uk/erasmus