Wendy Maden, final year student on the BSc City and Regional Planning, reflects on her experience of studying abroad through the Erasmus programme
Wendy, third from the right, pictured in Leuven with friends made while on the Erasmus programme. Wendy stated: “This photo summarises Erasmus quite well: Swedish, Italian, German, British, Israeli and Italian in a beautiful new location”.
I undertook an Erasmus Exchange to KU Leuven in Belgium, to study on the Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning, during the second semester of the final year of my BSc City and Regional Planning at Cardiff University.
The reason I went to Leuven was to study a great course at a new university. The opportunity for Erasmus rose in the last term as my course mates were undertaking their optional modules in Cardiff, so I was able to choose any planning modules at the host university that were specifically of interest to me. I chose a number of really interesting modules, on topics that I had not studied in Cardiff, that were part of the Master of Urbanism and Strategic Planning. Although the thought of Masters Modules was not a soothing one, I was assured as a final year bachelor student I would be fine, and I was.
The modules were really engaging, and I found the opportunity to choose from a huge selection at this university was really rewarding. I think the nature of my selections are really beneficial in terms of applying for a specialist Masters course in Cardiff.
The way of teaching was different but the alternative view of looking at similar material to that studied at the home university was really interesting, and studying on a course with many international students allowed for lots of interesting viewpoints and case studies
As the only person on my course to take up the opportunity of Erasmus exchange, and the only Cardiff student in this exchange university at the time, I arrived in Leuven, Belgium alone. This was obviously a daunting prospect, but using the huge Erasmus activity itinerary given to me on arrival I was sure I could find at least a few friends.
On the first evening of the first Erasmus event, students were asked to meet outside City Hall (pictured above) so I went along full of hope, then nerves and stood there, feeling shy, for a minute. Soon, a guy came and stood next to me, we had an expected awkward chat about where we were from (him, Sweden) what we were studying (him, Biomedicine) etc., and then soon a girl walked over to us and we politely had the same conversation over again (she was from Israel studying Psychology).
Soon we were laughing and joking as we walked onto the first bar; the Swedish Biomedic, the Israeli Psychologist and I. At the bar we were giggling at a grumpy Italian banging on the bar to get the barman’s attention for a pint of the infamous Stella Artois, brewed here in Leuven. Soon he noticed us and we began chatting with the not-so-grumpy-really Italian and his lovely Italian friend. Eventually, the Israeli Psychologist’s German friend arrived to join us, and that is how my Erasmus friendship group was born. We all met on the first social of the term and spent most of our time together since. Making interesting friends from around the world is often what people speak of first following an Erasmus exchange, and it is an exciting part, not least because of all the future holiday destinations I now have!
I would recommend an Erasmus exchange to anyone; the opportunity to live abroad, study in a new context, make loads of international friends and do heaps of travelling around Europe, are not chances you get very often, and if the opportunity for Erasmus arises, then I urge you to take it.
Here are some of my Top Tips for engaging in an Erasmus exchange, enjoy!
- Use social media to help with finding accommodation and exploring support networks before you go. Google for ‘Erasmus’ for your study location and you’ll find lots of useful information. Getting accommodation sorted out can be easier than you think.
- Remember that there are lots of other Erasmus students in the same position as you – so you’re not alone in getting to know a new place and a new institution. There are many others who you can share the experience with.
- Make the most of the induction activities for Erasmus students that are provided by the university you are studying at – really helpful and a great way to make friends and contacts.
- Introduce yourself to your new lecturers, explaining where you’re from and why you are there – it helps them to know you are participating in their modules as an exchange student.
Information on the BSc City and Regional Planning degree is available at www.cardiff.ac.uk/cplan
To find out more about Erasmus+ funded study opportunities click here.