Monday 19 August 2019

You have your college place, but do you also have your passport?

Studying abroad can be a life-changing experience, writes Catherine Convery

Catherine Convery: ‘Almost all students have a successful, enriching and enjoyable Erasmus experience, frequently describing it as the best year of their lives’ Photo: Damien eagers
Catherine Convery: ‘Almost all students have a successful, enriching and enjoyable Erasmus experience, frequently describing it as the best year of their lives’ Photo: Damien eagers

There are three main routes to studying abroad for students in higher education. Some degrees are international and incorporate a compulsory period abroad as part of the study programme. Others offer students an optional period abroad for a semester or year, via an international exchange (non-EU) or an Erasmus+ exchange (within the EU).

Going on an Erasmus+ exchange can be a life-changing experience for thousands of students every year. The 2014 Erasmus Impact Study showed that young people who study or train abroad not only gain knowledge in specific disciplines, but also strengthen key transversal skills which are highly valued by employers. They are also far less likely to experience long-term unemployment compared with those who have not studied or trained abroad. Almost all students have a successful, enriching and enjoyable Erasmus experience, frequently describing it as the best year of their lives.

Erasmus not only improves career prospects, it also offers students the choices and opportunities that expand their horizons and social links. It creates a chance to experience a different academic environment and to improve language skills.

Studies completed abroad are recognised for credit and integrated into the home degree programmes. After their exchange and eventual graduation, many students change their country of residence, study or work at least once, at a rate that is almost double the number of those who were not mobile during studies.

The life-skills developed through gaining international/intercultural competencies are invaluable.

Former Erasmus students are also more likely to develop transnational relationships, with one third of them having a partner of a different nationality, often meeting them while on Erasmus.

In UCD, students apply for an Erasmus exchange through the school in which they are studying, as there are different options regarding destinations for each subject area. They are selected after completing at least one year of study, on the basis of their academic performance and their language ability, where applicable. Students who spend a year abroad go in third year. Semesters abroad are scheduled by the school and can take place in second, third or fourth year, or at Master's level.

Successful applicants receive an Erasmus grant from the European Commission. For 2019/20, the study grants will be €250 and €300 per month, depending on the destination country.

While the majority of Erasmus activity is within Europe, since 2014 Erasmus+ International Credit Mobility has opened up funding to allow students to experience Erasmus worldwide. There is also additional funding for students with disabilities.

Catherine Convery, Senior International Mobility Officer, UCD Global

Irish Independent

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