First things first. Allow us to define what is Erasmus Mundus (EM). It is basically a mobility program in the field of higher education that gathers the cream of the crop from around the world (edi wow.haha) to participate in a life-changing experience of studying in different countries (mostly in Europe). Both of us were fortunate enough to have lived this journey and we’d like to share our take on the key takeaways (out of a hundred probably!) of being an EM scholar.
1. You get paid to study and travel at the same time
This is probably the best thing about being an EM scholarship recipient especially for those who cannot keep their feet in one place, like us. 😉 Most EM programs are designed so that students move to another country every 6 months. How cool is that! The scholarship comes with a fairly decent living allowance (1000 Euros/month) as well as a very generous mobility fund (7000 Euros for 2 years!!!). With this amount, you can easily squeeze in some travels around Europe given that European cities are so efficiently connected by train, bus, or airplane. Traveling has never been so convenient and possible, compared to other parts of the globe.
2. You get to learn a new language for free
Although the courses are taught in English, you’re gonna have to learn (or at least try) the local language because it’s another story once you go out of the classroom. What’s great about EM programs is that most of them offer free language courses. The only thing that’d be standing between you and learning that language is yourself actually because you have the free courses and you’re gonna be surrounded with local people. Although sometimes it gets really hard to have the motivation to learn something as confusing as French (why do they have to use extra letters that are not even pronounced) or Polish (sometimes there are just too many consonants in a word! Check this out and you’ll see). More than the formal language classes in a classroom, a better way to learn as always is to go out in the real world and face it head on. Easier said than done though 😉
3. You realize that people from around the world are not so different from you
EM programs are normally composed of students from different parts of the world. Keith’s program for example has an amazingly diverse group of students coming from 23 different countries while Khryslyn’s has a cohort of 16 nationalities. Hanging around with people in such a culturally diverse environment, we’d come to realize how remarkably similar we are from other races. Of course there will always be differences but it’s really fascinating to be able to have conversations with a classmate who grew up in a country 10,000 mi from you and you realize that you watched the same anime or obsessed over the same boyband growing up. And you’d think that throwing punchlines at someone so culturally different from you would turn into an awkward misunderstanding, not really because in our cohorts, surprisingly we share a number of similar interests and we are actually able to laugh at each others’ jokes most of the time.
4. You build networks for your career
EM programs are very internationally-oriented and are well-connected with various universities, research centers, and companies across the globe. Depending on the program, there would even be scheduled site visits or field trips for students to get acquainted with these institutions. Career fairs are also being held which can give you the opportunity to touch base with potential employers. Without a doubt, EM programs open up several doors of opportunities for your career whether it’d be in the academe or the industry. Don’t be too excited about this though because you still gotta work hard to land a good job in the industry or a PhD position once the EM journey is over.
5. You discover new things about yourself
Self-discovery is another great aspect of being an EM scholar. While most people go to India or some other place of solace (well nothing wrong about that of course) to take that much needed journey of self-discovery, you can do just that while earning a higher degree in the process 😉 With the great potpourri of people from different walks of life that you meet along the way and the diverse career possibilities that will come your way (some you haven’t even considered before), you get to realize what you really want to do with your life and the things that really make you happy.
6. You develop practical life-survival skills
Moving to a foreign land, not just one but to a maximum of 4 in the course of an EM program will definitely teach you tons of life lessons and skills. Here are some situations that we’ve experienced that are ought to be so simple to deal with back home but are quite challenging when you live abroad:
- Learning how to navigate through an airport, a train station, a subway system or through a city
- Calibrating your ears to all kinds of English accents
- Applying for a visa (every 6 months!!)
- Going to a hospital to see a doctor and no one understands a word you say
- Reporting an issue to your bank and no one understands a word you say
- Processing administrative documents (again, no one understands a word you say)
- Trying to send a very important letter at a post office (In some countries, it’s not a problem since the process is very intuitive even if you don’t speak the language. But in other countries, well there are no words to describe how frustrating it can get)
- Packing and unpacking your luggage (or your whole life 😉 ) every 6 months
-Khryslyn & Keith-