Welcome to the experience of a lifetime. We would all like to go on holiday all the time, but if we did, there would be nothing to look forward to,

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3 Welcome to the experience of a lifetime. We would all like to go on holiday all the time, but if we did, there would be nothing to look forward to, we d all be skint and, let s face it, no one wants to spend 24 hours a day every day with their friends and family! So this holiday brochure is not really about holidays. It is, however, about finding out about how to have the experience of a lifetime. We are introducing the European academic exchange programmes, the ERASMUS programme in particular, in the context of the countries that you could possibly visit, so that you can get to know a little about what it might be like to live and learn there, and hopefully inspire you to take part in an academic exchange as part of your time at university. No one is saying taking part in ERASMUS is easy. Sometimes you have to meet certain academic standards; there are financial issues to take into consideration; you will miss your friends and family; and some things about going to live in another country can be pretty scary. That s why we have included the stories of real Scottish students who have taken part in the programme to show what can be done and how you can go about it. Ok, so taking part in an exchange is not as simple as booking a fortnight in Tenerife. But taking that leap might just be one of the most exciting and rewarding things you ever do. You never know where it might take you. 3

4 Sounds good so what s the deal? ERASMUS ERASMUS is the European Union s flagship programme for higher education. Most universities participate in this programme. It allows students to spend from one semester up to one academic year studying in another European country. There is a small grant available to students, which is given no matter your circumstances, in addition to existing support. Any ongoing funding, such as loans or grants, are continued during that period, and some students are eligible for an additional loan from SAAS during a year abroad. Tuition fees are waived as part of the programme, so this will not be an issue on arrival abroad. Don t forget that work and research placements can also be arranged through the programme - perfect for those who require time in industry to complete their degree. Intensive language courses The programme makes provision for language learning, particularly if the language of the country you are visiting is less well known. Each year intensive language courses are organised by ERASMUS in advance of the commencement of the academic year. It is worth noting that these courses are not universally organised in countries where the languages are more widely spoken, but universities in these countries often offer their own preparatory language support. An alternative is to seek language learning at your home university before travelling. Credit transfer You should be able to transfer any credits you achieve during your year abroad through the European Credit Transfer System (ECTS) so your learning will be recognised by your home institution on your return. Special circumstances There is provision within European programmes for arrangements for students with disabilities. Speak to your university international office or course coordinator for more information. Ready to go? If you are interested in the ERASMUS programme, then speak either to your course leader or the international office at your university. They should be able to let you know what links your university has with institutions in the rest of Europe, and how to go about taking the next steps and getting involved. If you are struggling to find the information you need, do not hesitate to contact NUS Scotland on the contact details in this brochure and we will point you in the right direction. For more information: Other ways to go If you are interested in spending some time working or studying abroad, but don t think ERASMUS is right for you, you could think about one of the programmes highlighted below. These are just some of the many opportunities available to young people to have a fantastic time learning and living in other countries. Leonardo da Vinci Leonardo is a programme which supports students to get valuable work or vocational experience whilst in another European country. This programme is mainly used by employers and colleges, but some universities use it for certain vocational work experience programmes. Speak to your international office for more information: Youth In Action This programme allows young people, aged 12 30, to participate in youth exchanges and volunteering opportunities. Your students association club or society could organise an exchange with a group in another European 4

5 country through this programme. The volunteering section of the programme is great for those wishing to take a year out from study or volunteer after university. This strand, EVS, provides a volunteer placement, language learning if required, a living allowance and accommodation. This is open to those aged For more information: connectyouth-programmes-youth-in-action.htm IAESTE This is a programme open to engineering, architecture, agriculture or science students. It offers a summer work placement in another country. There is a 100 participation fee and participants must cover their own travel. In return they receive a work placement and a small living stipend. For more information: AIESEC This programme offers work or volunteer programmes all over the world. There is a participation fee of 275 for members. There are AISEC societies in many universities that support students to find work placements. The programme also offers excellent future networking possibilities. For more information: The Bologna Process No, we re not talking about pasta now! This is the science bit behind all the changes going on within European higher education. This process, known as Bologna, began in 1999 in response to changes in the world and European education sectors. It stems from a drive by 46 European countries to create a European Higher Education Area. It is a voluntary process, not enshrined within treaties or law, which countries have negotiated and developed together. The key aims of the process are: The adoption of a system of easily readable and comparable degrees; The adoption of a system based on three cycles (Bachelors, Masters, PhD); The establishment of a Europe-wide credit transfer system; The promotion of mobility (i.e. academic exchanges); Quality assurance; The promotion of the European dimension in higher education; A focus on life long learning; Widening access to higher education; The marketing/promotion of the European Higher Education Area; The synergy between the European Research Area and the European Higher Education Area Sure, these political processes and negotiations may seem dry. Despite this, the process has made travelling on academic exchanges far simpler than it has ever been. You can now have your studies recognised at most European higher education institutions, and having a similar type of qualification to other European students will make things far easier should you ever choose to work or pursue further study in another part of Europe. And let s face it, a focus on quality standards is not going to do a student or university any harm. For more information: hogeronderwijs/bologna So, if you re still awake, read on, and learn about all the exciting places you can study, thanks to European cooperation! 5

6 Austrian academics Apart from the classic universities, which offer a wide variety of disciplines, there are a number of specialist universities, as well as a university centre for postgraduate education. Austria s six universities of the arts offer programmes in music and drama or in visual arts and design. The Austrian university system has traditionally consisted of a two-tier system of degrees (diploma and doctoral studies) and it is currently in the process of introducing a three-tier system of degrees (bachelor, master, PhD). Institutions and organisations also offer a variety of German language courses for foreigners. Live like the Vienna set? The Austrian Exchange Service and the Austrian Student Union offer reasonably priced accommodation for students. The international offices of the universities provide support in finding private accommodation. A place in a student hall of residence costs about 270. Austria is known for its breakfast, dessert recipes and confection. It borders Switzerland and Liechtenstein to the west, Germany and the Czech Republic to the north, Slovakia and Hungary to the east and Italy and Slovenia to the south. Vienna has excellent, reasonably priced transport links to most of the eastern European countries. Social and cultural institutions, as well as the public transport providers, offer discounts for students. University sports departments offer a wide range of opportunities for reasonable prices. Studies and personal requirements (books, culture, and recreation) will cost about 230. Ski or sing! Austria has numerous picturesque cities and small villages, including Salzburg, the birthplace Mozart. You can plan short breaks in the mountains for skiing or visit Vienna and its famous opera house. Governor material? Arnold Schwarzenegger, know as a former Mr Universe, Terminator and currently Governor of California, comes from Austria! For more information: 6

7 Belgian Books Belgium is divided into the Flemish Region, which includes the Flemish Community, the Walloon region, Brussels, including its French community, and a small German speaking community in the eastern part. Education is managed on a regional level and is divided between the Belgium and Flanders regions. Although teaching is in Dutch, courses are frequently taught in English as well. The French speaking region offers courses in French and English. The two higher education systems are well respected and very attractive to international students: a fifth of the whole student population is made up of foreign students. In Bruges or Brussels or Leuven or Antwerp Some institutions offer student rooms at very reasonable prices. You can also search for accommodation through estate agents or landlords. Accommodation costs between 250 and 350 Euro per month. As far as food is concerned, mussels and chips is a well known speciality. Belgian cuisine is similar to French but Mediterranean, and Asian food is widely available in the big cities. Public transport is well organised, with frequent tram and bus services with strict timetables. Some of Europe s major cities London, Paris, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, Cologne, Bonn and Luxembourg City - are all situated within a 300km radius of Brussels. But you may not need to travel far, as Belgian cities are teeming with cafés and bistros, which often stay open until the early hours. Arty Belgium Artists such as Magritte and Delvaux, writer Simenon, jazz musician Toots Thielemans, the cartoonist Hergé, the Dardenne brothers film makers, classical musicians such as César Franck, and singer-songwriter Jacques Brel all form a part of Belgian cultural heritage. Brainy Belgium Belgium has one of the highest proportions of years-old enrolled in post-secondary education in Europe. CASE STUDY Christine, MSc Social Work, Robert Gordon University My ERASMUS work placement was in an asylum centre in Broechem, Belgium, which is overseen by the government agency Fedasil. The centre provided accommodation for 300 people. My role included supporting residents moving in and out of the centre, organizing social events, spending time with residents and chatting to them about the issues they face as asylum seekers. Before undertaking this placement I had no idea of what life in Belgium would be like, or if I would even like it. But my experience of life abroad has exceeded all my initial expectations. I could never have imagined how amazing and life changing this trip would be, and I feel so grateful that I was given this opportunity. The whole experience has given me a different perspective on life, and I feel it has given me vast professional, as well as personal, experience. It was a struggle initially, finding my way around a new country and not being able to speak the language, but tackling new challenges has made me a stronger and more independent person. I would definitely recommend ERASMUS to anyone who is keen to experience life abroad. Belgium has been a truly amazing experience and something which I will never forget. For more information on studying in Belgium: For more information on studying in Flanders: 7

8 BULGARIA Eastern thought Bulgaria is in south-eastern Europe and has a population of 7.6 million people. Higher education is provided by universities and specialised higher schools. Some universities are private. The majority of courses are given in the Bulgarian language, which uses the Cyrillic alphabet, similar to Russian, but the number of programmes taught in English, French or German has been increasing. Bul-get-me there! Getting accommodation can be challenging but your endeavours may pay off with some cheap little gems available. Bulgarian property law does not adhere to many of the constraints of western European countries and this flexibility allows you to move from a tiny, lively student room on campus to a reasonably priced, large, city-based three bedroom flat with relative ease. Bulgarian food combines meat, roasted vegetables and Mediterranean-style salads. You will almost certainly eat a lot of meatballs, kefta, and Mediterranean chopska salad. In terms of your budget, it is often cheaper to eat in small restaurants than to buy in shops! Bulgaria is the perfect place from which to explore southern Europe. It borders Romania to the north, Serbia and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia to the west, and Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea, which makes up its entire eastern border. A Sofia-Istanbul bus ticket will cost about 30 Euros if you don t spend the night on the bus! Bulgaria s transition to democracy has been challenging, and the standard of living is still difficult, but Bulgarian people are funloving and friendly. All in all, a fantastic exchange destination waiting to be discovered! History fiend? The Balkan region is fascinating. Bulgaria is part of the Balkan culture and has a complex history drawing influences from Russian, Greek, Turkish and other European cultures. Don t say no! Bulgarian people shake their head when they agree instead of nodding it! For more information: prof1/bulgaco.htm 8

9 CYPRUS Study by the sea Cyprus is a Eurasian island country situated in the eastern Mediterranean. Cyprus hosts students from more than 50 countries including the UK, Germany, Sudan, Egypt, Syria, and Turkey. This small island nation has ten universities countrywide, most of which are located very near to beaches! This all makes for a very international student experience, with influences from all over the States, Europe and the Middle East. The official languages of public universities are Greek and Turkish, and international students are required to have knowledge of one of these languages. However, there are some departments and public higher education institutions in which the language of instruction is English. Mediterranean dreams In comparison with the UK, or even Spain, the general price of accommodation remains very low, which is good news for your budget. Cypriot cuisine has drawn influences from other countries, for instance, Molehiya - a vegetable dish of Arabian origin. There are a wide variety of vegetables dishes, pastries, soups, kebabs and fish dishes to please the Mediterranean gourmet! Travel between the south and north of the island is becoming easier since restrictions on crossing the border have been eased. Cypriot people are wellknown for their hospitality, which should allow you to easily share a little of the local culture and way of life. Cyprus enjoys a relatively low cost of living and good facilities, making for a relatively high standard of living. Crime here is very low. Go clubbing! Cypriot universities hold annual festivals to provide entertainment for their students. You can easily become involved in campus life through the wide range of clubs and societies, which offer great opportunities for students to explore new and existing cultural, educational and social interests. Fun in the sun! Cyprus enjoys the best type of Mediterranean climate with 340 days of bright sunshine annually! Now where s my suitcase? For more information: 9

10 CZECH REPUBLIC sauerkraut is very common, and for dessert, the dumplings are filled with fruit. The Czech Republic has plenty of fascinating cities and a reputation for excellence in education. It is also very central within Europe, sharing borders with the Slovak Republic, Germany, Austria, Slovenia and Poland. With excellent transport links to these countries, and modest living costs, there is no reason not to further explore central Europe from here. Czech it out! The Czech Republic is a mid-sized central European country with a population of around 10 million, which means there are a range of great cities and universities to choose from. Prague is a cultural hub and some of Europe s great intellects studied here. The Charles University in Prague is one of Europe s ancient universities and once boasted Einstein on the staff. There are normally two semesters which start in September. Teaching is in the Czech language, but the majority of Czech people speak Slovak and at least one other language. There are courses in English available so don t panic if your Czech is a little ropey. Language lessons are available to foreign students. World Heritage Prague If you do not choose to study in Prague, a visit to the city is still a must. The historic centre of Prague is a UNESCO world heritage site and, after a walk over the Charles Bridge and into the old town, you will understand why. The city has also been associated with intellects and artists such as Mozart and Kafka. Analyse this! Sigmund Freud, the famous psychologist and psychoanalyst was Czech. He was born in Freiberg, Moravia, in For more information: Counting your Kroeners? The cost of living is still reasonable in the Czech Republic, though prices are increasing. Rents can be up to 300 per month for a shared flat in the centre of Prague, though food and transport costs are pretty fair. Other cities may offer better value and are also wonderful places to study and live, so it may be worth trying elsewhere. Public transport is very good within the Czech Republic and Prague has buses, trams and trolley buses running most hours of the day. It is very reasonably priced with a flat fare system. Prague also has a metro. Czech meals normally start off with a soup, notably garlic soup. Main courses are mainly meat based, although trout and cod are occasionally served. Traditional roast pork with dumplings and 10

11 DENMARK Smorgasbord of learning Unlike its cousins to the north, Denmark is densely populated, but it has much in common that makes it a friendly destination for Scottish students. There are eight universities in Denmark, and a further 13 specialist university-level institutions that focus on art, music and similar disciplines. Like Sweden and Norway, English is widely spoken and understood here. In addition to the individual courses taught in English at these institutions, there are 44 Bachelor degree programmes that don t require students to speak Danish. The academic year in Denmark runs from September until June. Danish dreams If you are an exchange student, your host intuition in Denmark will help you find accommodation. If you can find your way into a residence hall, you ll be well on your way to making new friends. In Denmark, the halls of residence aren t just for first-years - most of the students are between 19 and 30-years-old. The typical Danish lunch is made up of Smørrebrød (open sandwiches) - rye bread buttered and covered with sliced meats and cheeses. The summer dessert Rødgrød med fløde is a thick berry soup served with cream. Public transport in Denmark is known for its punctuality and runs regularly, whether within cities or between them. Although city fares are relatively cheap, inter-city travel can get costly, so look for cheap bus lines offering services between Copenhagen and Ålborg. Unlike the hillier nations to the north, Danes use their bicycles to get around. You ll find that most of your fellow students have one. Students interact though societies that run cafes or organise excursions, political events and parties. Many Danish institutions have buddy-programmes aimed at helping international students. There are also welcome programmes and courses in Danish language and culture. Fun for film buffs Each year, Copenhagen, Odense, Århus and Aalborg host Night Film Festivals - movie marathons that run late into the evening. The Danish films at these events are often subtitled in English. Hygge time! Hygge is a concept unique to Denmark, tough to pronounce and even tougher to describe. It is the concept of gathering with family and friends, serving food and drink, and enjoying each other s company in the absence of worries or troubles. It reaches its highpoint around the winter holidays, but it can be experienced just as easily at a seaside picnic as around the dinner table. For more information: 11

12 ESTONIA Estonian education The smallest of the three Baltic States, with only a quarter of Scotland s population, Estonia is an easy country to get to know well. It s a short journey between the capital Tallinn, full of medieval charm, to other cosmopolitan cities like Tartu, or to the country s lush woodlands and resplendent coastline. When it comes to studying, there is a growing prevalence of English-taught courses at the country s six public and four private universities, from philosophy and law to maths and business. The academic year is divided into semesters, running from August to January and February to June, though Tallinn and Tartu universities run summer programmes as well. Estone-me! The usual private means of accommodation are available for university students, though residence halls such as the non-profit Student Village association at Tartu University, which houses over 3000 students in eight residence halls, is a much better option cost-wise and will ensure you meet Estonians quickly. Like the rest of Europe, there is a wide range of international dishes available in larger towns, but for some Estonian specialties try sült (jellied veal), täidetud vasikarind (roast stuffed shoulder of veal), rosolje (vinaigrette with herring and beetroot), braised goose stuffed with apples and plums, and the ever popular verivorst (black pudding). Buses are the best option to get around Estonia. In addition to covering a wider area than trains, they are both more frequent and faster. Some common qualities that Estonians are described as having are nostalgia for the past, a reverence for the scientific, and a sense of humour, irony and mockery. It is said their humour is blacker than ours. Impressive. Talinnted dancers! Every October, the International Streetdance Festival Battle of EST, the Baltic states and Scandinavia s most important breakdance and hip-hop event, takes place in Estonia. Hooch man is that the pipes? Estonia hosts its own bagpipe festival. The Lahemaa Bagpipe Days take place throughout the country each summer, and feature Estonian bagpipers as well as those from abroad. For more information: 12

13 FINLAND Learning is Fin! Bordering Sweden on one side and Russia on the other, Finland s culture is a comfortable balance of east meets west. With practically the same population as Scotland, it is home to over 11,000 permanent foreign students and welcomes another 8000 each year on exchange programmes. Over 400 international study programmes are taught in English at its 20 universities (200 degree programmes at the Masters and Doctoral level), so Finland offers plenty of choice in location, from high culture Helsinki to the quieter, rural campuses in the nation s abundant countryside. Finnish universities also offer foreign language instruction in Finnish and Swedish. Fit in Finland Like other ERASMUS-hosting nations, student housing is generally organised by the Finnish host university. Other options for finding accommodation in Finland are the student housing foundations, student unions or regional student clubs or faculty organisations. Institutions and local authorities also sometimes run student dormitories. Cooking in Finland reflects Scandinavian and Russia influences. As with the rest of Scandinavia, fish is a popular dish, and the potato to Finns is as pasta is to Italians. Dark rye bread will often form an accompaniment to many meals, making a lack of starch in your diet the least of your culinary worries. Finns are generally considered easy going, so formality isn t a concern. Finland is not as expensive to live in as some of its neighbours. Costs for students run around for rent, food, transportation and leisure. Student unions members are entitled to transportation and meal discounts. One tip on saving money to is to look for signs that say Ale or Tarjous, which indicate a sale or special offer. Public transportation is widespread and efficient, but can be pricey in the bigger cities. Summer festival fun The co-op Finland Festival pools resources for many of the country s festivals, which are at their peak in during warm Finnish summers. Theatre is popular with Finns as well, with stages filled with both amateurs and professionals. Love the great outdoors Finland shares a love of the outdoors with its Scandinavian neighbours, and there s plenty of it. Close to 70 per cent of the land is covered by forest, and 81,000 islands lie off Finland s 680 miles of coastline. For more information: 13

14 FRANCE A la française? With a population of 64 million, France is bordered by Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Monaco, Andorra and Spain. Students from all these countries are very likely to study in France. French universities offer plenty of choice, particularly in the areas of arts and letters, social and political sciences, history, law, medicine, as well as courses in many highly respected business and engineering schools. The French academic year typically begins at the end of September and runs until mid-june. There are very few essays to submit. Assessment is usually in the form of written or oral exams. Don t be late... well maybe just a little! It is not at all impolite not to arrive exactly on time. If you are invited for dinner, get there around minutes after the set time. For more information: Living the French life There is a wide variety of accommodation available to students in France. French universities offer accommodation, both rooms and studios, at rates of as little as 150 Euro per month, outside Paris. These residences are called Cités-Universitaires, and are managed by CROUS, the regional branches of CNOUS, the national student service agency. But be careful if Paris is your choice, then prices are much closer to those of London. French cuisine is considered one of the best in the world, and with its variety of pastries, fresh produce and world renowned gastronomy, it is certain that you will eat well in France. Vegetarian food is not as common as in the UK, especially when eating out, but you won t have any difficulty to find something to your taste and budget. France is the most visited country in the world and as such has a wide array of different kinds of destinations to visit. Good beaches, attractive countryside, historic castles and panoramic Alpine scenery are all within reach. French people are more likely to play hard than work hard! Culture plays an important part in the life of the French, and you will enjoy spending time with friends and sharing a meal, often lasting for several hours! Parisian nights Paris is considered a world city. Don t miss a visit to the many galleries, tourist attractions and restaurants.. oh, as well as that tall sticking up thing! 14

15 CASE STUDY Nicola, Business Management, Robert-Gordon University, Aberdeen Last year I was offered the opportunity of a lifetime to live and study in a foreign country! Having studied languages all through school I was keen to take part in the ERASMUS scheme, so when the opportunity came along and snatched it with both hands! Having decided upon my top three destinations, I was soon offered a place at ESCE University in Paris and, on 1 September 2008, I made my journey to France where I was to spend the next four months improving my French language skills and experiencing a new culture. Although the university was demanding, with a high number of classes and a considerable amount of coursework, the life in Paris was much slower than life at home, and there was plenty of time to enjoy myself with friends and to explore the wonders of the city. To be able to take a metro and reach some of the most famous architectural monuments in the world within 20 minutes was amazing! The views from the Eiffel Tower, Arc de Triomphe and Sacre Coeur were absolutely phenomenal! Not forgetting Disneyland Paris for all us big kids, which was only a 45 minute journey away and a fantastic day out! With people from across Europe taking part in the ERASMUS scheme I was never short of a choice of friends and I had a truly fulfilled cultural experience! It was really easy to make friends, and since returning to Scotland I have been back to Paris again to stay with friends, who I hope will remain my friends for life! Pour moi, l expérience d ERASMUS était une expérience incroyable! 15

16 GERMANY German discipline! Germany has just as wide a range of subject areas and choices of universities as the UK, so the chances are, no matter how narrow your subject area, you will find an equivalent course to suit your needs. It is the largest EU member state with some 350 institutions, including technical universities, universities, teaching colleges and art and music schools. You will be expected to select and register for all the courses you wish to study to make up your credits. Often you will be expected to queue to get into the popular courses! Courses in Germany are frequently available in English. Language courses are provided to students as part of general introduction courses for international students on arrival. Real politik In terms of accommodation, a city centre apartment in Munich or Berlin will set you back a fair bit, but some of the towns in the former east of Germany will be pretty reasonable. Most universities do have student housing, and priority is given to international students where possible. If you rent a flat alone, you can expect it to be unfurnished so you may have to rent or buy some furniture. Food is reasonably priced in Germany, especially if you go to one of the big hypermarkets. German street food is very tasty, but mainly aimed at meat eaters! Bratwurst, bockwurst and frikadellen are all pork sausagey delights and are sold on most street corners. Vegetarianism is becoming more popular in Germany, but most Germans still love their beer and sausages! Like in the UK, there is a big organic movement, but be careful, biologisch means organic, not biological, so when you see this written, it does not mean it is for the washing machine! Public transport works like a dream in Germany and is very reasonably priced. Germany is central in Europe and shares a border with Austria, Hungary, Czech Republic, and Poland to the east, Denmark to the north and Belgium, France, the Netherlands and Switzerland to the west. It has many and varied possibilities from fabulous country side, skiing and lakes, to lively fun cities for clubbing, socialising and cultural diversity, so whatever your bag, Germany has goodies to fill it. Carnival Queen or King! Every year the southern states of Germany celebrate Carnival. The Cologne carnival is one of the most famous, beginning officially on 11 November and suspended for Christmas, with the real festivities taking place during the Easter period. Events include parties, dressing up, street parades, games and parodies. Not to be missed for all party goers! Tor! There are more football fan clubs in Germany than anywhere else in the world. For more information: 16

17 CASE STUDY Rebecca, English Literature, University of Edinburgh I was overjoyed at having been selected to participate in an ERASMUS exchange to Berlin. Fortunately, as an English Lit student all my classes were in English, allowing me to flit off to Germany and spend my third year of university studying in one of the coolest cities in the world. Not that it wasn t surprisingly daunting at times, trying to find a flat at the beginning of the academic year is a soul-destroying exercise in rejection. The weather quickly became spinefreezingly bitter. And don t even get me started on the German fine art of bureaucracy! But I can honestly say that doing ERASMUS was one of the best choices I ve ever made. As a so-called mature student (I m 27!) uni life was never quite the same as if I d had the shared experience of uni halls and the heady freedom of no responsibilities with my fellow students. ERASMUS changed that. On the continent the approach to learning is completely different, and there were lots of students my own age, many of whom were sharing the international experience. It was a great way of making friends and of experiencing new things - well worth going outside my comfort zone, even if there were times in the beginning when I wondered what on earth I had done! It took me longer to settle in than I anticipated, but once I did I discovered Berlin to be a city that is literally seething with creativity. It seems like every weekend there is a festival that sees the city uniting to dance (and drink) in the streets. Opera and ballet are heavily subsidised for students, creating a real sense of cultural democracy. Berlin, Ich liebe dich. 17

18 GREECE What s your philosophy? Greece could be considered Europe s ancient capital of culture and knowledge, as famous Greek philosophers and thinkers such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle are said to have been the founders of modern western thought. The country has a population of 11 million and is situated in south-eastern Europe, on the southern end of the Balkan Peninsula. Public higher education is divided into universities, higher education institutions and higher technological education institutions, or ATEI. The Capodistrian University of Athens is the oldest university in the eastern Mediterranean. State-run universities do not charge tuition fees and textbooks are provided free of charge to all students. Live like a Greek! Greek universities have some residences available on campus, which are reserved for students with financial difficulties. Estate agents are not commonly used for finding rentals, as most people rent directly from landlords. This means that rent is low and there is little administration involved. The Mediterranean diet is considered one of the healthiest in the world and Greek cuisine is a good example of this. It incorporates fresh ingredients into a variety of local dishes such as moussaka, Greek salad, various meze composed of tzatziki, olives and feta cheese. Greece s favourable climate offers many possibilities to escape for small excursions. Apart from the mainland, the country is made up of more than 2000 islands. Greeks enjoy life, and so should you whilst there! The Greek way of life is family focused and there are many festivals and celebrations to be enjoyed. Nightlife is not only busy in cities, with many of the islands and even small villages having bars and restaurants open until the wee small hours to take advantage of the balmy Mediterranean nights! Ancient Greek Greece is certainly one of Europe s historical hotspots! Over the years, it has been influenced by the Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman Empires, as well as national Greek culture. Sightseeing here takes in many of Europe s historical wonders such as the Parthenon in Athens, archaeological relics, amphitheatres and statues, not only in Athens but on the many islands which you will undoubtedly visit. What s your name? Traditionally, Greeks celebrate their name days instead of their birth dates. Since a few names such as Yannis, Giorgios and Nikos are quite popular, this leads to almost national holidays on those dates! For more information: 18

19 HUNGARY Hungary for learning Hungary has a long tradition of academia. The city of Pecs hosted its first university which was founded in There are now are 71 higher educational institutions in Hungary, ranging from top research universities to small colleges. The universities and colleges are financed either by the state, private organisations or churches. There are courses taught in English, especially medicine, veterinary science and other health sciences, as well as a range of other courses. The academic year begins in September with signing up and registration. If you choose to take an ERASMUS intensive language course, this will take place earlier. Hungarian high life The best option to meet lots of other students is to rent a room in university accommodation, which is also the cheaper option. Monthly rents can vary between per month for a studio or shared apartment. So this is still a very reasonable option for British students. Hungarian cuisine consists of a lot of meat, potatoes and peppers, and paprika is the most prevalent spice. Green salad is not part of traditional Hungarian cooking, so this is not so common. When salad is served, this normally means pickled vegetables served with the main meal. Local specialities include warm vegetable soups and cold berry soups. For a decent standard of living in Hungary you will need about 300 per month including rent. There are discounts for students on many aspects of life including transport. Budapest has excellent public transport, including Europe s first ever underground, which has three lines connecting the city. A monthly pass for a student costs around 11. Hungary has many delights for the traveller, and with modest living costs there s no reason why you should not see it for yourself. It is also centrally located within Europe and has links to major European cities such as Paris, Munich, Vienna and Brussels. There is plenty of support for students new to Hungary from the ERASMUS students network, student societies and even a student information centre in Budapest with its own café. Culture vulture If you are hanging around for summer, or get to Hungary early, don t miss the International Culture week that takes place every summer in Pécs. It is a week of debate and interactive communication for young people and students on the topics of diversity and cultural awareness. A must for budding internationalists from around the world. Puzzle this one As well as the ball point pen, Hungary counts the beloved Rubik s Cube as one of its inventions! For more information: 19

20 ICELAND a lively experience. One of the advantages of living in Iceland is the endless flow of geothermal water from the earth. This hot water is used for open-air swimming pools all around the country, which serve as health spas and pleasant places to meet people. Read on Literature has always been the mainstay of Icelandic culture. Also significant in Icelandic heritage is woodcarving and folk music. Chilly learning Iceland is a relatively small country with a surface area around the same as Ireland, but is sparsely populated with only 313,000 residents, of whom around two thirds live in Reykjavik and the surrounding area. There are eleven higher education intuitions, three of which are private. Currently there are around 18,000 students enrolled higher education, of whom around five per cent are international students. The higher education system is the same as the Scottish: Bachelor degree, Masters degree and Doctorate. Do not worry about your Icelandic - most of the population speaks English very well, and most institutions offer some courses in English. In some cases, entire programmes are taught in English. Pop til you drop! Björk, Emiliana Torrini and Sigur Ros all hail from Iceland, making this small island s contribution to the pop landscape quite significant! For more information: EducationResearch/StudiesForForeigners Icy but nicey! Iceland is considered to be very expensive, but you can save cash by opting to share a flat. One bedroom accommodation is very rare. Try to get student accommodation as soon as you know that you will be going to Iceland, as it can be difficult to find. Campus accommodation there is good quality, and this is the best way to enjoy Icelandic student life. Most national Icelandic foods are based around fish, lamb and dairy products. A local speciality is shark meat preserved in pee! If you are less inclined to urine preserved seafood, then the modern Icelandic diet is very diverse, and includes cuisines from all over the world, and, of course, fast food restaurants are widespread. Reykjavík, the capital city, is at the heart of Iceland s spectacular scenery. It is also is only about a three hour flight from most European cities, and a few hours from North America. Icelandic people work hard but they also play hard! Weekends in downtown Reykjavík are 20

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