What no one tells you about the ERASMUS+ study placement.

Are you already packing up for your first ERASMUS+? Congrats then! You’re at the rightest place. I’m neither the first, nor the last person experiencing and writing about ERASMUS+, yet my friends, here you find the answers you are ashamed of asking your university tutor or your classmates turning back home from their mobilities like big bosses.

Perhaps you are hesitating if travelling abroad is a good idea. Perhaps entire ERASMUS+ is a worn-out song for you. Everyone talks about it, even the granddaughter of your old neighbor had been to ERASMUS+! And you still don’t get it. Well, you will never get it, until you try. Doesn’t matter which group you belong to, I would gladly lead you across the pleasures and sorrows of erasmus life. Now, if you suspect reading about wing-ding nights where your exchange would only be limited to that one of the international bodily fluids, I’m afraid you’re wrong. The mission of the mobility is something else. This article is highly parents-friendly as your kid will come back upgraded to its more independent, better self.

FINANCES

Off to a bad start, the grant your uni assigns you is defined by the quota and therefore fixed. You just can’t negotiate anything…but! If you aspire to spend more time abroad than you are supposed to, ask your alma mater if they’ll support you in case of prolongation. If you’re lucky and your uni will have some extra money specifically for outbound erasmus students, they would happily do it. Just bear in mind – the more time abroad, the more paperwork for your subjects sync. As soon as your 4-digit grant lands on your account, let the fun begin.

· everything will suddenly appear like a virtual reality, where the biggest challenge is to cover your basic needs with the sum that does not bear the costs at all.

· one think hooks you up from crazy spending – the absence of the car. You only buy volume you are able to carry. I know, this is sooo trivial. But you’ll find out as soon as moving in to the empty apartment. Your first supermarket stroll will look like bottles of milk and oil, kilos of flour, veggies, fruit and meat, package of toilet paper and laundry detergent. If you’re not so lucky, also the duvet, bed sheets, kitchen utensils, appliances or even furniture.

excited from moving in

· if you’re just slightly obsessive about money, open the Excel worksheet for the first time in your life and create the pattern of you spending. In this way, you can contentedly control all your cash flow and cry every time you enter your groceries receipts. Very recently I have discovered the best app, so if you’re not into good ol’ Excel, keep it smart. It’s free, dummie-friendly and colorful.

· after the first two weeks of managing your grant, your fav song happens to be “Hello darkness, my old friend” as the sign of your emerging depression. All of a sudden, you understand the stats on poverty line level.

· but since you’re a Slovak, you ARE able to save some extra money for the minor leisure trips around the country.

· are you lucky enough to have parents/grandparents, your chance to survive the mobility without losing your mind and plenitude of nutrients radically increases

· if you do not belong to the sample mentioned above, I highly advise you to start looking for student loan options. Speaking from experience, I know that commercial grants are incompatible with that erasmus one.

· exceptionally for fashionistas: mobility grant will strengthen your anti-spending muscle forever. You’ll honestly question every single purchase with “do I really need this?” You will succumb to the magic of basics. How do they call it today, a capsule wardrobe? In any case, this will take you to the very bottom of minimalism.

· once your mobility is over, your first craving will be satisfied in a Slovak mensa, where the 4-course feast won’t cost you more than 3 €. Then you celebrate with the pint that is less expensive than coffee and even leave the tip for the bartender.

FOOD

· if you are an omnivore, you’ll be feeling incredibly blessed for every meaty dish (this way I’m saluting my cousin whose mobility took place in Iceland, but he ate definitely more pasta than I did in Italy)

· in case you’re not a vegan yet, you’ll get really close to become one

· you learn how to eat vegetable. Plenty of it.

· you even learn how to cook it so that the result is edible. Sometimes even yummy.

· after your mobility, you teach all your relatives to eat more veggies. You struggle with your grandpa though, who still consider bacon and garlic for much more convenient supper.

· your grandma starts cultivating eggplants ‘cos it’s always that one thing you answer when she calls you what had you been eating that day.

· if you’re a caffeine addict, you bet this devil’s machine will become your BFF

· your first attempts will look like this:

moka fail
The intiation of every amateur coffeeholic be like

· once you’re back from your mobility, you buy moka pot for every possible living relative. In this way you’ll never ever be forced to drink a claptrap, what we Slovaks call the “turkish coffee”, again.

· frying pan is your most precious kitchen utensil, as your house owner had disconnected the oven and microwave’s confiscated by one of the flatmates.

· in an instant you become an expert in raw desserts methodology. Missing utensils are always unfortunate. But cravings are worse.

Involuntary raw alimentation
Involuntary raw alimentation

· upper intermediate level: find a place for the raw dessert in the fridge for 6+ people. The same applies to clotheshorse. Have you played Tetris in your childhood? Great! Utilize this skill.

drying clothes in the 6+ people apartment be like

· you will definitely learn how to combine uncombinable. Up to know I recall the recipes like linguine with avocado-gorgonzola sauce. N.B. Don’t try on Italian friends.

BODY WEIGHT

Uhm, so I decided this deserves its own category. There are always two possibilities and no one knows how exactly these variables really function.

· YOU LOSE WEIGHT for obvious reasons. Little money. Don’t know how to cook. You’re too lazy to cook. After your arrival back home you come back to your normal.

· YOU GAIN WEIGHT for inapprehensible reasons. You don’t consider spending money on food and books as spending at all, but rather satisfaction of one’s indigenous human needs. Your stomach suckled on your granny’s lard-based cooking and 100% fat raw cow milk from your local neighbor notices immediate change. You wanna try infinite amount of pasta in the finite amount of time. After your arrival back home you come back to your normal.

Quite obvious which category I belong to
Quite obvious which category I belong to

SOFT SKILLS

· if you DO have a washing machine (consider yourself a happy person), you finally understand why mom always kept separate piles of dark, light and colorful clothes.

· you learn to hang the clothes in a way you will never need the iron again or bothering your neighbor by collecting  your panties from their terrace.

· you’ll manage to coordinate the household chores with the rest of the flat, even without speaking the language of their tribe.

 

goodbye cleaned up kitchen

· being separated from your family appears to be quite funny experience. Not so funny when applied to a boyfriend.

· you overcome the language barriers on a daily basis, particularly in the country where English disappears once you left the arrival terminal.

· you’ll end up humbled, but hey, what doesn’t kill you…

HOW MUCH DID IT COST ME?

Since the purpose of this blog is to share 100% authentic experience without any filter, here’s the summary of my real erasmus expenses in Italy. Hopefully, this will serve to anyone aspiring to apply for ERASMUS+ mobility whether in Italy or elsewhere. My mobility took place in the summer semester of 2015, thus all the information on grant quota and regulations apply to this particular period.

Monthly grant: 450 €

Two weeks before my actual flight to Italy I received the total sum 2685 € covering 6-month placement. The sum pretty much depends on the date and stamp on your official check-out mobility document that you submit at your welcoming uni. But how do you know when exactly your mobility ends? Well, be sure that the date you and your home uni tutor set as an official leaving date is absolutely identical to the date on your ERASMUS+ leaving certificate. Let me explain you why, using an example.

My mobility was supposed to end on 10th Aug, 2015 (Monday). To my surprise, this precise day was the first day of holidays for my Italian International Relations Office (IRO). I swear I’ve tried all the legal ways to convince the IRO officer to give me the stamp 3 days sooner – the last working day for them, 7th Aug, 2015 (Friday) since I set the original date 6 months ago and little had I known about IRO’s holidays back then. How even possibly could I? The officer could not help me and my alma mater only saw the day not matching with the official document. For this unpleasant situation I’ve lost 30€ = 2 days of grant only due to the bad timing and Italian holiday mood.

Rent: 300 € for a bed shared in a dark pantry double room in the city centre. Surprisingly, the cost of the dorm would be equal + more spending on uncomfy commuting. Apartment turned out to be the best idea here. Total cost for the semester was 1800€ + rent arrear for heating, water, etc. Thug life of an ERASMUS+ student.

my ERASMUS+ accommodation

Food – N.B. home cooking: up to 200€ per month (cca 1200 €/semester); occasional aperitivo food orgy – 5-8€ a drink

Arrival/departure: one-way flight tickets + check-in + shuttle bus to the airport up to 150 € (very much depends on purchasing the tickets in the peak or off-peak season). Alternatively, 18-hour journey by bus costs 60 € from my hometown, no changing, one piece of luggage included in the price. Always check the regulations of your transfer.

Household: bed sheets, duvets, pillows, towels, utensils – up to 150 €

Toiletries + drugstore: Okay now. Since I’m a woman, I only spend like 20 € per month for period stuff. I wonder why women still aren’t supported financially from the state for these….whoa, back to reality. If you do wear contact lenses, make sure that your welcoming country sells the products you can’t live without. Happened to me with the contact lens solution which you normally DON’T pack in bulk to your 6-month survival kit as you travel to civilized country with pharmacies. All the more, liquids and planes…you know. After all, I bought a big package of solutions online, which was also fun if you don’t speak any Italian. Outside of toiletries, do count on cleaning products for the house. The cost here obviously depends on personal preferences. Like e.g. if the clean house and a Douglas shampoo is a priority for you or not really.

Phone: The local SIM will cost you up to 15€ per month. Folks only buy this for nice data package.

Transport: So the wisest piece of advice here is to live as close to your department as possible. Apart from the frying pan, bicycle is also your best friend, but count on the time-consuming research (we’re talking second hand obviously), purchase, maintenance and selling it at the end of your mobility. Walking is the best sport anyway! If you happen to live far from the downtown, one-month ticket costs 27€ for dudes under 27 years old. 10-ride citypass costs 12 €.

HOW MUCH WILL IT COST YOU?

I am aware some of the mentioned numerical information might frighten you. I admit now, with the benefit of hindsight, that time spent by studying was just a carefree bonus in the sea of other erasmus microstruggles to survive this tempestuous period. There’s no “crutch”. You have to help yourself. Find yourself. Be responsible. Put your shinola together. I’ve seen some cases in Slovakia, where parents satellited their college-attending kids by invading the professors’ office just to negotiate kids’ poor grades. This should never happen. Ever. Is there any bigger degradation to this? ERASMUS+ will toughen you up in any case. Maybe you wonder why I haven’t written anything related to studying in article on study mobility. Well, honestly I don’t consider this part of ERASMUS+ the most important aspect of the mobility. All the important instructions are given at your university. But what about the real life once you’re thousands of kilometers from your daily familiar environment? I wished someone would have told me about the real ERASMUS+. Obviously, your coordinators would scarcely share something like this on the academic grounds. Don’t weep though, I will certainly get to the oddities of studying in Italy in the other articles.

I do hope you found any usefulness to all this, whether you are choosing the right suitcase or just secretly applying to the mobility without telling anyone. If there’s nothing serious holding you back – such as a kid, sick parents, a dog or adverse financial situation, the path to the dream mobility should not be a problem. Beginnings are always difficult! Think of it when you’ll be blubbering at the end of your mobility, which is, let me tell you, a pre-stage of post-erasmus depression. Ever heard of it? Don’t worry, ain’t no time for it either way due to finishing your final thesis. Academic timing is more precise than you thought! So you still think ERASMUS+ doesn’t change lives? Keep on reading.

If you decided for magical Bologna as your future ERASMUS+ destination, lemme know! I know about the best coffee in the town :). Do you still wonder if spaghetti Bolognese really exist? Come to the dark side and you’ll find out.

Which ERASMUS+ destination is that one of yours?

A presto amici!

D.

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