A key benefit of being part of the European Union is the ease with which we can move and travel between EU Member States. For students like myself one of the main ways of taking advantage of this is through the Erasmus programme, which allows us to spend between three and twelve months of our degrees studying at a university in another EU nation.
I’m a 19 year old law student at the University of Glasgow, and next year I’ll be spending my third year studying at the University of Ghent in Belgium. Like most young people I love to travel, and I’ve always wanted to study abroad. I knew it would give me the opportunity not only to live in an entirely new location, but also to study there – experiencing a different university culture, including new learning styles and subjects that I wouldn’t be able to study at home. My university offered a vast range of locations, 22 English-speaking Erasmus exchanges and a further selection of non-Erasmus locations from the USA to Australia, and New Zealand to Hong Kong. The choice was extremely daunting, but after some consideration, I decided that an Erasmus exchange was the best option for me.
One of the main reasons I chose to do so was the funding that would be available to me in taking that route. The support offered through the Erasmus programme is part of what makes it so unique and accessible. It takes into account the fact that every EU nation has different costs of living, which won’t necessarily be manageable for everyone. Although you would still be entitled to funding from SAAS regardless of where you studied, students studying through Erasmus in EU nations with higher costs of living can expect to receive a grant of around €300 per month, and those choosing countries with lower costs of living will receive around €250. Furthermore, the Erasmus scheme also offers an additional €100 monthly supplement to those eligible for the various higher education widening participation premiums, making living and studying abroad within the EU far more affordable and opening up the opportunity to those who perhaps never thought it possible.
By contrast, studying abroad outwith the Erasmus programme can often be a significantly more expensive affair, with many additional costs to consider such as student visas – as well as the cost of travelling to obtain one – and health insurance within the host nation. Beyond SAAS, there is no guarantee of additional funding to help meet these costs, as well as any additional costs of living the students may encounter in their host country. Likewise, the administrative burden of studying
abroad outwith Erasmus is much greater. For instance, students studying in countries like the USA and Australia often need to demonstrate that they have a set amount of money in a bank account before they can proceed, and they will certainly need a visa.
Each year, around 10,300 UK students make use of the Erasmus programme, with a disproportionate number of them – over 1,800 – coming from Scottish universities. It gives young people a fantastic opportunity to live and study somewhere new, to experience a different culture and broaden their horizons, all whilst making the choice to study abroad more affordable and accessible to all. On Thursday 23rd June I’ll be voting to Remain in the European Union, and to protect our access to Erasmus.
Photo from daarwasik