Six Reasons To Study Abroad With An Erasmus Mundus Scholarship
If you're like me who's itching to travel and move abroad but just not keen on incurring more debt, then applying for an international student scholarship is the way to go.
That's exactly what I did in 2013. I applied for and landed an Erasmus Mundus scholarship, lived in four different cities, travelled around Europe, and tripled my savings. My experience as a scholar abroad also opened doors for my personal and professional life.
I'm not saying this is THE way. Some people just don't like school. Others may feel like leaving their current jobs to go back to studying will hurt their careers in the long run. Sometimes, we also have to face the reality of family obligations and accept that not everybody's willing to uproot himself or herself and live a life on the move. And that's okay.
But for those of you who love school (or at least tolerate it!), want to expand your knowledge and understanding of the world, would be open to taking two years off the job market, and have the flexibility to make the big move, all while having the opportunity to travel... then a study abroad scholarship may just be the right thing for you.
We all have different strategies to fund our travels and feed our wanderlust. I've written a blog post on which jobs to consider if you want to combine work and travel. However, what ended up working for me is pursuing a study abroad experience in Europe on a full Erasmus Mundus scholarship.
Here are some of the reasons why studying abroad on an Erasmus Mundus scholarship is a good idea.
Reason 1: You'll get back whatever you'll spend.
I'm not proud of the fact that I had very little savings even after having had worked for 6 years. I was also paying mortgage for a house I bought, so I had practically no cash-on-hand.
Travel can be cheap, but it still does require some money. And I won't even begin to discuss how expensive it can get to uproot yourself and start a life elsewhere. You'll need to process your paperwork, maybe pay for some translations and courier services, purchase plane tickets, update your wardrobe to adjust to the new climate, and provide deposit fees for your new flat.
For me, having the Erasmus Mundus scholarship meant my airfare was reimbursed and that I received the first installment of my scholarship even before I left for Europe. It may not be the case for every scholarship out there, but at least you know that you'll get the money back somehow. This made me more at peace with my decision to just go for it.
International student fees can also get insanely expensive. Most international scholarships provide full tuition fee waivers, which is one less problem to deal with.
If you want to jumpstart your scholarship application today, go ahead and check out my ultimate guide on how to apply for full scholarships for international students in Europe as well as my post on how to write an effective scholarship motivation letter.
Reason 2: There's a scholarship for you, wherever you're from in the world.
Erasmus Mundus accepts applications from all over the world. Considering where higher education in Europe is headed these days, having an international mix of students is what every institution is aiming for. As long as you can prove that you can cope with the academic work in English, you're good to go.
Reason 3: It guarantees a steady cash flow.
Every scholarship is different. Some only give you partial tuition coverage, others provide a monthly stipend. Within the Erasmus Mundus Action 1 scheme for example, the scholarship amounts vary depending on your nationality. As a student from one of the partner countries, I was receiving 1000 EUR monthly for living expenses and 4000 yearly for travel and installation costs on top of an insurance coverage and waived tuition costs.
Although that amount had more spending power in Bilbao (where I spent the last half of my coursework) than in London (where I spent my first year trying to make ends meet, factoring in the higher cost of living and the euro to pound sterling conversion), it's not a bad deal after all.
The peace of mind that came with the assurance that I was receiving some money on a regular basis to pay my rent and food was more than enough. I also learned to cut back on many things and live a simpler life. You can read my post here on how my life got simpler when I moved abroad.
Reason 4: It won't leave a huge gap in your CV.
In some occasions, taking a year off to travel and leaving a gap in your CV are frowned upon by prospective employers. I'm all for taking breaks when one deems fit, but the reality of it proves otherwise.
Filling that gap with a study abroad experience can make you combine both the breather that you need from a full-time job while doing something to upgrade your qualifications. What's more, it's easier to sneak in a weekend trip to a different city (or even country, especially in Europe) when you're doing a postgraduate degree, as it typically involves less hours for actual classes (in my experience, they require more time researching and doing independent work) and thus more flexibility.
Reason 5: It allows you the benefits of slow travel.
Slow travel as a movement has been gaining momentum in recent years. To oversimplify the concept, it´s about being immersed in the place where you´re in instead of rushing from Point A to Point B. It's about observing and interacting with local people and appreciating the simplicity of everyday life wherever you are.
Studying abroad is its own brand of slow travel and gives you the benefits of full cultural immersion. You can go as slow as you can, learn as many words and phrases that your brain can manage, and take your sweet time making connections and enjoying the city. It's even better with an Erasmus Mundus scholarship, because you'll be living in at least two different countries as part of your coursework without worrying about finances.
Having had spent a little over two years in Bilbao, I still feel like a local tourist. I'm seeing everything with the wide-eyed curiosity of an outsider while at the same time having a routine and being part of mundane things like the rest of the locals. I've come to know my city Bilbao like the back of my hand, learned the best places for pintxos (the Basque version of tapas) for 1 euro, and got to enjoy weekends of "turismo rural" like the locals.
I've come to appreciate the cultural nuances and gained fluency in Spanish because of the time I spent here on a full scholarship as an international student.
Reason 6: You'll gain social capital with a global reach.
Travelling and moving abroad can definitely be done on your own, but it helps to have a group of people you can count on when the going gets tough. I've lived the horrors of visa applications and flat hunting as I moved to London, and what made the difference was the fact that I was already in contact with my classmates even before classes started. And since they're from all over the world, my social capital's reach grew exponentially, too.
As I've spent more time abroad, I expanded this network to include language exchange partners, professors, and thesis supervisors. I landed jobs through the ads posted at uni, and I managed to stay longer here in Spain because of people I've met along the way who were willing to vouch for me. My social network through Erasmus Mundus has been key in opening up personal and work opportunities.
I must say that what was initially something that I did to feed my wanderlust led to other beautiful things. And I believe that in the same way that the programme benefits its scholars, we also give something back by offering different perspectives in classroom discussions, contributing our unique backgrounds and circumstances to understand other realities, and to make a real contribution through tolerance and critical thought.
If all this sounds good to you, check out our ultimate guide on how to apply for a full Erasmus Mundus scholarship in Europe.
If you wanna shop for more scholarship options, check out our ultimate scholarship hunting guide with a free 13-page planner to help you reflect on your preferences and find a scholarship that's right for you.
Getting the Erasmus Mundus scholarship was one of the best things that happened to me, and I'd be more than happy to give back and make this possible for you too.
Let us know what you're struggling with in your scholarship application through the comments section below and we'd be glad to help!
Good luck and happy scholarship hunting!