Anyone with experience of degree courses with a year abroad please?

(45 Posts)
NamingOfParts Sat 22-Dec-12 19:30:03

DD1 is considering doing a chemistry degree course with a year or more abroad (possibly an Erasmus year and a year in North America). Does anyone have experience of these types of courses please?

- Did the home university support the exchange programme?
- Did the host university support visiting students?
- was it a good experience?

ISeeSmallPeople Sat 22-Dec-12 19:36:57

Best people to ask would be those who have recently returned from exactly that course year.

I was taking German with x. Those taking French instead had an amazing time at the Sorbonne. I was offered a sleepy ex industrial town with a tiny university with no support or pastoral care to speak of, & declined when I
1) spoke to a friend who was there
2) drove through the town

I persuaded them to change my degree, & finished earlier than expected.

NamingOfParts Sat 22-Dec-12 19:56:57

Good advice ISeeSmallPeople, thank you. If DD1 went for the Erasmus year then it would be in either Leiden or Amsterdam.

MsPickle Sat 22-Dec-12 20:09:11

I did German and linguistics and did a year abroad in Heidelberg. It was amazing. I didn't have much support from my home uni once I was there, one pastoral visit, but I didn't feel I needed more. A big part of it for me was really being thrown in and navigating an entirely different system. I made amazing friends, there was a great international community, ran around with boys, and even managed some studying!! I got involved in things and really had an amazing year. I think I was helped by having been as an au pair in a gap year so I was probably more confident in my spoken German than others. There was a report recently about the benefits, I'll try and look up a link later.

I now work in recruitment and think that graduates with a year abroad experience are different to those without and are often more self reliant and ready for the work place.

I'd do it again in a heartbeat and would recommend it to anyone! Lots of my uk uni friends did years abroad and even those who had a harder time see it as very valuable and positive.

Oh, and mine was Erasmus so I got some funding but it was over 10 years ago (gulp) and I don't know how that works now.

NamingOfParts Sat 22-Dec-12 21:29:53

Thank you MsPickle. Back when Noah was a lad and I was a student there were fewer opportunities for international study however I do remember that those few students who were doing an international year did seem a lot more grown up than the rest of us.

DD is confidant in her Dutch and we lived in the Netherlands for several years so I think that will help a lot. The course is taught in Dutch which will add an interesting dimension to a chemistry course though I dont think the fundamentals of chemistry are different.

Glittertwins Sat 22-Dec-12 21:34:56

Hi,
I did a year out in France some time ago. Virtually nothing from home university and the French lot were as much use as a choc teapot. Between the two of them, they couldn't even communicate the correct start of term in the September. I only got there on time by sheer luck although I missed out on a few days holiday with my parents but my class mates from home missed the whole first week.
I did enjoy it though and am still in contact with two that I shared halls with, 18 years on!

BrianButterfield Sat 22-Dec-12 22:06:09

I did an Erasmus year. I was the only person from my course doing one so I was kind of on my own but it all worked out all right and would certainly be much, much easier now with more internet and email access. There were some admin screw ups but I can't even remember what now, so it didn't matter. I got my Uk student loan and also an Erasmus grant so I felt quite flush over there and could afford to go out regularly which helped!

There were some other British students from another uni on the course abroad with me and I palled up with them quickly but also made friends from all over Europe. It was really a great year and I would recommend it to anyone.

Dutch universities will have a very high proportion of people speaking fluent English so communication won't be a problem for your DD at all - and she will become fluent in Dutch if she already speaks it well.

KvetnutsRoastingOnAnOpenFire Sun 23-Dec-12 07:58:52

I did a Socrates year 10 years ago (similar to Erasmus, but more working than studying), went to the Czech Republic, and LOVED it. It took me about a term to get into the swing of things, then I had a fabulous time!

my home uni had a fab scheme for the work placement - think there were 50 or 60 of us across the biological sciences who did a year of working - maybe 20 of us went abroad, the rest stayed in the UK and did industrial placements. I did an academic placement, and the work wasn't that great tbh, but the social life, and the life experience in general, were excellent! I met a lovely man whilst there, and he is currently playing with our DC2 whilst our DC1 clambers over me!!

My wee sister did an Erasmus placement to Finland, and adored it too - just a term, but she met a lovely Dutch man, and lives with him in the Netherlands now grin

anyway, apart from the meeting of our OHs, my wee sister and I TOTALLY recommend study abroad, we both got so much out of it, not just partners, lots of networking, opportunity to travel, expanding our worldview, and we made so many friends we would never have met otherwise!

KenDoddsDadsDog Chile Sun 23-Dec-12 08:02:08

I did a Spanish degree with a year abroad. I didn't do Erasmus though so I was left to my own devices as I has to do a dissertation.
Home uni (uni of Liverpool) was useless but I enjoyed my year.

DolomitesDonkey Sun 23-Dec-12 08:20:52

The Dutch universities are "mad" on the Erasmus and exchange student programmes and at least in Maastricht they have their own building/cafe/internet spot solely for the purpose of entertaining Erasmus students and I'd assume it's the same in Leiden & Amsterdam too.

As she already speaks Dutch it'll be a doddle.

My university supported travelling students and I gather there was always a bit of a bun-fight between the lecturers as to who was going to get the visit!

My only comment about Erasmus students in NL though is that a huge majority of them (especially the yanks) seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the coffee shops! Imagine coming from a country where you're not allowed to drink and then ending up in NL.

webfizzystuff Sun 23-Dec-12 12:18:21

DD1 is studying Biology and she is currently in her 4th year after spending last year in North America (at San Francisco State University). Her "home" university supported the process and there was a very active international society at the US university which helped hugely when she first arrived there.

It was a fabulous experience for her but initially when she came back she found it hard to settle down again and get back into the UK way of studying. She's ok now and I think its given her a huge amount of self confidence.

tribpot Sun 23-Dec-12 12:32:01

I did a Spanish degree with a year abroad. The uni was more help for people who copped out went to uni on their abroad than those (like me) who worked. But having spoken to some of the final year under grads from my old course just recently, things seem a lot more organised now than when we were young.

My friends at uni were severely affected by one of the currency crises of the 1990s - the pound went into meltdown and suddenly they had far less buying power than before. It can also make finding accommodation in your final year a big trickier if you don't have a plan set by the end of your second year. But nothing that can't be worked through.

I agree with ISeeSmallPeople - she's best off speaking to those who have just come back. Do unis have a way for prospective students to contact existing ones?

webfizzystuff Sun 23-Dec-12 13:32:26

At DD1's university they have presentations about the year abroad and students who have just come back speak at these.

NamingOfParts Sun 23-Dec-12 14:59:31

Thanks all again. The ease or otherwise of settling back in is of interest. The pattern that DD is thinking of is:

Year 1 - UK
Year 2 - Erasmus Netherlands
Year 3 - US (California State university is one possibility)
Year 4 - UK

This would be for an MChem

I'm not sure that I would worry too much about DD spending all her time in coffee shops in NL though I can see the appeal for anyone coming in from a very restrained background.

KvetnutsRoastingOnAnOpenFire Sun 23-Dec-12 15:10:37

I (and sister) found settling back in to uni work very very easy - but settling back in with my peer group very difficult. which meant no social life in my final year, but a 2.1 in the end!!

(I was at Glasgow btw, they have a good exchange programme and excellent support in place)

webfizzystuff Sun 23-Dec-12 16:00:44

DD1 did actually find coming back to uni work difficult because she went from constant short deadlines in the US to having very long deadlines in the UK. The content is fine as the US is easier but its just a different way of working.

DD1 is in a house of 4th years who have all been abroad for a year so that works well for her and she has friends who are still around because they are studying for Masters/Phds/PGCEs etc or have got jobs locally. She doesn't really mix with the year below though even though she is having lectures with them as they seem very "young" compared to the ones who have been away.

webfizzystuff Sun 23-Dec-12 16:13:48

I haven't heard of anyone doing both an Erasmus year and a year in North America. If its possible it would make coming back difficult as you are very separate from your peer group.

KenDoddsDadsDog Chile Sun 23-Dec-12 16:20:53

I was really lucky as most of my friends were medics. But a lot of my other friends and familiar faces had left when I returned to do year four.

My DSD is going for an Erasmus year in Leiden next year. It sounds very eititing and she is thrilled about it.

exciting, sorry!

aroomofherown Sun 23-Dec-12 16:27:22

Ooh I went to Leiden on exchange. Leiden is brilliant at supporting overseas students and I had an absolute ball. When I can afford a year without pay (ha!) I'm going back to study there again.

Sounds great! I am very jealous of her! Oh to be 20 years old again and all that stuff ahead of you!

Lilymaid Sun 23-Dec-12 16:46:47

DS came back yesterday from the first half of his international year at a university in the USA.
His university has an international office which deals with the admin side. Not sure how supportive they are - DS had a lot of problems before going because a major illness had messed up his 2nd year at university, but he got there in the end. The host university also has a big international office and programme.
At the moment he is tired, has a cold and had to go to work today so I don't expect to get much out of him as to whether it is a good experience or not, but his Facebook pictures seem to indicate he's having a good time!

webfizzystuff Sun 23-Dec-12 16:58:41

DD1 had a bit of a difficult Christmas holiday last year Lilymaid - she came back very close to Christmas and had jet lag with a house full of relatives! Her boyfriend was also desperate to see her even though she didn't know what day it was and was exhausted. The relationship didn't survive the year even though it was quite serious when DD1 went away.

NamingOfParts Sun 23-Dec-12 17:30:03

I can imagine that the styles in NL and US are similar if there are a lot of short term targets. I know that in the NL DD could look forward to 40+ hours a week with very regular examinations.

My feel with the peer group thing is that once you are out of circulation for a year then another year doesnt make so much difference (just my view though). DD makes friends easily, she has moved country a couple of times and therefore changed schools without seeming to be phased by it.

Not sure if the university would accept an Erasmus year and a year in North America. It is a case of DD exploring possibilities and seeing what would work.

UEA (on DD's list) seem to be more active than many with specific Erasmus coordinators for the different university schools. It appears that UEA have integrated Erasmus years into their normal BSc courses. Many other universities seem to tack an Erasmus year on as an extra then turn the course into an MSci.

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