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 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 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.

webfizzystuff Sun 23-Dec-12 17:38:56

DD1 is at UEA -she would highly recommend it grin

I see UEA is on your DD's shortlist. I did a BSc in Chemical Sciences there with a year in Spain on the Erasmus programme.

I started my degree back in 1992 and back then UEA seemed the most organised in terms of managing the exchange and both sides were very proactive. The host university had a large number of exchange students and a team which supported those students.

It was an amazing experience- I went speaking basic Spanish and came back pretty fluent smile Also made a load of great friends and saw some amazing places.

I would highly recommend it.

fussychica Sun 23-Dec-12 18:04:57

DS going to France next year as part of his degree. He's really looking forward to it but a bit anxious about coping with all the initial admin without being fluent in the language (he's fluent in Spanish) as lots have people have told him how unhelpful people are to those who aren't fluent. I'm sure he'll cope.

If all goes to plan he should get Erasmus grant and a full year fee waiver. As he's on a language degree lots of his friend will be in the same boat but know sorting accommodation for year 4 will be difficult so may have no choice other than to go for halls again - the Uni now make provision for this after returners were left without accommodation a few years ago. Downside is that it's more expensive than a flat and more restrictive.

NamingOfParts Sun 23-Dec-12 18:06:53

Perdita, thank you, I think that the experience could be great for DD1 (dont worry, she is pulling not me pushing).

It is the level of organisation at UEA which impresses. The international exchange programmes do seem to be integral rather than an afterthought.

webfizzystuff, I'm glad that your DD can give UEA a clean bill of health!

Glittertwins Sun 23-Dec-12 21:20:45

Fussychica- if he is happy in current accommodation, could he not come to an agreement with landlord for his final year? I stayed in the same house throughout my time at Uni as it was brilliantly located and clean! My landlord w happy for me to pay a small retainer for me to have my room back when I returned from my year in France.

fussychica Mon 24-Dec-12 13:30:33

glitter not sure he likes it THAT much - he is happy living there but has seen other places he prefers but it is a good thought if he doesn't fancy halls. It's 8 bedrooms and only 3 of the current occupants are off on a year abroad so may be messy to sort but I'll def mention it to him - thanks. Any tips for enjoying France?

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 24-Dec-12 13:38:19

I did an exchange to North America. Originally was due to go to UCD, but they forgot about me in allocating their clinical rotations so there was no space for me! However, my home Uni really helped and I eventually went to VTech. All the staff at VTech were really supportive and helpful helped me find somewhere to live even lent me a car on one occasion. It was brilliant I loved the experience. For me the type of learning was different and much more suited to me. I was a middle of the road student in the UK and top of the class at VTech acing all my rotations.

Glittertwins Mon 24-Dec-12 14:56:03

Fussy-it was a while ago but he will probably still need a carte de sejour and a fully translated and notarised copy of his birth certificate. It has to be notarised in France too which he will have to pay for. Certainly nothing was translated like it is in the uk so he might feel a little daunted but he just needs to keep going. I didnt socialise too much with english students as they just stayed in cliques as I wanted to improve my French.

NamingOfParts Mon 24-Dec-12 15:46:56

Lonecat, can you translate please? Where are UCD & VTech please?

Lonecatwithkitten Mon 24-Dec-12 17:28:25

UCD University California at Davis (UC has several campuses spread across the state)
Vtech Virginia Tech

NamingOfParts Tue 25-Dec-12 00:07:06

Thank you Lonecat!

Lilymaid Tue 25-Dec-12 10:24:42

One of the less great parts of the international year is receiving the bills and DS's American university has surpassed itself by sending out its bills for the next semester on Christmas morning! The bill is for student accommodation/meals and health insurance.
As DS has a medical condition we had been very concerned about the cost of US health insurance. Whereas DS was uninsurable with a standard UK "year abroad" insurance because of a medical condition, his US insurance, organised through his US university, is blind to previous medical history so his costs the same as anyone else's. He's sorted out for his medication through the NHS and had six months of medication delivered to him before he went out in August and will have some more delivered after his UK hospital appointment in January. So, an international year in the USA isn't out of the question for students with chronic medical conditions.

NamingOfParts Tue 25-Dec-12 11:39:42

Lilymaid wow, your DS sounds very organised and mature. Dealing with a long term medical condition and undertaking a period of study away from home must be a huge challenge and also a huge maturing experience. I am sure you are very proud of him.

Mind, not such a nice Happy Christmas with the bills though!

UEA offer fee support for a year in the US (pay 15% of UK fee and UAE pays the US fee).

How do accommodation costs compare please?

webfizzystuff Tue 25-Dec-12 21:04:36

Accommodation costs really depend on where you go - DD1 lived in a shared apartment near to the university in San Francisco and it was very expensive (especially compared to Norwich which is quite a cheap place to live). It was recommended that she didn't use the university accommodation which was even more expensive again and didn't really save many spaces for overseas students. We had to balance the cost against living in a safe area - DD1 viewed a couple of cheaper rooms but they were in scary bits of the city!!

Lilymaid Thu 27-Dec-12 13:08:46

NamingOfParts - DS is at a state university - so this may be cheaper than some private universities. IHe is living in a hall of residence in a shared room. He shared for half of last semester until his room mate got a better room ... away from DS' snoring, but DS may have to share again this semester as a lot of international students only come for one semester. This will cost £2,150. He also pays for a standard "meal plan" at £1330. This seems to be for all meals (food isn't great ... especially as he doesn't really do salad).
On top of this is international health insurance at £270, then a load of other fees including £165 for intercollegiate athletics!
The grand total for the next semester comes to just under £4600 for the semester (so around £9k for the year for all university costs).
Then on top of all this are a weekly living allowance, some help towards big bills (college colours sports kit, ski pass) and plane fares. So I reckon that this year will cost the best part of £15k.
DS' UK university charges him half tuition fees - so around £1700 for the year, and his US university tuition fees are waived. He gets a student loan, which goes towards some of these expenses and has some money of his own from a summer job and a couple of weeks work at the moment, but I pick up most of the cost.

NamingOfParts Thu 27-Dec-12 13:31:44

Thanks Lilymaid, those are some serious costs.

webfizzystuff Thu 27-Dec-12 15:49:11

The accommodation for international students at SFSU (San Francisco State University) varied between $12,000 and $15,000 a year (before food) but it said in the information DD1 was sent that UEA didn't recommend students went for the university accommodation but instead tried to find their own rooms when they got there. This was especially nerve racking as DD1 had to arrive in San Francisco with a hostel room booked for 10 days and nothing beyond that. Fortunately she did have a friend who had just graduated from SFSU and had spent a year abroad at UEA in her halls when she was a first year. He put in a good word for her with someone he knew who had a spare room. Without that she would have been relying on Craigslist or groups of international students were getting houses together. DD1's room was $800 a month for 10 months so much cheaper than halls but literally across the road from the university accommodation.

Her health insurance was around $1000 for the year as the university specified that they wanted a much higher level of cover than the visa requirements. In fact everything in San Francisco seemed to be eye wateringly expensive but I suppose its comparable to living in London. DD1 was allowed to borrow an extra £500 from student finance for the year (how we laughed hmm)

NamingOfParts Thu 27-Dec-12 19:21:11

Good grief, I am starting to wonder if North America is beyond the family budget - I cant see an extra £500 loan is really going to make all the difference!

The Erasmus year makes sense especially from UEA where a year in Europe would not add time to the course.

webfizzystuff Thu 27-Dec-12 20:40:51

There are travel grants available from student finance that cover the flights and health insurance

www.direct.gov.uk/prod_consum_dg/groups/dg_digitalassets/@dg/@en/documents/digitalasset/dg_195933.pdf

and if you look on the UEA funding webpage

www.uea.ac.uk/study/study-abroad/UEAabroad/infohum/feesandfundinginformation

it states that some universities do a room exchange where you pay the UK cost and a student from the US pays for a room at their home university and you swap for the year. It may be possible to do it more cheaply if your DD is well informed about where she chooses to go.

NamingOfParts Thu 27-Dec-12 21:26:47

Many thanks for that webfizzystuff, I can see that DD & I are going to have to start a spreadsheet!

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