Tips for studying abroad in Europe
Thinking of studying abroad? Spending a gap year in Europe is an exciting prospect for people across the world, but there’s a lot of info to unpack before making a decision.
Our comprehensive study abroad guide will give you the deets on everything you need to know before you go. Get expert tips on studying abroad, guidance on top Erasmus countries, discover the best student cities, and get info on the ISIC student card to find out how to best spend a gap year in Europe.
Best places in Europe to study abroad
Deciding where to spend a semester abroad can be a challenging task as there are so many exciting destinations to choose from. When it comes to studying abroad in Europe, we’ve listed some of the best under-the-radar places that are well suited for student life and have great travel opportunities. Simply put, European student cities with winning combinations of nightlife, history, culture, and academia set in great locations.
Study in Coimbra, Portugal
Student life and culture in Coimbra is second to none. The entire city gravitates around the university and its students, making it incredibly easy to feel at home as a foreign student. The city is dotted with picturesque parks and plazas that make for great hangouts on warm afternoons.
- Universities: Known as the “City of Knowledge,” Coimbra’s home to one of the oldest and most prestigious universities in Europe, the University of Coimbra.
- Language: There are a small number of courses offered in English and exchange students can make arrangements with professors to take exams and finish assignments in English. International students are also advised to take an Intensive Language Preparation Course before the start of term.
- Travel:Coimbra is ideally located right in the middle of Portugal, you’ve got the major cities of Porto to the north and Lisbon to the south. Hop on a train and you’ll be in Spain in a couple of hours.
- Head to: The Praça da República for tree-lined paths, low-key bars and student buzz.
Study in Innsbruck, Austria
While it may not boast the biggest student population in Austria, Innsbruck is a popular choice among Erasmus students for its location in the heart of Europe and easy access to nature.
- Universities:Innsbruck is home to two widely respected universities: the University of Innsbruck and the Innsbruck Medical University. Both are centrally located within the city and welcome hundreds of exchange students yearly.
- Living costs:
Around $1,150 should cover your monthly costs. If you’re planning on hitting the slopes, invest in a Tirol ski pass, which will get you access across the entire region for the whole season.
- Language: Even if your German is decent, be prepared for the Tyrolian accent, which can lead you to believe that you’ve entirely lost your ability to understand German—the round vowels can take a bit of adjusting to!.
- Travel:Innsbruck offers a fantastic location in the heart of the Austrian Alps, opening up heaps of opportunities for Alpine exploration such as hiking, snowboarding, kayaking, and skiing.
Study in Montpellier, France
Its excellent location makes Montpellier one of the best places to study abroad in Europe. The city’s abuzz with student activity and southern French flair. Long summers, cultural events, and a budget-friendly lifestyle are available.
- Universities: There are six universities in Montpellier, with high psychology, agriculture and environmental sciences being the most popular fields of study.
- Living costs:Ideally budget for $1,100 per month. Rooms in residence halls are somewhat limited so get in touch with the Crous de Montpellier as soon as possible.
- Travel: It’s pretty easy to travel around the South of France, with Marseille, Toulouse and Nice all short journeys away with SNCF. You could even pop over to Barcelona or the north of Italy which are only a few hours away by train or bus.
- Head to:The Place Jean-Jaurès district for student hangouts, live music and weekend brunches.
Guide to Erasmus in Spain, Italy and the Netherlands
Undertaking a study abroad program in Europe, also known as an Erasmus program, can be nerve-racking regardless of the country in which you’re studying. The world may be slowly transforming into one global village, but national and local customs still govern the daily lives of many populations.
Study abroad in Spain
Spain is very popular for studying abroad due to the sunshine, language, and culture. You may assume that sun, sangria, and siestas will be part of your studies, but what else can an exchange student expect “The Land of the Setting Sun” have in store? We’ve gathered our top tips for studying abroad in Spain.
Top tips for studying abroad in Spain
- Applications and paperwork: Aim to apply at least six months before the beginning of the course—deadlines are usually at least two months before a course starts. If you need to get a student visa for your studies remember that processing times can sometimes take up to four months. Ensure your passport is valid for the entire period of study.
- The language: It’s advised to have a basic knowledge of Spanish when you arrive. Check the language level you’ll be expected to have for your program—this depends on if all your classes will be in English or not. Be aware that not all cities prioritize Spanish as a first language. Catalan, Galician and Basque are predominantly spoken in some regions. Look into if your university provides free or discounted language courses as this is the quickest way to see results.
- Be organized: Start planning for your study abroad placement well ahead of its start date. This can be done via your home university or in direct contact with the Spanish university. It’s wise to try and keep all info together in an organized and accessible way. Most universities will send out information and fact sheets to new students.
- Internships and part-time work in Spain: Internships are usually arranged with the help of your university. Depending on the salary, you may get taxed during your placement. In order to work contractual hours in a part-time job, a working contract must not be for over 20 hours a week whilst studying and working hours must not interfere with school hours. Full-time contracts can only run for three months and shouldn’t overlap with the semester.
Top cities for studying abroad in Spain
Study abroad in Italy
Who hasn’t fantasized about living in Italy even for a short time? If you choose to study or work abroad in Italy you’ll get access to vibrant countryside, culture, and food while learning something new—a dreamy combination if you ask us. Check out our top tips for studying abroad in Italy now.
- Accommodation: During an Erasmus, there are two accommodation options: either a university residence or a shared flat. Prices for apartments in the center of cities like Rome, Milan, and even smaller ones like Siena tend to be quite high, and often the cheapest option is to share a room.
The residences are usually located a little further from the center, but have a rich student atmosphere, and are often affordable. The host university usually offers accommodation options in their residences, although there is a risk of not interacting with Italians and not practicing the language. To find a room in a shared flat, check websites as EasyStanza, Affitto, or Home4Students.
- Paperwork: If you intend to reside for more than three months in the transalpine country you must present a declaration of presence, Declarazione di Presenza, to the police as soon as you arrive and register in the Civil Registry, in charge of the City Council. Being an Erasmus student, it’s recommended that you register as a temporary resident in a list called schedario della popolazione temporanea. To register, you have to bring a contract for the apartment where you are going to live, proof that you have sufficient means to reside there, and medical insurance, although with temporary residents, presenting the European Health Card is sufficient. If you are going to be there for more than three months, it is best that you enroll in the Italian Health Service identifying yourself as a student, since you will have the right to medical coverage. You can also choose a private policy.
- Fiscal Code: Another document that you need to be able to carry out any type of economic transaction, from buying a mobile phone to opening an account in a bank, is the fiscal code, Codice Fiscali, a kind of temporary ID. Obtaining it is simple, you only need to go to any tax agency, Agenzia delle Entrate with your ID and the contract for your apartment.
Top cities for studying abroad in Italy
Study abroad in the Netherlands
The Netherlands is an excellent option for students that want to explore Europe from a central location. Not only are the travel possibilities from here endless, the country is also Erasmus-friendly with tons of universities. We’ve gathered our top tips for studying abroad in the Netherlands.
- Paperwork: In the Netherlands, you will be working with the IND (Immigration and Naturalization Service) for your official documentation. Make sure your visa is up to date (If you are from outside of the European Union you will require a student visa) and that you make the necessary appointments once you’ve arrived.
- Registration: The Dutch Government requires all citizens to register their address within the municipality where they are living. You will need to make an appointment for this registration by telephone or online and bring proof of your identity and address. Once you are registered, you will be designated a Citizen Service Number (BSN)—every person must have one. You’ll need this number to open a Dutch bank account.
Thankfully, universities make the process a little easier. They will usually hold a registration day before the start of the semester where agents will come to campus and take your information for registration—you then receive your BSN and info by post within a few weeks.
- Healthcare: Everyone living in the Netherlands requires Dutch Healthcare, with the exception of people from the EU already covered. Be sure to check the requirements for healthcare and if you are exempt from purchasing it. If you are not exempt, you will need to purchase basic health insurance from a private company.
- Traveling: Studying in the Netherlands already means being close to many picturesque cities. Amsterdam (unless you’re already studying in Amsterdam) is a given, but don’t forget about Leiden, Den Haag, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. There are also multiple beaches worth visiting in the North, and small islands that can be reached by ferry. As for international travel, Belgium is only three hours away, and a great opportunity to visit Antwerp, Brussels, Ghent, and Bruges. Germany is just a four-hour train ride to the west. For those willing to go the distance, Paris is only about five hours away and makes for a spectacular long weekend getaway.
Top cities for studying abroad in the Netherlands
Expert advice on studying or working in Europe
Choosing to study abroad on an interexchange or working abroad in an internship or on a working holiday visa are two very viable options for completely immersing yourself in European culture. But before you jump in the deep end and decide to take up that study or work abroad opportunity in Europe there are a few vital things you should know. We chatted with experts to answer your most burning questions about living in Europe. There’ll be nothing stopping you from booking in that year of work or travel in Europe after this!
Should I work or study abroad? Is one better than the other?
“Though both experiences have their own unique benefits, both are entirely different, especially in how you fit into the local community. At schools, it can be hard to find local friends initially, but there will be many opportunities to get to know other students through class and extracurricular activities,” say Maggie Appel-Schumacher and Ronda Rutherford from Cultural Vistas.
“When you work abroad, you usually work directly with your local community on a daily basis, but you may not have colleagues your age, and it takes more effort to find ways to make friends outside of work.
“Neither type of experience is inherently better—it just depends on what you hope to gain from your time abroad and how you hope to engage with the local culture.”
What’s the best way to balance work and study with fun and travel?
“Prioritize! While it is important to keep in mind the reason you are abroad (working, studying, teaching), make a schedule for yourself so you can do what makes you happy,” say Allison Sobol and Maxine Secskas from CIEE Teach Abroad.
“If you want to take a weekend trip but have some work that is due around the same time, make a plan for yourself. Consider staying in an extra night or two to complete the work so you can enjoy your weekend away!
“Also, don’t be too shy to join in on any activity that locals invite you to, even if you are feeling a little nervous. These impromptu adventures with foreign friends can often be the most memorable and fun!”
What’s an important thing people often overlook when planning to study or work abroad?
“While many people speak English all over the world, we always suggest learning a bit of the local language before you travel anywhere,” say Sobol and Secskas.
“It is important that you do not rely on English and expect the locals to cater to you. We have found that even the smallest effort in learning the local language will go a very long way with the locals, and you never know when you will need to use your newfound language skills.
“Additionally, many EU countries can be just as expensive as living in North America, so make sure you’re conscious of your budget! On the other hand, there are some countries (Portugal, Slovenia, Poland, etc.) where your money will go a long way—but be prepared to make a budget for yourself, regardless!”
“Passport/visa issues—first things first, make sure your passport is valid. Some countries also require your passport to be valid for a substantial amount of time even after you’ve left their country,” says Ryan Cruz, from Adelante Abroad.
“For example, if you are going to be abroad from January to April and your passport expires in May of that same year, you may need a new passport.
“Every country is different, so make sure you look into passport and visa requirements beforehand to give you ample time to plan or prepare accordingly.”
“Related to visas… you may also need to make sure you have enough blank pages in your passport for your visas,” says Kayla Patterson, from GoAbroad.
“In most cases, the requirement is that it must be valid at least six months after you intend to leave (at the end of your study or work commitment).
“Additionally, immigration officials may ask you to provide proof that you have enough money to sustain yourself in the country for a period of time. All of these details can often be overlooked, or at least the amount of lead time required to plan ahead!”
The most popular Erasmus countries to study abroad in Europe
ISIC student card benefits
Make The Most Out Of Your ISIC Student Card In Europe
When visiting Europe, discounts and deals abound to save money. For students traveling internationally, whether within Europe or outside the continent, an International Student Identification Card (ISIC) can be very useful. Here are the top ways an ISIC card comes in handy in Europe.
Getting an ISIC Card
The ISIC card is available within 130 countries and territories across the globe. Whether in Europe or any other continent, you need to be a full-time student and older than 12, with proof of both. That’s all that’s required to apply for the ISIC card and obtain one online. If you’re thinking of going back to school or studying abroad, such as in Europe, this is a great time to apply. You’re qualified if you sign up for at least 12 hours of credit per week for at least 12 weeks. Using the ISIC card is easy, as it’s globally accepted and there’s an endless list of places to use one in Europe. Opportunities to explore culture, food, and attractions in Europe suddenly become easier and less expensive.
ISIC Card, is it worth it?
The ISIC card provides an estimated 150,000 discounts across the globe. Some of the best discounts include admission to attractions, museums, modes of transportation, and budget hotels. Visit the Louvre Museum for free, save several euros on the entrance to the Catacombe di Napoli in Italy, and enjoy city tours for a lower price than the general public pays. Save a sizable percentage on your cross-country European trip whether traveling by train, bus, or flight. Take the bus across Europe for 15 percent off, or island-hop between the Greek Islands with 50 percent off ferry tickets.
Travelers get free basic travel insurance included with the ISIC card. If a venue, such as a hostel in a rural area or a theater out of the city center, doesn’t accept your ISIC card, then you’ll be reimbursed for the extra money you paid. If you have a booked ticket with an airline flying through European countries and it goes bankrupt during your travels, you’ll receive a full refund.
Getting an ISIC card provides many benefits to a student and can make a difference when planning a trip to Europe, whether it’s for studying, working, or visiting.
Tips for studying abroad from the students
Lastly, we’ve compiled some study abroad tips that former students wish they had known before embarking on their studies. Maybe you’re dreaming of studying abroad in a big city like London, or perhaps a quaint Italian town? Wherever you’re heading, here are some tips to aid you on your study abroad adventures!
- “Find out if the university offers accommodation, and if so, which types. Most universities offer a range which means that with a little research, applications and maybe a few euros more, you will find a more suitable residence surrounded by locals” - Patricia Jiménez, Germany
- “I would tell future students to take risks, to try new things, and don’t focus on the stereotypes that people have about the experience. It’s better to learn all you can about the language, culture, people, and cities where you’re living.” - Juan Antonio Lorca Antón, England
- “Nothing is ever how you imagined it.” - Lulu Sinnott, Germany
- “Like it or not, studying abroad will come to an end. It seems so obvious but it always feels so far away that you don’t appreciate each day and you should! Enjoy every moment, every conversation, every beer with friends, each new friendship … Because you’ll inevitably find yourself crying inconsolably as you say goodbye to your study abroad family.” - Álvaro Jiménez, Germany