Recently I’ve been panicking about the state of my bank account and so thought I’d mention a few things I wish I’d known before I decided on a Year Abroad (although it wouldn’t have stopped me, just possibly encouraged me to save more!).
1. The Erasmus Grant
Ah, the famous ‘Erasmus Grant’, the justification for embarking on a Year Abroad in Europe even when you’re a skint student! I know I shouldn’t complain, and that’s not exactly what I’m doing here because I realise that students currently on their YA’s in Europe are lucky to receive it! But, don’t think that the grant money will drop into your account as soon as you hit foreign ground- you’ve got to work for it. For my Uni we had to figure out what modules we are doing (takes a while- see last post), and get them signed off by a person from Birmingham and from Freie Universitat. You also need to have filled out a grant agreement for the exact number of days you’ll be abroad (although I ended up coming out a month early, it seemed too much hassle to change this document), and get one person from your abroad uni to stamp a tattered ‘certificate of arrival’…then scan these all back to UoB!
It doesn’t sound like much, but when you don’t have easy access to a printer/scanner/the right people, it takes a long time to get the documents sent off, meaning that you’re waiting longer for the €€ to come through. Just a reminder from experience to try and do this as quick as possible (difficult with Germany’s relaxed module system) otherwise you’ll be scraping by in the overdraft for a few months…
2. Even one of the ‘cheapest’ capital city’s in Europe isn’t as cheap as Birmingham.
Oh Brum, how lucky we were to think spending £15 on a night out was too much! Expect London prices for nights out: 8-15€ entry (if you even get in after queuing), 7-11€ cocktails and don’t even bother looking for jager bombs! Rent is also quite expensive (for students who haven’t lived in London), some of my friends are paying 500€ a month for their rooms, although admittedly they are much more desirable than my 1950s student accommodation out in the sticks!
Just try and budget yourself for nights out, it’s easy to spend 40€ and then wince the next morning!
3. The issue of the part time job. At uni in Birmingham I was used to earning while I studied (around £280 a month) through a part time job, and I’m seriously missing out on that cash! I’ve become used to ‘treating myself’ to another cocktail or a new top every few weeks, because I was earning money for myself. Now, however, I am not earning that money but still spending like I am…
If you speak a decent level of German (B2) then you’re probably fine finding a job, and there are English speaking jobs…they’re just not exactly ‘part time’. I keep reminding myself that I’m only here for a year and should enjoy it, and not worry about not having a job here!
4. Saving beforehand.
I did actually save up quite a sum of money from my job over summer before I arrived, but it does disappear very quickly! Large amounts have been leaving my account for: semester fees (transport ticket around 250€), sports club fees (40€), language course fees (60€ + 20€ for books) and although it doesn’t sound like much, when it’s all coming out in the same week it’s not fun! I wish I’d saved just that little bit more and I would have felt far more comfortable financially before returning home (and hopefully working some shifts) over Christmas!
Hope this is helpful to anyone considering a YA- it definitely shouldn’t put you off, just something to think about before arriving at your new uni!