Hi everyone! My name is Meike, I’m studying English and Mathematics in Germany and was accepted for an Erasmus stay of two semesters in Leeds. I love organisation and planning, so I thought for this blog post I’d do a rundown of what I did to stay on top of things (which can be a challenge sometimes)! Of course, not everything here may be applicable to your situation, but it might be helpful for anyone who is preparing now and feels a little overwhelmed by all the things to consider. (This is mainly aimed at Erasmus students, but I hope it will contain some tips for everyone!) 🙂
General Tips for Organisation:
- Write every deadline you get into your calendar or bullet journal, and add a reminder one week before. You can use your phone, but I’d recommend having a backup in written form. Reminder alerts are easily dismissed and forgotten about again, but an entry in your calendar will stare you in the face until it’s done.
- I have a designated folder with coloured dividers where I collect all documents, emails, and notes. I have different sections for application, accommodation, flights, bank documents, insurances, information about Leeds, the Study Abroad Office, Leeds tourist information and information about the UK, Erasmus meeting minutes, Erasmus official documents (e.g. Learning Agreement), module choice, and miscellaneous notes.
- I have a duplicate of every document in another folder that I’ll leave at home so my parents can assist me or send me copies should I lose any. I have triplicates of all very important documents (like insurance confirmations) because I might need to hand them over to someone one day, so it’s good to have a backup.
- Always keep the original in a plastic sleeve and don’t give it away. To distinguish copies and originals, either mark the copies with “copy” or don’t put them in plastic sleeves – hole-punch them instead and put them directly behind the plastic sleeve with the original. Don’t staple the copies together because they are difficult to remove without damaging the paper.
- I’ll take my folder with me in my carry-on luggage, and always have it on hand. It gives you a sense of security and something to rely on, and you don’t have to worry that you’ll forget any important information because you can look it up whenever you need to.
- Add important phone numbers (your insurance company, customer service of your bank etc) to your contacts in your phone.
- Create a separate email folder for all Erasmus-related emails (from Leeds, your Study Abroad Office, your bank, your fellow Erasmus students…). If you use an app for accessing your emails (like Apple Mail), connect your Leeds university email account to it as soon as you can access it so you don’t miss any emails.
- I booked my flights as early as I could (as soon as the Study Abroad office released the recommended arrival date) because the prices are likely to keep rising the more you wait.
- Keep in mind how much luggage you will have! I booked one suitcase and will send the rest via mail or a logistics provider. Especially shoes, winter coats, and sports equipment might take up a lot of space.
- Check if your ID or passport expires soon or will expire during your time in Leeds because you might need to renew it.
I decided I wanted to stay in university accommodation almost immediately – I didn’t want the trouble of looking for a place to stay after my arrival. You should read all the descriptions on the university website and make a mental note of the features you consider the most important (for me: en-suite, close to university), narrow down the selection to your top 5 choices, and then browse some student portals for reviews or even ask former students on Facebook for their opinions on the accommodation. You can also try having a look at some accommodations with Google Street View.
- If your bank doesn’t offer free international withdrawals, find one that does! There might be a bank in your home country with special programmes that have such features, which would save you the trouble of opening a bank account in the UK.
- You should also think about getting a credit card as that will make it easier to book flights and hotels, if necessary. You can get a partner credit card for your parents’ account (if they agree to it), or open your own. Be cautious of any fees if you don’t have a regular income!
- You should exchange some money into British pounds before you go to Leeds, enough to pay for one or two nights in a hotel in case you experience difficulties on your journey, and for emergency expenses (medicine, for example).
- I feel like many people forget about this, but it’s very important. If you’re an EU citizen, your health insurance will persist when you’re abroad, but if you’re abroad for more than two months it might not cover everything anymore. I (and the EU) would, therefore, recommend investing in an additional private insurance that covers all expenses in the medical field. Make sure that dental and hospital treatments are included!
- You should also make sure that your liability insurance persists abroad. I also invested in an accident insurance.
- Ask your insurance company for written confirmations of your insurances (in English!).
Don’t leave your learning agreement to the last minute. If there are module clashes or problems, you really don’t want to be in a rush to get them sorted out! As soon as you hear about your module admissions, sort out any clashes or changes, fill out your learning agreement and get it signed by all the required people. The semester break will be rapidly approaching, and it can be very difficult to arrange meetings or reach people via email once it has begun. I won’t go into detail about module requirements here – ask your coordinator about it if you aren’t sure what to choose!
- Getting Involved
- Join the Facebook group for all international students in your year, and any group chats that are available. Knowing some people in the same position as I really helped to soothe my nerves, and you will all have at least one thing (going to Leeds) in common!
- You can also inform yourself about the societies in Leeds and narrow it down to a selection. I’d leave the final choice to when you’ve arrived in Leeds and have attended the societies’ introduction during the welcome week.
- Think about how you want to document your stay abroad. A popular choice is blogging or even vlogging, but the old-school written travel journal is also a nice choice! You can use Google or Pinterest for inspiration on other ways of documenting your experience. Apart from blogging and journaling, I also made a separate Instagram account – and I will send myself postcards from every place I visit, marked with the respective date, time, place, and a memorable moment, a tradition I’ve kept the past years and that I’ll continue in the UK! There are endless opportunities. 🙂
- You might even want to start writing a bucket list or a list of places you want to visit during your stay. There are some Facebook pages that can give you inspiration – try the main tourist information centres like VisitLeeds and LoveGreatBritian! They often have newsletters or Instagram as well if you don’t use Facebook.
- Think about what you want to bring with you to personalise your room – any pictures (do you need frames?), books, or items? Will you bring a backpack or handbag for classes (maybe as carry-on luggage as well)? Do you have adapters if needed?
- Check what is provided in your dorm, what you can buy once you arrive, and what you really need to bring from home. As I said above, sending a few parcels via mail or a logistics provider is also an option, especially for shoes (summer shoes, boots, and trainers are a given, but you might need extra shoes for sports or some fancier ones for special events as well), winter equipment, and sports equipment like rackets.
- Write a packing list or google one and adapt it to your needs to make sure you don’t forget anything!
- Saying Goodbye
- Once you’ve finished your final exams at your home university, think about what you want to do before you leave. Visit your favourite restaurant again or even have a goodbye dinner with your family? Grab a coffee with all your friends?
- Remember to cancel any subscriptions and memberships in time (music academy, magazines, gym, Amazon Prime…). There might be a 3-months (or shorter/longer, it varies) cancellation period.
- Make sure you have ways of staying in touch with your family and friends – for example, Skype or Facetime. If your family isn’t very tech-savvy, do a test run with them before you leave because (from experience) it’s often not easy to explain things over the phone.
- If you’re staying for a full year, you should also discuss what you’re going to do over Christmas (go home or not) and start making travel arrangements.
- If you find yourself bored over summer break, you could start with your recommended readings for your semester 1 modules in Leeds!
- I would also recommend seeing all your doctors once again before your departure as it’s probably easier to get treatments done at home than abroad, especially things like new glasses etc. As a minimum, I’d recommend seeing a dentist and a general physician (get vaccination renewals!) as well as any doctors you need to see regularly because of special conditions or prevention, for example your dermatologist, orthodontist…
This became longer than I intended, haha. I hope this was helpful for some of you! I want to write some more blog posts here once I’ve arrived and settled in in Leeds – I’m sure my time abroad will be great, and so will yours! 🙂
by Meike Heinrich – Berlin Freie University – Germany