Erasmus is your chance to settle in another city, experience another way of life and meet people from all over the world. Well, all over Europe anyway. According to one estimate, the EU programme has been responsible for a million European babies since 1987!
From 2014, Erasmus has been upgraded to Erasmus+ and now includes a range of grants that used to have other names, although the opportunities for students are basically the same as before.
Among the original concepts behind Erasmus was that students could live in cultural immersion in another country, learning the local language and way of life. It’s fair to say that the programme hasn’t exactly worked out like that; one of the most common regrets that people come back with is not taking the opportunity to learn the local language properly.
A language course in your Erasmus city before starting the official Erasmus experience is the perfect way to give yourself a grounding in the local language while you get your bearings in the city. You will meet people from outside of the Erasmus bubble too, which will quickly become a blessing. Language schools are fantastic platforms for launching yourself in a new destination.
You will also benefit from a different kind of language tuition at a language school; uni language classes can often include 25 people sitting in a big room, whereas a typical classroom on one of our courses has somewhere between six and ten students, with a greater focus on the individual.
But what are the most popular Erasmus cities?
How the list was made
The EU publishes data by country and by institution but not by city. This means that large cities like London and Paris, which are home to many universities, do not necessarily show up in the EU’s listings of top Erasmus cities, whereas some university cities where a single institution attracts a lot of students are over-represented. Our alphabetical list is based on the data for the 100 most popular Erasmus universities with the addition of some major Erasmus destinations with multiple universities.
Spain’s most southerly region is home to a number of popular Erasmus cities: Seville, Granada (home to the number one Erasmus university) and Cordoba. It is also one of Europe’s warmest and sunniest corners, with a legendary zeal for a party. Coincidence?
Away from the famous beaches and parties, Andalucia has everything that is quintessentially Spanish: delicious tapas, blinging cathedrals, flamenco and a genuine “everyone welcome” spirit.
Barcelona is a one-off, where Gaudi’s weird and wonderful architecture awaits in unexpected corners, the evenings are long and the local government imported the only thing that was missing: a beach.
Cold in the winter, hot in the summer, cool all year round, Berlin is booming. Not economically – southern Germany props up the legendary German Wirtschaft – but who cares about that when you are planning your Erasmus? What matters is the party, and nowhere does it like Berlin.
Nestling in among the rolling Modena farmland, Bologna is a legendary student city with a much-underrated culinary tradition. In the early evenings, the local bars lay out an array of meats, cheeses and vegetables for office workers to snack on before settling down to an evening meal. Later, much later, the streets come alive with thousands of students, live music and the best of Italian urban life.
Portugal’s capital is like a grand old dame… who is the last one off the dancefloor at the end of the night. One of the most affordable capitals on this list, Lisbon is home to the legendary Bairro Alto, where students spill out onto the streets until the sun starts to rise over the hills. It is also a beautiful city where you can enjoy spectacular views from viewing platforms all over town. If Spain’s cities are the most popular Erasmus destinations, Lisbon is the hipster’s choice.
London’s 45 universities hold a magnetic allure for students from all over the world. There is nowhere that quite matches the energy of the British capital, while balancing a magnificent history with a passion for the new. Sometimes it may feel like you never actually meet any born Londoners in London, but that’s a sign of a true world city!
There is a frenetic buzz in Spain’s capital city that lets you know you are somewhere special. Spain’s famous beaches may be a long way away, but you won’t miss them in a city where late dinners in the open air, rooftop bars and some of the world’s finest museums are par for the course. The local football teams aren’t bad either, if you are in to that kind of thing.
North of England: Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle, UK
The UK is one of the most popular destinations for an Erasmus year and the north of England is home to a number of excellent university cities. Liverpool, Manchester and Newcastle are considerably less expensive than London, which can make a big difference if you are planning months or a whole year away.
No name conjures up effortless elegance quite like Paris. For many people, the French capital is the greatest student city of all, where the avant-garde nightclubs, world-beating museums and chic cafes are always brimming with students.
The weather is spectacular, the beaches are long (and natural), the cultural life is vibrant and the orange juice zings as if the oranges had just been plucked from the tree. Which, of course, they have. If one Spanish city truly combines everything typically “Spanish”, it is Valencia, the home of paella.
Planning an Erasmus stay abroad? Already been? Share your experiences in the comments!
http://ec.europa.eu/education/tools/statistics_en.htm#erasmusImage credits: Tapas by José Porras via cc, Lisbon Street, Portugal by Pedro Szekely via cc, Smithfield Market by Amanda Slater via cc, Madrid Centro by DavidHT via cc, Albert Dock and Canning Half Tide Dock Liverpool, at dusk today by Alison Benbow via cc, Paris Je t’aime by Kim via cc, all other images © Alex Hammond