With almost 400 students taking part in the Erasmus+ programme each year, the University of Sheffield is one of the most active sending institutions in the UK.
They get the opportunity to travel to one of 25 countries across Europe for a unique experience, which not only enhances their learning but helps to shape their future careers.
Through Erasmus+ (the European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) the University of Sheffield also welcomes 400 visiting students and adult learners every year.
Erasmus+ was initially launched by the European Union in 1987 to provide educational opportunities to study abroad. The underlying fabric was a drive to integrate students across the continent and to foster relationships for future generations.
Over the past 30 years, more than 300,000 people in the UK and nine million across the continent have taken part in Erasmus+, which recently expanded to include adult learners, vocational students and those on work placements, in addition to students.
As part of the Europe-wide 30th anniversary celebrations, Erasmus+ participants from the University of Sheffield have been sharing their stories.
Law and Criminology student Katie Morris studied at the University of Oslo in Norway for a year: “The main reason I decided to study abroad was because of how many opportunities I knew it could bring in the future, but I also saw it as a chance to experience different cultures whilst living in an international community, allowing me to broaden my horizons in every sense.
“Being alone in a new country meant I had to learn how to efficiently manage my time, especially my finances, which in the long run has definitely enhanced my independence.
“It also gives you the chance to make so many new friends from all over that can have a major impact on your opinions and your knowledge of the rest of the world – this is something I would have never experienced had I not studied abroad and is something I now realise is so valuable as I have come out of the experience so much more open minded.”
‘2016 was the most popular year so far for Erasmus+ in the UK with even more students and adult learners expected to take part in 2017. However, as Erasmus+ is a programme of the EU and established by EU law the UK’s future membership in the scheme remains uncertain after Brexit.’
Katie said she would encourage more people to spend a period of time abroad.
“Of course it is a scary thing to do regardless of whether you will be a one-hour flight or a 24-hour flight from home, but it is important to look beyond those initial nerves that everyone faces and to consider what you will get out of the experience,” she said.
“The best advice I could give is to look at the opportunity rationally. It’s so easy to get caught up worrying about not making friends or not enjoying yourself, when realistically the chances of this are so miniscule – I didn’t encounter a single person whilst abroad who regretted their decision to be there!
“It will help you to grow so much in confidence and as a person in general. It will enhance future career prospects. The scariest part is the build-up to leaving but once you arrive you’ll be so thankful you jumped at the chance to go and you’ll have so much fun!”
For Sheffield students, France, Spain, Germany and the Netherlands are the most popular destinations to spend a semester or year abroad. The UK remains one of the most popular destination for European students.
Teacher Mayte Alcántara spent a year at the University of Sheffield as an Erasmus student in 1992-1993.
“Erasmus is an experience you will never forget,” said Mayte. “I am from the Canary Islands and I was studying English language and linguistics at the University of Seville in Spain. The practical skills I acquired at the University of Sheffield during my stay have been essential for my career as a teacher.”
Erasmus+, which has received €14.7 billion in grants over the past seven years, now offers opportunities for millions of Europeans to train, volunteer or gain professional experience abroad. The development of the scheme has led to a stronger international dimension with more opportunities than ever before now available.
“Being alone in a new country meant I had to learn how to efficiently manage my time, especially my finances, which in the long run has definitely enhanced my independence.’
In April 2017, Dr Christine Wallis, Teaching Associate from the University of Sheffield’s School of English spent a week teaching undergraduates on English and teacher training courses and hosting research seminars at Zurich University in Switzerland.
“I’ve always regretted the fact that my undergraduate degree didn’t give me the opportunity to go abroad as I’m keen to develop and maintain links with European colleagues,” said Christine.
“I really enjoyed the insights the programme gave me into how similar departments work in overseas universities. I got a better idea of the range of abilities and enthusiasm of students in overseas institutions.
“I also got to teach some subjects which are peripheral to my teaching but part of my research here in Sheffield, which I feel has made me more adaptable, confident and rounded in my knowledge and experience.”
Students and staff taking part in Erasmus+ can apply for a grant which is not means tested. The grant helps to assist with additional costs incurred through living abroad. On top of the main Erasmus+ grant, students with a household income of less than or equal to £25,000 can claim an additional monthly supplement.
2016 was the most popular year so far for Erasmus+ in the UK with even more students and adult learners expected to take part in 2017. However, as Erasmus+ is a programme of the EU and established by EU law the UK’s future membership in the scheme remains uncertain after Brexit.
Addressing Brexit the Erasmus+ website states: “We cannot speculate on any possible future scenarios following the UK’s exit from the EU, but we note the Government position is that UK participation in some EU programmes ‘promoting science, education and culture’ may continue subject to the negotiation as stated in the Prime Minister’s speech delivered in Florence on 22 September 2017.”
Dr Malcolm Butler, Director of Global Engagement at the University of Sheffield, said: “The University of Sheffield has one of the most successful Erasmus+ schemes in Europe. This affirms Sheffield’s position in the global academic community and demonstrates our commitment to not only providing our students with an international dimension to their studies but also to welcoming students from across Europe to the city.”
To find out more about the #WeAreInternational campaign please visit https://www.sheffield.ac.uk/global/we-are-international