If living (and studying) abroad still seems scary, you should know that there are people who are always ready to help you – and they are students themselves. You only need to reach out!
Student organizations supporting international students
Almost every university these days has a student club or organization which focuses specifically on international students – whether degree-seeking, exchange or both. These organizations share a goal to make sure that all incoming students feel welcomed, integrated, represented and informed.
Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is the biggest non-profit student network in Europe. ESN’s mission is to represent international students and to provide opportunities for cultural understanding and self-development under the principle of „Students Helping Students”. ESN is active in over 40 countries, so make sure to check out whether they have a section in your host university or city. ESN supports students by helping them with social, practical and academic integration. It is mainly known for its activities at a local level – various social and leisure events, trips within a host country, cultural projects, festivals and, of course, parties.
Some ESN sections also run – or support the local international offices with – Mentor/Buddy programmes. Such mentoring systems ensure student integration by assigning local students-volunteers for individual support. So if you have any practical questions about your exchange destination – a Mentor/Buddy is your go-to person. Most ESN sections have online applications for students in need of a Mentor, you can look for it on the local ESN section‘s website or Facebook page.
Mentoring systems are the most useful when the arrival to your exchange destination is near but if you‘re still early, you may ask for help from students who went to your host university a semester or two before. Some universities run Erasmus+ (or in general – exchange) ambassador schemes where students represent the university and the country they‘ve been studying at and offer practical guidance and information. If your home university doesn‘t have one, no worries – the International Office may help you get in touch with the past exchange students personally.
Find the ESN section in your Host city here: https://esn.org/sections