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Hear from King's students about their experiences studying abroad at partner universities in Europe.  Destinations include institutions in France, Germany, Switzerland, Finland and Spain.


Katie Schwartz, 2012-2013 at Paris Sorbonne University (Paris IV)


Accommodation is very difficult to come by in Paris, especially for students who are only studying abroad for one semester.  It is also quite expensive.  Sadly, that is the reality of living there!

It is best to arrive in Paris and stay in a hostel.  It is much easier to find an apartment once you are in the country.  You can look on Gumtree, Craigslist, or go to the American Church who usually advertise apartments for rent.  

Not many people live with others as the majority of apartments on the market are one bedroom apartment which is something to consider if students are hoping to live with other people.  Also, a lot of French students live with their families.  A home stay is also a good option.  

Watch out for scams.  Never put down a deposit for anything that you've not seen.  Paris is notorious for scamming people with accommodation.  It nearly happened to me as I was really desperate for a place to live.  Is an apartment looks too good to be true, or something doesn't feel right, the likelihood is that it is a scam.  

Violeta Todorova, 2013-2014 at Université Sorbonne Nouvelle (Paris III)


Finding accommodation was one of the hardest parts of living in Paris.  Firstly, even as a study abroad student, you are not guaranteed housing.  I was not allocated a spot in the university accommodation.  The ones associated with Parisian universities are not located in the best areas of Paris.  However, they are convenient and most likely cheaper than anything else you will find.  I believe that it's worth applying in May just to see if university housing is an option for you.  

Otherwise, I sorted my accommodation before I arrived through internet searches.  Most people live on their own in small studio apartments, but there are multiple bedrooms if you have flatmates.  There are also sites and Facebook pages for people looking to lease empty rooms throughout Paris.  The Sorbonne is split up into multiple campuses; the Nouvelle Universite is near Censier Daubenton on the M7.  I was extremely lucky and found an apartment in the 5th arrondissement about a 5 minute walk away from my campus through Airbnb.  I highly recommend that site as it allows you to pay in your own currency and there is a middleman to help facilitate the process.  Airbnb is a great starting point - especially for those only going for one semester.  If you're staying for the whole year, then it might be worth it to invest in finding an apartment.  

In general, I would recommend living in the 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 13th, 14th or 15th arrondissement.  Ones to avoid include the 9th, 10th, 18th, 19th and everywhere outside the centre.  Housing can definitely be difficult, so don't be afraid to get creative - being an au pair, reaching out to friends etc.  Also, if you're there for the whole year, it's worth applying for CAF (a government grant) which will help with housing funding.                             


The modules will obviously vary greatly based on department.  Because I was studying abroad as part of my degree, all my modules had to be within the same department - Cinema et L'audiovisuel - for me to receive credit.  Be sure to communicate with your home university to approve all module choices as it becomes difficult to switch after the first week.  All my courses were fully in French with normal Sorbonne students.  I took 2nd year and 3rd year modules that sounded interesting.  There was a lot of choice to pick from and every module has different specialisations depending on the seminar you pick.  I was surprised to find modules as one 2 hour instalment that usually meant a lecture.  There were no screenings or tutorials outside the lecture, therefore I found it difficult to express myself and contribute to the conversation.  Also, there were no weekly assigned readings - only the assessment.  

The Assessment  was totally in French, though I was allowed to write 'ERASMUS' on my assignments - which adjusted the harshness of the marking.  There are two types of modules - ones that run on continued assessment and a lecture/exam based one.  Typically modules are on continued assessment which will include one 'partiel' (an in class exam) and one 'dossier' (a take home assignment).  Two of my modules also included presentations as part of the formal assessment.  The grades were typically split 50-50 between two assignments during the semester.  Most of the professors were accommodating with study abroad students, such as allowing dictionaries for exams.  I found the marking to be fair on the whole, though it does take a lot of studying to get good marks.  Also their scale is between 1-20 with above 10 being passing and above 15 as exceptional.  

The university did offer some help for incoming students whose first language was not French.  During orientation, we had to take a French language test and those who did not pass were placed in a one week intensive course before modules began and then assigned a French language class for the year.  Those that passed the exams could take methodology and culture classes.  I took a French methodology class and a French art history class from the International Office.  The classes were extremely useful and reassuring as all students in those modules were study abroad students like me.  Otherwise, there were officers from the university you could talk to in the event that you were having difficulty settling in.  Despite all the help, it was still very difficult to adjust to French modules and the French education system.  At times it could be frustrating.  However, I was assigned a tutor to help me settle in and I found it extremely helpful as my tutor was lovely.  A lot of the communication depending on your reaching out to your tutor rather than the other way around.  There is some help outside as well if you look for it.  For example, there is a ground called Franglish which meets at nights and you exchange conversation - 10 minutes in English, then 10 minutes in French and then you rotate partners.

Weekend activities  

There is so much to do in Paris, you can easily stay occupied in the city.  There are museums, coffee shops, parks and shopping.  A lot of museums are free for EU citizens and students; take advantage of that!  My favourites were the Louvre, Rodin Museum, Musee de l'Orangerie, Centre George Pompidou and Musee d'Orsay.  There are the obvious landmarks to visit such as Arc de Triumph, Eiffel Tower, Place de la Concorde, the Pantheon and Hotel des Invalides.  It's also useful to look at Time Out Paris for upcoming exhibitions and events around the city.  Also, it it's not too cold, you can go for a jog in Jardin de Luxembourg, Le Jardin des Plants or Jardin des Tuileries.  And lastly, the food must be explored - from finding the best croque monseiur to the macaroons at La Duree.  

There are plenty of bars and cafes for nights out that are the equivalent to pubs in England.  There are also restaurants, wine bars and specific streets - such as Rue Mouffetard - which are quite lively during the night.  In terms of clubs, there are various different types around the city.  For different levels of dressing up and different music choice, there is quite a variety.  I found Paris nightlife quite expensive with entry between 10 and 20 euros and 8 euro drinks once inside.  Also, nightlife in Paris starts much later than in London.  Most people will begin eating dinner and 8pm-9pm and go to the club at 1am in the morning.  The Metro does not run all night and varies based on the day of the week, but on average it ends around 2am-2:30am.  Some people will stay out until it starts the next morning at 6am.  Otherwise, taxis are not too expensive for getting home and Paris is smaller in size than London, so typically distances are not too far.   

Just outside of the centre, there's Disneyland and a large park in Boulogne-Billancourt.  Train tickets can be quite expensive, but it is the easiest way to get around France for a weekend away.  Investing in a youth railcard could be beneficial if you plan in travelling more frequently during your time in France.  Some areas to explore include Normandy, Bretagne, Lyon, Rennes, Aix-en-Provence, Lille and Strasbourg.  The Mediterranean coast is a bit far, but it's absolutely beautiful.  Also, because France is part of mainland Europe, it is easy to travel to neighbouring countries such as Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Italy and Switzerland.  Also, Paris has two large airports, so travelling is extremely easy from Paris.  

Oscar Davies, 2014-2015 at Ecole Normale Supérieure, Paris


The ENS is a very prestigious place to be at in France academically, being one of the few grandes écoles that exist. I was inspired to apply here because famous theorists such as Jean-Paul Sartre and Raymond Aron studied here at some point in their careers. If you get to go as an exchange student, you are extremely fortunate in that you do not have to pass the notoriously difficult French entrance exams. There is also an important difference in the type of student you will meet at ENS: an elève is accepted via the concours and is remunerated by the state (i.e. paid monthly), whilst an étudiant applies via dossier and is not remunerated. Regardless, because it is so hard to get in,you will meet highly intelligent and intellectually stimulating people who all have something to say in a conversation; they are especially receptive to international students, perhaps because the university itself is has only a fraction of the students in comparison to King’s.

Additionally, because the ENS is confident that the students who have manage to get in are very intelligent, when you arrive, the atmosphere is actually much more relaxed than you might expect: for example, you can take a range of modules in different departments, a nice change from the more prescriptive compulsory literature modules at King’s.   Oscar 1


I was fortunate enough to live in my friend’s flat which was located right next to the Eiffel Tower! I know that this was a very lucky situation, though a few of my friends had difficulties finding accommodation (Paris is notoriously difficult); starting with AirBNB for a few weeks is always a good shout, as it gives you time to actually view properties before making any decisions. Something to note is that ENS does not generally provide accommodation for exchange students. My daily journey was from the 7th arrondissement to the 5th which would take about half an hour, and there was always lots of fun things to do around the 5th since it is known as the student neighbourhood. Oscar 2

Describe the weekend/evening activities on offer

Being the most popular tourist destination on the planet, there really is something for everyone in this amazing city. Aesthetically, walking around the city you can really appreciate the beautiful architecture and impressive grandeur of such an old city. Walking along the Seine is so much nicer than the Thames as you can go down and wonder along the quay. The parks are also amazing; the ENS being conveniently located right next the the Luxembourg Gardens which are, arguably, some best gardens in Paris!

At night there are lots of things to do. The ENS has its very own student union called the K-Fêt which hosts a variety of fun (and cheap!) events such as a neon paint soirée, a Halloween event, and a Christmas ball. Elsewhere, Paris offers a really great array of clubs – Concrète, Wanderlust and the Social Club to name but a few – and has THE most amazing food. A personal favourite is L’As du Fallafel which has Europe’s best falafel and, for someone who didn’t really like falafel before, I can say that it is well worth the queue!

In terms of weekend activities, you can get the RER down to Versailles and roam around the Palace/Gardens which are great to have a picnic, or go to the massive flea market at Place de Clignancourt to get some cool antiques and clothes.Oscar 3

List the top 10 things about your study abroad experience

  1. Getting into Paris Fashion Week by making friends with some fellow Londoners in the Amorino ice cream queue
  2. I also went to Iceland whilst I was in Paris which had amazing natural beauty and lunar landscapes
  3. Being the only one dressed up for Halloween at ENS (awkward)
  4. Taking part in a photoshoot in Montmartre
  5. Parisian Christmas Markets
  6. The Courô (quad) of the ENS: very beautiful and a great place for meeting people
  7. Parisians – always so stylish!
  8. Living next to the Eiffel Tower 
  9. The food – duck and cheese being some of my favourite things ever – and the wine of course (unbeatable)
  10. The MEGA – weekend d’intégration organised by the ENS – many hilarious memories and moments, including a foam party, all-night discos and watersports Oscar 4


Joanna Wilson, 2015-2016 at Ludwig Maximilians University, Munich

Top Ten Things: 

1. Try out some ice-cream parlours:

It might seem unlikely, but Munich has some of the best ice-cream parlours in Germany! One of the best and most unusual is Der Verrückte Eismacher (The Crazy Icemaker) which is decorated in an Alice in Wonderland theme and changes its flavours every day. Some of these flavours include beer, rose and champagne or mango and basil. This ice-cream parlour is also conveniently located right next to the main LMU university campus – perfect for a study break!

2. Float down the river in an inflatable pretzel:

If you’re lucky enough to be in Munich during the summer semester, as I was, one of the best things to do is buy an inflatable (this can be a normal inflatable ring, or in my case, an inflatable pretzel) and float down the streams and rivers that go through the English Garden. This is very popular with students in Munich and one of the best ways to cool off when the weather is hot.

englisher garten

3. Find the surfers in the park:

Another quirky thing to do in the English Garden is to go and watch surfers at one of the numerous spots in the park. It’s very surprising when you suddenly come across waves and surfboards in the middle of a German park, but definitely worth looking out for!

4. Take in a view of the city centre:

It may take nearly 300 steps to reach the top, but the view from St Peter’s Church in the city centre is unmissable – plus it only costs €1 for students! The time spent walking up the stairs will definitely be worth it and if you’re lucky, you may even be able to see the Alps! Munich also has plenty of rooftop bars, where you can enjoy cocktails and get a great view over the city centre at the same time.


5. Immerse yourself in Bavarian culture:

One of the best things about Munich is how proud it is of its culture. While in Munich, there are plenty of ways to discover the city’s culture. One of the events that I went to was called the Kocherlball, which takes place once a year in July in the English Garden. The hard-core Bavarians arrive at 2am to reserve their tables, but most people arrive around 6am. Traditionally the Kocherlball was a way of servants to be able to enjoy themselves before they started work. Nowadays, people dress up in traditional clothing of Lederhosen and Dirndls, and listen to a band play traditional music. Not forgetting of course another traditional Bavarian thing to do – Oktoberfest! An alternative for those who aren’t in Munich during Oktoberfest is its little sister, Frühlingsfest, which takes place in spring.

6. Venture out of the city:

Munich is lucky enough to be in a great position in Europe, making it very easy to reach other places in Europe. There are also so many places to visit within an hour or so of Munich. Some of the best places to spend a sunny afternoon are the lakes south of the city, such as Lake Starnberg. The transport system is very efficient and cheap in Munich, making it very easy to get to the lakes, and also to the mountains.

7. See a football game:

It may be stereotypical, but when living in Munich, it is a must to go to the Allianz Arena and watch a game. Ideally it is best to see Bayern Munich play, but the lower team TSV 186 also play there, and offer cheaper tickets.


8. Go food shopping at the Viktualianmarkt:

In the centre of Munich there is the Viktualianmarkt, a daily food market with over 140 stalls, offering everything from cheese, to fresh fruit juices, and also a beer garden. There are also lots of restaurants in the area to grab some lunch, and it is rumoured that this is where the Bayern Munich football players go food shopping…

9. Experience art and history:

If culture is your thing, Munich has a huge number of museums and art galleries to cover all interests. This includes museums on the history of Munich itself, such as the recently opened National Socialist Documentation Centre, which displays Munich’s involvement in the Nazi regime. A useful tip is that most art galleries and museums offer discounts for students, and are either free or discounted on Sundays. A trip to Neuschwanstein castle is also an absolute necessity when in Bavaria.



10. Indulge in Bavarian cuisine:

Many people may have stereotypes about Bavarian food and these do often prove to be true, but Munich also has restaurants offering food from all around the world. One of my favourite places for a quick bite to eat is Condesa, a cheap but delicious Mexican restaurant. Don’t be put off by the stereotypes about Bavarian food however – it is definitely worth trying! 


Before going to Munich, I had to fill in a learning agreement to send to the university. As the module catalogue for the summer semester had not yet been released, I had to do this from the previous semester’s catalogue. This was useful to get an idea of the courses that were offered at LMU, but it did mean that I had to choose my modules again upon arriving in Munich. At German university, there are different types of classes. A Vorlesung is the same as a lecture at King’s, where the lecturer stands at the front and the students take notes. The assessment for this is often a Klausur, which is an in-class written exam at the end of the semester. This can vary however, as for one of the Vorlesung classes I took, I had to do an oral exam with other international students, and for another Vorlesung, I had to submit a portfolio of my lecture notes. German university also has seminars, at different levels called Proseminars and Hauptseminars, with Hauptseminars being at a higher level. I took one Proseminar, and the assessment for this was an in-class group presentation. In terms of signing up for courses, for a seminar it is necessary to sign up in advance, by emailing the seminar leader. For lectures, it was not necessary to sign up in advance, but instead to just tell the lecturer at the start or end of the first lecture that you are an Erasmus student and would like to enrol in the course. For the exams, Erasmus students normally have to send another email to make sure they are registered for the exams. I found the pace of classes mostly easy to follow, and also all students I came across were very helpful!


Accommodation and student life: 

From my experience, most Erasmus and international students in Munich lived in student accommodation, as I did. I applied for this during my application for the university in Munich – it was as simple as just ticking a box and saying that you’d like to be considered for student accommodation. The two main student accommodation complexes in Munich were called Studentenstadt (student town) and the Olympisches Dorf (Olympic Village). I was lucky enough to get a place in the Olympic Village, which is considered to be the best place for students to live in Munich. As the name suggests, this accommodation complex is where the athletes lived during the 1972 Munich Olympics. The accommodation is split into blocks with studio apartments, and then bungalows. I was lucky enough to live in a bungalow, which was totally self-contained with a kitchen and bathroom downstairs, and then the bedroom and a balcony upstairs. As an international student, I got a ‘service package’ which included a sleeping bag, pillow and sheet. There was also a Facebook group where people who were moving out of the village sold household appliances, kitchen equipment etc., so that was a great way to buy items quite cheaply, and also to sell things before moving back to the UK. In terms of WIFI, an Ethernet cable was provided, but for WIFI I bought a router from the IT office at the accommodation, who set it up ready to be used in my bungalow.

Although I lived on my own in the bungalow, the bungalows were organised into streets, so I had lots of neighbours who were all very friendly so it was easy to make friends. The good thing about student accommodation in Munich was that it was not just people from LMU, where I was studying, but also the other university in Munich. Therefore there was a great mix of German and international students, and lots of opportunities to meet people, and I never felt lonely despite living on my own. Living in student accommodation was also a nice change from living in private housing in London, as there was a really great student environment. As well as being student accommodation, the Olympic Village also had a laundry room on site, a study room/library, and various student advice offices. Best of all, there was an on-site pub that served food, a cocktail bar and a disco, all just for the students. A few minutes’ walk away was a shopping centre with a Tengelmann supermarket, bakeries, restaurants, pharmacies and a post office. The U-Bahn station was also just a few minutes’ walk from the residence and it was just 10 minutes to get into the centre of Munich.

Even though Munich is known as the most expensive city in Germany, it is relatively cheap compared to London! My rent was around €300 per month and this also included electricity and water bills. Upon enrolment, you receive a student card which also acts as a travel ticket for the Munich transport system, but only for evenings and weekends. For a one-off fee of around €150, I decided to buy an unlimited ticket that I could use at any time, on any day of the week, throughout the semester. This was great as it meant I never had to buy a ticket, and also the Munich transport network can take you quite far out of the city, such as to the lakes.

Mensas are another great thing about being a student in Munich. A Mensa is a student canteen that offers really cheap, but actually really tasty food! In Munich, you need to buy a Mensa card for a deposit of €7, which you can then top up with money as and when you need to. The largest Mensa in Munich is at Leopoldstraβe, which offers a wide range of German food, Bavarian food and also a few international dishes each day.


Before choosing where I wanted to study abroad for the German part of my degree, I did not really know a lot about Munich, however after having spent a semester there, I am so glad to have picked it! One of the best things about my experience in Munich was the buddy system run by the university, where international students are paired up with German students. I was really lucky with my buddy, who showed me all the best things in Munich and introduced me to all of her friends, meaning that I was really able to integrate into German culture. Munich is a big enough city to offer endless things to do, but also small enough to feel friendly and welcoming – it is not surprising that it is referred to as having a village feel. The city was also in a perfect location for discovering Bavaria and also beyond Germany’s borders. I found LMU as a university to be a fantastic place to spend a semester studying. The classes I took were challenging and stimulating, but there was always support offered in case of problems. This semester allowed me to improve my German immensely, and I think this was mainly due to how friendly and welcoming fellow students were. I would definitely recommend studying abroad in Munich!


Verity Roberts, 2013-2014 at Ruprecht-Karls-Universitat, Heidelberg

Top ten things

1. The Schloss: Heidelberg feels like a mixture of Oxford, York and Durham: it’s a quaint town nestled between two hills on the river Neckar, and the Uni is the oldest in Germany. It’s therefore no wonder that it’s full of American and Japanese tourists photographing the architecture. This beautiful castle ruin is where they go first. This icon of HD isn’t just for visitors – your climb is rewarded by a stunning panoramic view over the town, as far as the hills of the beautiful Pfalz wine region. The ‘Schlossbeleuchtungen’ spread out over three separate nights between June and September draw a huge crowd: the castle is specially lit up and fireworks shoot up from the castle on the hill and the ‘Altebrücke’ below, their reflection shimmering in the river.

2. Marstall: Consistently voted the most popular student restaurant in Germany, you can instantly see why. This charming sixteenth century building not only as high quality buffet-style food at extremely fair prices, but also a café/bar and lots of beer benches under the trees outside. There are student parties here, and in the summer a huge outdoor screen is set up outside for the big football games, drawing thousands. Marstall also has an adjoining café (the best cake is in the main one though) which is not only a great place to work, but also hosts film viewings, dance classes and gigs.

3. Unterestraße: Situated in the heart of the old town, this is the ‘strip’ of this sleepy town. Kneipen (pubs), bars and clubs are packed one after another down a long and narrow cobbled street. It’s earned its reputation among the older residents as the loud and rowdy bit of the old town. No wonder when you have the draw of the tasty local ‘melonenschnapps’ at 1€ a shot.      

4. Neckarwiese: In the winter months this just looks like a pretty strip of grass by the riverbank in Neuenheim, but in summer this is where it all happens. The first heat in late spring brings out the school leavers, enjoying their freedom after their four-hour (!) exams. Summer brings out the students with their BBQs, and families of small children. On a hot night the Wiese is loud and crowded into the early hours.

5. Bismarckplatz: The beating heart of HD’s infrastructure, this is where all the trams and buses meet. The 31 and 32 buses are always full of students taking the final five minute part of their journey to ‘uniplatz’ in the middle of the Altstadt. B.platz is where the ‘new’ town stop and the old begins, and it’s always packed. It’s got the shops everyone needs to go to – Galeria Kaufhof (big department store), Müller (huge three story shop full of toiletries, cosmetics, stationery etc.), dm (the german version of Boots, just without the pharmacy), Saturn (technology), MacDonalds and H&M. Don’t be caught out by the tram/bus frequency coming from London. If you’re travelling after 9pm and haven’t planned your journey you can end up stranded here for some time.

6. Neuenheimer Feld: North of the Neckar lies Neuenheim, the Chelsea of HD. When you move left of this area of expensive housing you hit the expansive Neuenheimer Feld area. This is so much more than just the campus for medics and scientists. It’s almost like its own town with numerous clinics, loads of student halls, another huge mensa (student canteen), zoo and all of HD’s sports pitches and indoor facilities, both of the uni and local sports teams. North of this new-build metropolis (for HD standards) is the real ‘Feld’ – a huge, flat area of allotments and commercial vegetable plots where you’ll always find plenty of cyclists and runners.

7. Philosophenweg: Supposedly named after the famous thinkers who have worked in and visited HD, this is the pretty walk that everyone goes on. It’s a path along the side of the hill on the northern side of the river, and boasts stunning views of the Schloos and the Altstadt below. It’s a healthy climb loved by tourists and locals alike and gets very busy at Sylvester (New Year) and for the Schlossbeleuchtungen for the view of the fireworks. If you have time, carrying on up to the top of the hill is worth the climb – hidden behind the trees is the ‘Thingstätte,’ a Nazi-built amphitheatre built into the hill. This is actually also the site of two beautiful monastery ruins nearby.      

8. Hauptstraße: This is said to be the longest high street in Europe, and I have to agree after walking so often from one end to the other (it takes a good fifteen minutes). The street starts with the big commercial names – T.K Maxx, Lush, The Body Shop, Starbucks – and then continues on to pubs and museums before turning into tourist-central in the heart of the Altstadt. Here there are numerous little cafes with outdoor seating, and lots of tourist merchandise shops. It’s extremely busy in good weather and at weekends, and so isn’t always a pleasant walk, but it gets a mention because it’s such a central part of HD’s identity.

9. Weihnachtsmärkte (Christmas markets): In November every ‘platz’ (square) available gets covered in the typical wooden huts of the Christmas markets. The town is the busiest it gets, and students enjoy a mug of Glühwein in between lectures (winter gets a lot colder out here!). The Märkte are a bit love-hate. For the visitor they are charming and festive, but if you live in the Altstadt the unique smell of onions mixed with cheap Glühwein can get a bit wearing. Plenty of locals here are not great fans. Visit once or twice, however, and it keeps its magic.

10. Steingasse: At first glance this appears to be a very touristy little street (‘gasse’ actually translates as alley – there are lots of these!) leading to the picturesque ‘Alte Brücke.’ Look a little deeper and it’s actually got some of the best places for food or a coffee in town. Joe Molese arguably ahs the best burger in HD, and you’ll mostly only hear german voices here. The pizzas, salads and sandwiches are far from typical german cuisine, but are very popular. One of the waiters there is the nicest you’ll ever be served by. Casa del Caffè has the best hot chocolate in town – perfect for meeting a friend on a cold day. It’s so cosy that people stay there for hours. Vetter is the closest HD gets to a beer hall. The food is seen as a bit too Bayerisch by the proud local residents of Baden-Württemberg, but their home-brewed beer is ‘beliebt’ by all. There is always a buzz to the place in the evenings and in summer students buy their giant beer bottles and take them down to the river (before returning the empty bottle to get the ‘Pfand’ back, of course).


Heidelberg is very much a student town. Similar to Durham or St. Andrew’s, the Altstadt is full of students in term time. The large student population has grown significantly over the past few years (on many courses there is no limit on the number of students), which has put huge pressure on private sector student housing. If you sign up for a place in a Wohnheim (halls) - make sure you don’t miss the deadline – it’s down to luck where you end up and what kind of flatmates you get. I know people who’ve had great experiences, living in a flat of social German students, and others who still don’t know their flatmates. Everywhere in HD is reachable by bike: your maximum journey can’t exceed 20 minutes. Absolutely everyone gets a bike – it takes a while to get used to cycling on the right-hand side! If you want to find something in the private sector, start early. Everything goes on wg-gesucht.de, and if you’re lucky you can organise everything through email and Skype when you’re still in the UK. I got really lucky and have a two minute walk to lectures, but that kind of proximity is the exception to the rule. Most people have a ten minute cycle to lectures. 


Starting Off: Whatever university in Germany you start in, the first few weeks will be a baptism of fire in the ways of German bureaucracy. I’m talking about forms. Forms for phone contracts, bank accounts, the all important ‘Stadanmeldung,’ forms to confirm health insurance coverage, to register at the library (they will want to see your Stadtanmeldung) and of course to become formally enrolled in the university. Try not to panic and get through them one by one – thank fully it will only happen once.

There is an orientation week for international students before the start of term. The most useful part is your trip to the IT building Neuenheimerfeld. There they help you to work out the internal online system, called the LSF. You’ll get a username and password in your enrolment documents. Despite the fact Erasmus covers tuition fees you’ll still need to pay a small amount to the ‘Studentenwerk,’ which you can do online through the LSF.

Heidelberg, like other Unis, offers a pre-term language course in September. I would really recommend doing one of these (I actually did mine in Munich). Not only can you settle into the novelties of a different culture before term starts, but it also gives you a crucial language advantage as your ears get one month to settle into a new routine.

Another important thing to know from the start is that 1 ECTS point equates to exactly 1 ‘Leistungspunkt.’ You will need 22 per term. How they all add up is the challenge. 

Different types of lecture: At King’s you’ll be used to ‘lectures’ of two hours, where the lecturer does all the talking. A ‘seminar’ has usually meant something smaller, additional to a lecture. The Heidelberg system is very different. 

  • Vorlesung: this does involve a lecturer speaking continually, but you don’t write an essay or an exam for it. You receive 2 LP purely for attending the lectures. 

  • Proseminar: this is more like a King’s module. Some have an exam in the last week of term. Others are assessed through Referats and has Hausarbeits. 

  • Referat: this is a presentation where you, the student, have to deliver the content during one lecture of term. Short ones are 15-30 minutes and earn you 1 LP (on top of 2 for attendance), and long ones are 45-60 minutes and earn you 2 LP. So many students require these points that your ‘Proseminar’ is actually only delivered by the lecturer in the first week. After that he is powerless to the broad range of presentation qualities of his students. This takes some getting used to! Referat subjects are handed out in the first two ‘sitzungen’ so you’ll have to make a decision on your toes. 

  • Hausarbeit: this is an academic essay of a standard length of 15 pages. There are standardised Heidelberg rules about font, page layout etc. It is written after the end of term (with the deadline at the beginning of the new term), and is worth 2 LP. A Proseminar can therefore be worth 3, 4 or 6 points: 3 for attendance and a short presentation, 4 for attendance and a long presentation, and 6 for both a long presentation and a Hausarbeit. You are expected to write your Hausarbeit on the subject you presented on, so you don’t have to do two lots of research. A Referat isn’t graded, so you only get a grade for the module if you have written a Hausarbeit.

  • Tutorium: this is an additional weekly session, providing a depper understanding of the content of a Proseminar. It is not compulsory and is only worth 1 LP. Other forms of teaching including ‘Übungen’ are less common in Arts and Humanities subjects.

The list of modules is called the ‘Vorlesungsverzeichnis.’ The one at Heidelberg is challenging to navigate. You’ll need to look in the section called the ‘Neuphilologische Fakultät’ to find modules for the two key departments of ‘Germanistik’ and ‘Deutsch als Fremdsprachphilologie.’ Within the section ‘Philosophische Fakultät’ you can find information for other departments such as History, which would be called ‘Arts and Humanities’ at King’s.

Key differences

  • Departments: Once you’ve completed the enrolment process in the ‘Carolinum’ building at Seminarstraße 2, you are totally in the hands of the individual departments. Each department has its own separate system for how to sign up to modules, how to sign for attendance, and how to sign up for exams. You’ll be assigned an Erasmus co-ordinator within the main department you’re registered to. You can ask them the sorts of questions you’d put to your tutor at King’s. If you want to meet with them you’ll have to sign up to their office hours (Sprechstunde). Some of these should be arranged by email, but for others there’s a physical list on a wall to sign your name on.

  • Lecturer responsibility: Each lecturer holds complete responsibility for their module: if you’re ill you have to send the doctor’s note to them individually. They also mark your Hausarbeit on their own: there is no modulation process, and therefore different lecturers give you different kinds of marks.

  • Anwesenheit (attendance) and Timings: You are allowed to miss a maximum of three lectures/seminars per semester. Counter intuitively, most lectures start at quarter past the hour. Heidelberg is a very traditional university by German standards, and still operates with the ‘cum tempore’ (c.t.) system, which means a lecture which says it starts at 9am actually starts at 9.15. It will run for 1.5 hours, finishing at quarter to the hour. This practical system leaves half an hour between sessions for discussions with lecturers and getting from place to place.

  • Libraries: Unlike at King’s, where all the Arts & Humanities books have been condensed into the Maughan Library, each department at Heidelberg has its own library. You’ll find most of the important and relevant books to your studies here. The main library is known as the UB (Universitätsbibliothek) and houses journals and articles. It does have some books, which cover topics in different departments, but these are ordered in a purely alphabetical system, so you’ll need to spend time on the database (HEIDI) to find the long number of your book. The UB isn’t the easiest to find your way around, so it’s worth taking some time to work out which bits are for book loans, which for are for studying.

  • Student Card: Here in Heidelberg (as is common throughout Germany) your student card is more than a library card and proof of identity. You can load money onto it, which then pays for your food and drink in the Mensas and Cafes of the university.      

Reflections from home

Before leaving London I had heard plenty of people tell me that clichéd line ‘your year abroad will be the best year of your life.’ Of course I was looking forward to going to Germany, but I felt a bit sceptical about all the hype.

It turns out there’s a reason it’s become a cliché. It’s just true. As everyone says, you will learn a lot about yourself you didn’t know you didn’t know. You will meet amazing people. And most of all you will get to soak up the german language like a sponge.

Heidelberg is a little piece of paradise. The town is, quite literally, something from the front of a chocolate box. You’re worked hard and there are plenty of challenges at this university, but the environment is so conducive to study and it is such an academically excellent institution that I would recommend everyone studying German to put it in their top three choices. 

General information

Travel: The RNV (Rhein-Neckar-Verkehr) is the local tram and bus service. As a student you can get a reduced ‘Semester-Ticket.’ Here’s a link to the RNV page.

In the daytime most trams and buses come once every ten minutes. Almost everyone in Heidelberg opts for a bike instead. As a pedestrian you need to be very careful of them (particularly as they come from the other direction…). If you do buy a second hand bike be prepared for the predominant brake system – one hand break for the front wheel, with the back wheel brake applied when you rotate the pedals backwards.

Area and identity: The nearest big town is Mannheim, with great restaurants, department stores and huge cinemas which serve a big population. The general area is full of great sports and concert venues, theatres and more. Heidelberg is just one hour from Frankfurt, one and a half from Stuttgart, with other close towns including Karlsruhe and Darmstadt.

As Heidelberg is an old university town, most people speak Hochdeutsch, although some members of the older generation speak in a light ‘Heidelberger’ dialect. What you’re most likely to come across is the thick ‘Schwäbisch’ accent, although not many students speak it: you’ll hear it in public places such as shops and hospitals.

Baden-Württemberg is characterised by a certain south German friendliness. People here make fun of the ‘serious’ northerners, but there is a definite sense of rivalry with Bayern. Baden-Württembergers have a clearer sense of belonging with the rest of Germany (it take little over two hours to reach Cologne by car). This part of Germany is also right next to France, and Heidelberg has a real sense of internationalism. Italy and Switzerland are in relatively close reach, and generally the area feels very well connected to the rest of Germany by the impressive autobahn system. Baden-Württemberg also has its own characteristic types of food, such as Spätzle and Maultaschen, and there are numerous local breweries.

Weather: The winters are significantly colder here (though not as extreme as in the north), and the summers are a lot hotter. The Philosophenweg in Heidelberg has the highest average annual temperature in Germany, and I’ve experienced highs of 36 degrees. You’ll need thermals in winter and very light clothes in summer. Heidelberg becomes a beautiful tourist paradise full of outdoor events in the summer months. If you’re here for the summer term, which runs until the end of July, you won’t feel like you’re missing out on the summer holidays back home: you’ll have the better temperatures.

Money: Heidelberg is cheaper than Munich but noticeably more expensive than Berlin. Students expect to pay approximately €300 per month for accommodation, a pizza costs around €7, the beloved German Döner is usually €3.50, and a ‘großes Pils’ is about €4. Do note though that there are offers on work days in most of the bars and ‘kneipen’ in the Altstadt. You’ll be able to budget significantly lower for groceries, but going out for meals and nights out can add up just as easily as back home. Note you can’t pay with Visa and Mastercard here, and almost everyone pays with cash, in almost every context.

Going out: I’ll keep this brief – the fun is in the discovery process. Entry in Heidelberg is rarely more than €5-8, and everyone goes out a lot later out here. The dress code is also very different to London – girls, dress down!

Health: It’s up to you to find a ‘Hausarzt’ (GP) near to you. Word of mouth can be really useful here. Once you get there you’ll be required to fill out two forms (which one gets very familiar with). You will need your EU Healthcard and your Passport (they’ll take photocopies of both). It’s good to carry your Healthcard around with you in case you suddenly find yourself in hospital (yup, it happened to me, and I had left it at home…).

At the start of term you’ll be asked to go to the ‘AOK,’ one of the biggest German health insurance firms, to ask for a document to confirm you’re covered by some form of health insurance. Confusingly, this does not mean that AOK are covering you in any way, but purely that they’ll be processing your forms. Any doctor you go to will ask which ‘Krankenkasse’ is covering you, so you show your Healthcard and say the AOK. Of all the details here, this is the bit I wish someone had told me at the start.

In general, whatever the NHS would cover at home can be covered by your EU Healthcard. If you need a filling with modern thermoset plastic at the Dentist, for example, then that would have to be paid for privately.

Phone: Different people opt for different schemes, but the biggest firms out here are undoubtedly O2 and Vodafone, which both have two shops on the Hauptstraße. If you sign up to a contract be careful to cancel it in time before the end of your stay.  You’ll need to provide a German phone number for various forms, including for a new bank account, so the sooner you get a new SIM the better.

Lucy Baughan, 2014-2015 at Heidelberg University


There are a few peculiarities in the German university system that you will notice: at the end of classes the students knock on the desks, for example! The classes at Heidelberg start 15 minutes past the hour and finish 15 minutes before the time stated on your timetables, to allow staff and students to move between rooms.

The courses are very lecturer-dependent, so the same module varies greatly in content and intensity depending on who is teaching. Similarly, the assessment method also changes depending on who is teaching. Exams can be oral or written (mündiche/schriftliche Prüfungen), and vary greatly in length. The format of the exam and the date of the exam are usually organised very late in the semester at around one or two weeks before the exam actually takes place. You also have to register with your Dozent to take the exam. Normally (for Law, at least), there is a special ‘Erasmusprüfung’, which is easier than and different to the exams which the other students take, but sometimes you will take the same exam. You will have to tell the Dozent/in that you are an Erasmus student at the start of the semester. Sometimes, if you put ‘Erasmus’ at the top of your Klausur (written exam paper), it will be marked differently to the other papers, if you are taking the same exam as the home students.

A syllabus for a particular module isn’t usually provided and sometimes it can be difficult to know what you have to learn. You really have to attend every lecture to ensure you don’t miss anything because of this, as you are usually examined on a broad scope of material and it could be based on anything the lecturer has said.

Some lecturers (Dozenten) take attendance at lectures by passing around an Anwesenheitsliste. If they do this, they usually set a limit as to how many lectures you can miss before your ECTS credits/Leistungspunkte will no longer be available to you.

For Law, the method of choosing modules is very complicated, partly because there is no way of knowing what the syllabi are (therefore, what you will learn) and also because the courses vary so much depending on who is teaching them. It is a good idea to begin the semester by taking a very large number of modules and then dropping out of the ones you no longer wish to take, once the forms of examination/ levels of demand have become clearer. You will probably be taking many more modules at Heidelberg than you do at King’s (for example, Law students normally take 4 in-depth modules per year - 2 semesters - at King’s). In Heidelberg, you will probably take around 9 modules per individual semester. There is a catalogue which you can pick up (usually from a library or your department), which contains all the available modules on your course for you to choose from.

There are language courses on offer which are heavily discounted and usually very good. There is a semesterbegleitendes Deutschkurs (a German course during term-time) and a vorbereitendes Deutschkurs (a German course before the start of the semester). Sometimes, you are able to count the ECTS points from these language courses towards your overall year abroad, but you will need to check with your study abroad tutor at King’s.Lucy Class


Accommodation Apply for halls as soon as possible - most German students don’t live in university accommodation, so there aren’t as many halls as you would expect to find in England. Erasmus and International students are given priority, but make sure to get your application in early. If you don’t want to live in halls, you can find a flat-share, or Wohngemeinschaft (WG). The best places to find these are on WGgesucht.de, or other similar sites. Try and start looking for somewhere well in advance of moving in at the start of semester

Mensas Heidelberg has fantastic university cafeterias and there are several ‘Mensas’ across the town. For example, there is the Triplex Mensa, the Marstall Mensa and a Mensa in Neuenheimerfeld. You use your student card like a credit card and top it up with credit, which you use to pay for your food. You can also pay with cash, but if you do you won’t be able to get your meal subsidised, so it will be more expensive. The cafeterias are open until late into the evening, serve alcohol and sometimes show sports matches on large projector screens. There are also a few parties, karaoke nights and other events, which are organised in the Mensas.

Pfand System When I first moved to Germany, I was very confused by the pfand system. Every time you buy a bottled drink, you pay slightly more than the actual price, but when the bottle is empty you take it to a recycling station (usually in large supermarkets). When you have returned your empty bottle, you get your deposit returned. You will also encounter the pfand system at various festivals and in some bars. For example, beer is sometimes served in wooden huts. You pay for your drink, and when you take your glass back to the bar, you will get your pfand back.

Shops It is useful to get an idea of where you can buy particular things because, whilst a lot of the shops on the Hauptstraße are international chains, when you need everyday items, it can be hard to know where to go. If you are looking for cosmetics or toiletries, DM and Müller are the places to go. Unlike in England, you cannot buy paracetamol and other pain killers in supermarkets or shops. Instead, you have to go to a specialist chemist, which displays a red ‘A’, the Apotheke sign, outside. The Apothekes are incredibly expensive: paracetamol and ibruprofen might cost as little as 40p in the UK, but may set you back around €4,00 in Germany. If you need electrical goods, Mediamarkt or Saturn are the best places to go. Supermarket-wise, Rewe (pronounced ray-vuh) is a nice, but upmarket, supermarket. Lidl, Aldi and Penny are other supermarkets which are a little cheaper. Finally, most shops don’t have a student discount, unlike in the UK. Heidelberg is a very expensive town by German standards and a lot of shops cater for tourists, so head to Mannheim or Karlsruhe for a wider range of budget shops. Avoid walking down the Hauptstraße if you can, because it’s incredibly busy. It is also illegal to cycle down the Hauptstraße, so don’t do that!

If you need to buy homeware, there is an Ikea store in Walldorf, where you can buy things cheaply. Unfortunately, the shop is difficult to get to (of course, you might be able to get larger items delivered!). In the Altstadt it can be difficult to find shops that sell homeware, but Galeria Kaufhof (one at Bismarkplatz and one on the Hauptstraße) provide homeware. Galeria Kaufhof tends to be a little pricey, however.

Healthcare You should have an EHIC card, if you are an EU citizen, which you will need to present when you arrive in Germany in order to get an exemption from the compulsory German national insurance scheme. If you need an appointment with a doctor, phone up a specific doctors practice in advance. If you need a doctor who speaks English, make sure you ask whether the receptionist/practitioner speaks English. You should also ask whether they accept patients with an EHIC card, or whether they are a private practice. I had the misfortune of assuming that my EHIC card entitled me to free healthcare in every doctors surgery, but then I was landed with a large bill after treatment. If you need to pay for any treatments which are not covered by your status as an EHIC holder, the surgery will post an invoice to you, which you pay by bank transfer.

Opening Times and Bank Holidays Finally, there are a lot of bank holidays in Baden-Württemberg, because the Bundesland is both catholic and protestant. Different federal states in Germany have different bank holidays, depending on the history and political leaning of the state. It is a good idea to know well in advance when these bank holidays are, because everything is closed on bank holidays. All shops (apart from cafés and pubs) are also closed on Sundays. Bank opening-times are a little frustrating in Germany, because the banks usually close for an hour-and-a-half during the middle of the day over lunch and they are not open on weekends. The German banking system isn’t as ‘online-friendly’ as you will be used to, so you might have to actually travel into a local bank branch to complete transactions you would be able to do online in the UK.

Lucy Castle

Weekend Activities

There is always so much on offer in Heidelberg. A lot of the Irish pubs in the town have comedy nights, quiz nights and open mic nights, which are fun. There are free sports classes, which take place in Neuenheimerfeld and are provided by the university. There are seemingly limitless clubs and productions to get involved in. The university have a lot of different theatre productions and theatre groups. For example, the Theatergruppe des Anglistisches Seminars host English-language theatre productions, if you want to get involved in a play. Classical music is everywhere in Heidelberg and there are many orchestras and choirs open to the public. There is a bowling alley near the Hauptbahnhof at Betriebshof and there are a few cinemas dotted around the town.

A lot of festivals take place in Heidelberg at different times of the year: Heidelberger Herbst; the Weihnachtsmärkte; the International Film Festival; the Heidelberg Music Festival… There are a lot of community events, such as the half-marathon in Heidelberg. It isn’t unusual to walk into town and find something unexpected happening!

The two Erasmus societies in Heidelberg offer a wealth of varying events and regular pub nights. ESN and AEGEE are fantastic, so make sure you ‘like’ them on Facebook, to stay in the know about the events they are offering. In previous years, they have hosted events ranging from electro club nights, to a survival camp weekend.

Top Ten Things

1. The weather. This might sound like a small point, but, being English born and bred, I didn’t realise just how much sun I was missing out on until I moved abroad. In the summer, the weather is constantly warm and you can spend day after day and night after night lying on the Neckarwiese (the river bank of the Neckar), sipping at a bottle of beer.

2. The community feel and the size of the town. I loved Heidelberg because, in contrast to London, it is a relatively small town. The people are very friendly and locals will strike up a conversation with you on public transport. Internationals are also made to feel very welcome and the city has a diverse history and present. The US army used to be based here, so nearly everyone speaks English.

3. Heidelberger Thingstätte and Philosophenweg. If there is one thing you do in Heidelberg, make it this. Allow yourself an hour to walk to the top of a large hill on the north-side of the river and you will be rewarded with fantastic views of the town. Also, nestled into the hill is an old Nazi amphitheatre - the ‘Thingstätte’ - which is an overwhelming and completely unique place. There is also an old abbey on top of the hill behind the Thingstätte, which is both eerie and beautiful.

4. The Studentenkarzer (student prison) This attraction is very cheap to visit and it is a fascinating, quirky little place. The university used to have jurisdiction over its students, instead of the State. This meant that when students were caught drunk in the streets, instead of being prosecuted, they would be brought to the student prison. This might sound like a dark and dreary place, but in reality, it soon became a rights of passage to have ‘done time’ here. This was the initiation ceremony of the 18th Century Heidelbergers. The students would paint their faces and write quotes on the walls, which are still there today.

5. Schloßbeleuchtung. Three times a year, the town has a large firework festival to commemorate the day that the French burnt the city’s Schloß (castle). The dates of the Schloßbeleuchtungen are widely advertised and it is well worth seeing.

6. Schloß. Whilst the Schloß itself is a ruin, it is still nice to visit the castle to get an idea of the grandeur that it once represented. During the film festival, a large tent is erected and international films are projected at night in the castle ruins. At Christmas, the Castle grounds turn into a Christmas market. Above the castle is Königstuhl, which you can reach by Bergbahn, or you can walk. This mountain-peak walk offers breath-taking views of the town and is especially nice in winter, when it becomes a winter wonderland covered in snow.

7. The language school. I found the language school incredibly good value for money. Language lessons in London are often expensive and you don’t really get enough contact-time to make it worthwhile, but if you enrol on the courses at the university, you can get 8 hours of tuition a week for a very reasonable price.

8. The bars. OK, Heidelberg doesn’t have a particularly great nightlife and if you want to go clubbing, you can head to Halle 02, but it is probably best to go to Mannheim. However, Heidelberg has a myriad of fantastic little pubs and cocktail bars. If you walk down the Unterestrasse, you will find a concentration of these. Also, because everybody in Heidelberg knows each other, you are guaranteed a nice night because you will end up bumping into and catching up with a lot of old pals.

9. ESN/AEGEE. The Erasmus societies ESN and AEGEE are absolutely fantastic. They host so many events, you will almost have too many opportunities to meet new people and experience new places. When I was in Heidelberg, they arranged a series of pub crawls, day trips and even a Bear Grylls-style survival weekend in a German forest!

10. Bergheimer Straße. I found it was easy to overlook Bergheimer Straße if you get into the habit of going to the Altstadt all the time. Bergheimer Straße isn’t as pretty as the Altstadt lying on the other side of Bismarkplatz, but it has some fantastic restaurants, chocolate shops and cafes. For example, there is a complex called ‘Alteshallenbad’, which is an old swimming pool that has been turned into a shopping Centre, but retains a very swimming-pool-spa-type feel!

 Lucy Panorama


It is a huge cliché that travelling broadens the mind and helps you mature as a person, but I think that this cliché is so well-known for a very good reason. That reason is that it is entirely true. Looking back now, before my study abroad experience, I was a very different person. The experiences, memories and friendships you make when you are on your year abroad will - without meaning to sound too dramatic - change you forever. This is true no matter where in the world you study, because in some respect, when you move abroad you have to re-learn so much: how to talk (if you are learning a new language); how to act in a different cultures; where to go to buy the things you need. You become a stronger and more flexible individual, because you learn to embrace little vulnerabilities (like not knowing how public transport works) and push out of your comfort zone. I found that moving abroad also showed me how kind people can be and how willing strangers are to help if you are lost, or there are language difficulties.

Whilst what I have previously mentioned applies to all study abroad experiences, there were a few things that make Heidelberg special. Heidelberg has a very wholesome atmosphere. The town is relatively small (especially in comparison to London!) and it has a very, very strong sense of community. There are endless events that take place (Heidelberger Herbst; the half marathon…) that really draw the town together. It is impossible to walk down the Hauptstrasse and not see someone you know. Because of this, you forge incredibly close family-like friendships, which stave off the loneliness which can sometimes come with travelling. Heidelberg is also an absolute hub of academia and the people you meet here tend to be slightly ‘hipsterish’: they love discussing politics and arguing over which Seitengasse coffeeshop makes the best espresso!

So, I would completely recommend Heidelberg to you, if you are looking to study abroad, and I am slightly jealous that I will not be able to go through the experience again!Lucy and man on bike


Marianne Forsey, 2012-2013 at Universite de Geneve


One main piece of advice for organising accommodation in Geneva is... get it sorted early! Geneva is a relatively small city and home to many international companies and organisations, which means there is a large influx of international workers and students looking for accommodation.

University accommodation and private halls of residence: I highly recommend applying for halls as they usually provide you with the best deal on accommodation in terms of value for money, location and the added bonus of an instant circle of friends!

The university’s Bureau des Logements provides detailed information about each university residence and private student halls on their website.

The rent varies depending on the residence and the type of room, but the average price per month is £300, including bills. In Geneva, this is a great deal and the residences are of a good standard in general. Consequently, they are oversubscribed so although the deadline for applications for the autumn term is at the end of May, apply for halls as soon as you possibly can to ensure you have the best chance.

Private accommodation: The university’s Bureau de Logements also have a private housing database called ORISIS where landlords or students looking for flatmates post their adverts and you can contact them directly. You will get your password for ORISIS when your application to the university becomes successful.  N.B The University doesn’t vet these adverts so it is still important to view the properties before putting down a deposit.

The university gives guidelines for how much you should pay for private accommodation depending on the room size and location. They recommend that you pay between £270-370 per month for a room on the outskirts of town and £350-450 for a room in the city centre.  However, due to the high demand for accommodation, landlords are in a position to inflate the price of rent, in which case, privately rented rooms or flats are more likely to cost £500-675 per month.          

Student flat shares:  The best place to find a student flat share is on the site www.easywg.ch or around campus where students post adverts on noticeboards.

Areas: Geneva is a lot smaller than London so areas that may seem far out on the transport map may only be a 20/30 min commute to university.

The transport in Geneva is very good (student monthly travel card costs £30 at www.tpg.ch) however the buses are very irregular on a Sunday, after 9pm on weekdays and stop running around midnight except on Saturdays. Therefore, if you do live outside the city centre, you may pay less rent but getting home late at night on a weekday can be a problem!

Most students live around Uni-Mail and Plainpalais.

Try to avoid areas around Gare Cornavain as it isn’t a very safe area.

There are lots of flat shares on Rive Droite due to its proximity to the international organisations and the airport.

Further out: Carouge, Chêne-Bougeries and Le Grand-Saconnex are more residential areas.

Cologny is the Beverly Hills of Geneva, and right on the edge of the lake...     

Arriving: If you arrive in Geneva without any accommodation or you go before term to find somewhere to live, you can find temporary accommodation at www.airbnb.ch or www.hostelbookers.com.

Tips: Apply for halls of residence early.

View private accommodation in person before putting down a deposit.

Private landlords usually ask for large deposits, anything ranging from 1.5- 3 months rent. 


Daniela Duhur, 2013-2014 at University of Helsinki


My academic experience abroad was not too different to my experience at King's. I selected my modules before I left, but once there found that switching things around was much more flexible than the system at King's. My class sizes were pretty small, none larger than 40, and the smallest being 5, which again is similar to the Theology department at King's since it tends to not be the most popular subject to study. Assesment was a lot more relaxed than in England, and I think that was the main difference. Never have I experience such a casual approach to exams. In England throughout school and university the examination culture is much more intense, you are subjected to study leave and have a long time to prepare for pretty intense exams, for example having a 3 hour exam is pretty common. However in Finland exams were more casual and much shorter.


I applied through HOAS which was the university housing system, and finds housing for students of all the universities in Helsinki, thus I lived with people not just at my university but at other universities in the city. I had a studio flat to myself, but the building was full of other international students with studio flats so we all got to know each other really well and it was easy to socialise. The accommodation was expensive, however it was still cheaper than its equivalent in London.

Top Things

Vappu: This is the May Day holiday in Finland. It's a national holiday where everybody parties in the streets, and all Finnish people wear their high school graduation caps - which are basically sailors hats. The celebrations officially begin with the 'capping' of a statue in the city centre which is a short ceremony in which the statue given it's own graduation hat. It's a really cool tradition and it's nice to see old Finnish people in the street wearing their treasured 50-odd-year-old graduation hats!

Travelling: I travelled all over Finland and Northern Europe, I went to Estonia, Latvia, Russia, Norway, Sweden and Denmark. I loved all these trips and I travelled to almost all these places by boat and this was such a fun way to travel. Cruise ships are a good place to buy duty free things much cheaper than they are in Finland. Also if you travel from Helsinki to St Petersburg by boat it's the only route to Russia for which you don't need a visa. 

Pirates of the Baltic Sea: This is a party cruise put on for Erasmus students where you travel overnight to Sweden (it takes 18hrs) and then spend the day there and then party all night on the way back. You are also given an all you can eat (and drink!) buffet. Of course get your moneys worth of beer, but don't fall overboard! And don't get so hungover that you don't even make it off the boat the next morning! (This is common) My friends and I spent the night singing karaoke and it was a lot fun.

The city is expensive, so what many Finnish people do is take the boat to Tallinn, Estonia which is dirt cheap in comparison. In fact I had a lecturer that used to commute from Estonia. It's a good way to buy cheap alcohol as you can get duty free alcohol on ships, and also in Estonia alcohol is cheaper, amongst other basic things. The boat only takes 2.5hrs and Tallinn is a really beautiful city to see. A day trip to Tallinn was one of the first things I did with loads of people from my building and it was a great way to make friends with people at the start.

The Snow: The snow and general weather. I have never encountered snow on the scale I did in Finland. It falls really thick and it's fun to go sledging. You will of course hate the cold, I think the coldest we got was around -20C (And this was considered a warm winter) but it is an interesting experience to have. 

Saunas: I actually wasn't a massive fan of sauna-ing but it's a really Finnish thing to do and it's fun to get crazy hot in the sauna and jump in the freezing cold sea, or straight into the snow.

The metro: It is never delayed.

Finnish Student Culture: There are so many Finnish student traditions, such as sit-sits which are themed dinners where you come dressed up and sing songs and take shots. They are always followed by a great after party. Also Finnish students all have their own boiler suits or 'overalls' and they cover them in badges which they collect throughout their time on their degree.   

Reflections from home

It was a really good experience to have, it made me a much more independent person, and a much more outgoing person. It opened my eyes to many cultures and different people that I never would have encountered before. If I could change anything about my experience I would tell myself to do even more. For example there were many cities in Finland like Nokia and Turku that I never visited and countries that are cheap to travel to from Helsinki such as Lithuania and Belarus that I never got a chance to go to.I do miss the experience and am really glad I chose to do it, I think anybody considering studying abroad should definitely do it because you will have an amazing time wherever you go in the world. It's a lot of fun to find yourself in a city you've never lived in before with people you've never met, it's the kind of adventure you should embark on when you're young.


Catherine Palethorpe, 2012-2013 at Universidad Carlos III de Madrid

Weekend activities

Circulo de Bellas Artes: On this rooftop, a hidden gem which is free for students of Carlos III on presentation of a student card, you can find a stunning view of the whole of Madrid. It’s best to go while it’s still warm and just before the sun is setting to see one of the most beautiful sights of Madrid! With a swanky rooftop bar and sunloungers… you certainly won’t feel like you haven’t paid to experience what feels like a VIP setting!

San Gines chocolateria: San Gines is the oldest and most famous chocolaterias in Madrid, and with chocolate and 6 churros starting from 3.80 euros, you’ll be treating your sweet tooth to a bargain. Go here on a Saturday morning to indulge in the classic Spanish breakfast speciality. (Or even after a night out in Sol – it’s open 24 hours!) 

Tapas in La Latina: If you take a stroll in La Latina on a Sunday, it will be difficult to navigate your way through the throng of people on every plaza, alley and street corner. La Latina is one of the most atmospheric and cultural areas to find good tapas in Madrid. You can bar hop and look for the best one, or simply sit on one of the many terraces with your friends on Sunday afternoon for hours, enjoying good conversation and typical Spanish food.

The El Rastro market: Tourists and locals like to flock to this flea market on a Sunday in La Latina from 9am-3pm, where you can find a variety of bargains and interesting antiques. As in any city, be sure to look after your valuables, but otherwise enjoy browsing through this buzzing market which stretches across many, many streets and can take a good couple of hours to walk through from start to end!

Mercado de San Miguel: This historic market has been converted into a modern gastronomic experience where you can taste samples of very high quality typical Spanish food for a very low price. The food varies from cold meat to chueese, to sushi, to chocolates, sangria… everything very delicious and fresh! If you don’t fancy spending any money, the market itself is still a beautiful place to visit on the weekend, with its iron and glass structure and flooding natural light.

Retiro: Often named a rival to Central Park in New York or Hyde Park in London, a Saturday morning run or simply a walk through this giant public park is definitely recommended on a sunny day. Check out the Crystal Palace and the huge monument dedicated to Alfonso XII which hugs the lake, on which you can rent boats to row on, trying not to crash into fellow boaters! There is always a buzzing atmosphere here – especially on the weekend – with a variety of street performers and artists always willing to entertain on your stroll through this peaceful green space.

Toledo: Only a 30 minute RENFE train ride from the centre of Madrid, a weekend day trip is definitely recommended to this historic World Heritage sight. Discover the artwork of El Greco and experience Toledy’s cobblestone alleyways and medieval architecture. Train tickets can cost as cheap as 10 euros, a small price to pay to visit this small yet history-soaked town.

Bullfight: During the bullfighting season, the Las Ventas stadium is flooded with Spaniards, all gathering to witness the age-old event. It’s controversial, sure – but it’s worth making at least one trip to an event to soak up the atmosphere and experience a typical Spanish Sunday sporting afternoon.

Party: When in Spain, party like the Spanish do. This means starting late and finishing early (in the morning – I’m talking 5 or 6am) and making a trip to the crowd favourite, Kapital. Every day of the week is a party for the Spaniards, but especially the weekends!

Marianne Forsey, 2012-2013 at Universitat Pompeu Fabra


By far the most popular type of accommodation in Barcelona is a flat share as it is a great opportunity to find cheap accommodation and to make friends with native Spanish or Catalan speakers.

Flat shares: Flat shares are a great way of getting to know the ‘real’ Barcelona, making friends and improving your language skills if you choose to live with native Spanish speakers.

You do not necessarily need to organise accommodation in Barcelona far in advance. I would recommend that you go a week or two ahead of the beginning of term, stay in a hostel, and go flat-hunting as it is important to see a flat before you put down a deposit.

There are many great sites where you can find flats shares or private flats:





A typical rent for a room in central Barcelona is usually around 300-400€, and bills are typically included in the rent.

University halls: If you would prefer to be in halls, the university offers accommodation to exchange students through their housing service, RESA. You can find all the information about university halls online.

The advantages of living in halls is that it offers flexible and secure accommodation close to the university campuses, the disadvantage is that they are often more expensive than a flat share and you usually live with other foreign students rather than native speakers.

Areas: Many students going to live in Barcelona think that La Rambla is the best place to live. Although you are very close to the clubs and the beach in this area, I would recommend living away from La Rambla and el Raval because it gets very crowded with tourists and it is not the safest place at night.

  • Areas such as Marina and Poblenou are very close to the university campuses.

  • The Gothic quarter and el Born are also popular areas with students, but quite expensive due to their location.

  • Poble Sec, Eixample, Gràcia and Sants are still central areas but that have more of a residential feel.

Tips: Contracts- It is usual not to have to sign a contract when living in a flat share. This is not necessarily something to worry about, but you do have to be more wary as a tenant. Try to meet with the potential landlord or talk to other flat mates about their dealings with them before you agree to live there, to make sure that you feel you can have a good relationship with the landlord.

Deposits- As there are not usually contracts with a flat share, you may also not have to pay a deposit on your room. If you do pay a deposit however, before parting with a large sum of money be aware that it is not guaranteed that you will get the deposit back as there is not the same Deposit Protection Scheme that we have in the UK.

Crime- Some people can get very anxious about going to Barcelona, having heard stories of pickpockets and high crime rates. Although it is true that Barcelona has a pickpocketing and street scam problem, it should not put you off going there to study. It is quite possible to live in Barcelona without experiencing any crime, simply by avoiding tourist hotspots and making yourself less of a target, i.e. making yourself look less like a tourist! To keep yourself safe: don’t carry valuables, keep an eye on your and your friends’ bags, avoid talking English in the public, and travel with friends at night.

N.I.E-If you would like to set up a phone contract or bank account or need to pay separate bills on your accommodation, you will need to apply for a N.I.E card when you arrive in Barcelona. The university provides information on the N.I.E and how to get it.

Go to the Oficina de Extrajeros early, as it often has long queues, particularly at the beginning of term.


Modules: King’s partnership with Pompeu Fabra links you up with the Faculty of Translation and Communication meaning that it’s a great place to go if you would like to focus on translation studies. However, you are also automatically enrolled in the Humanities Department, which offers history, geography, literature, art and philosophy courses.

Catalan: As an exchange student at Pompeu Fabra, you have the opportunity to take modules in beginner’s Catalan so it is not necessary to have studied Catalan previously.  The university also has a program called the Voluntariat Lingüístic that offers free cultural and language immersion activities for foreign students.

When choosing your modules, the module description will tell you whether the classes are to be taught in Castilian or Catalan so it is possible to choose which language you would like to study in, although it does limit your choice of modules slightly.

Assessment: Apart from the language classes, if you do take a module that is taught in Catalan, as a foreign student you will usually be able to do presentations, write coursework and take exams in Spanish.

In general, assessment at Pompeu Fabra is very similar to the way in which we are assessed at King’s. There are usually assignments that make up a small percentage of the overall grade but the majority of the grade is assessed in the final exam. There is however more of a focus on assessed group work and presentations at Pompeu Fabra.

Academic help: Pompeu Fabra is a very international university, meaning that it has a well-established study abroad office called the OMA and is welcoming and accommodating to exchange students.

You can take any queries, academic or otherwise, to the OMA that has an office on each Campus.

Alexander Heeley, 2012-2013 at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Edith Baer grant recipient)

The money I received from the Edith Baer grant made a huge difference on my year abroad. Year abroad can be a very expensive year for a student, and makes certain aspirations a financial challenge, such as travelling around your destination country, as opposed to staying in the one host university city/town. However this grant enabled me to do the things that I wanted to do and see the things and places I wanted to see.

My host university was UPF in Barcelona. Having studied Catalan in my second year at King’s and fallen in love with the language, it was my obvious first choice and I was eager to explore the culture and daily life in the area. The Edit Baer grant helped pay for my accommodation in the capital of Catalunya, which in turned freed up some money making it possible to do some travelling out of the city limits which would have been a financial stretch too far without the help the grant gave to me. I wanted to experience the political and social climate at a time when support for Catalan independence in particularly strong and tensions with the rest of Spain are high.

I was interested to see as much of Catalunya as I could, taking in all of the autonomous region which I hoped would give me a feel as to the general mood in Catalunya as opposed to only that of the cosmopolitan city of Barcelona. I used trains to get around, again the grant helping me to afford the rail tickets. I visited the historical cities of Girona and Tarragona, the beautiful coastal town of Sitges, the central region of Catalunya, Bages and even managed to spend a day skiing in the Pyrenees Mountains!

In the centre of Barcelona one hears more Spanish than Catalan generally due to the diversity and cosmopolitan nature of the city along with the high number of tourists (Spanish being the more commonly known internationally), and as a foreign student locals were amazed of even a relatively basic knowledge of Catalan and thanked you for making the effort and being aware of the linguistical and cultural differences. As I ventured further away from Barcelona the more Catalan I spoke and the number of Catalan independence flags I saw draped from balconies and windows increased.

Once I felt I had explored the region enough I decided that it was important to see different parts of Spain. I found some cheap flights to Galicia and Edith Baer helped me pay all the addition charges added on by Ryan Air! The vibes were very different there, a far more conservative area historically when compare with Catalonia. The linguistical diversity again evident in this area with Gallego being spoken by the locals (they sound like Italians speaking a Spanish Portuguese hybrid language, very pleasing to the ear). However, despite being in a similar position to Catalonia in terms of having their own language and culture there is no real independence movement and Spanish nationalism seemed strong judging from the people I spoke to. Their view on Catalan independence and the Catalan people generally was very strong, almost everybody I spoke to seemed to resent  the Catalans, one taxi driver claiming ‘they can’t even speak Spanish Franco tried to help’ which in my view is rather ill-informed. This utter resentment, which is not like the regional rivalry in England which is playful and in generally good spirit, makes it somewhat more understandable the desire for Catalan independence. This first-hand experience of the political mood and situation on a day to day level was made possible by my travelling which enabled me to get a far wider and, I hope, more accurate view than one could get by staying in a single city.

Lily Scotcher, 2012-2013 at Universitat Pompeu Fabra (Edith Baer grant recipient)

Studying Hispanic Studies at King’s College London meant I had the opportunity to spend my third year abroad in either Spain or Latin America and I opted for Barcelona as I liked the fact that it was still a large city like London, although slightly smaller and it also has a beach. I found it easy to adapt to Barcelona since it is a large cosmopolitan city like London, although slightly smaller. I was awarded the Edith Baer award to enrich my experience on my year abroad and I mostly put this towards travel within the region I was living in and the rest of Spain.

UPF has a trimester based system which meant that you took different modules for each of the three trimesters so you were able to cover a great deal of topics throughout the year. One of the perks of studying abroad is that you are allowed me to take modules out of your usual discipline and I really enjoyed studying geography modules as I have always had a great interest for that subject. The work load at UPF was less than what I had previously experienced at King’s and unlike at King’s, our modules were graded by continuous assessment which keeps you on your toes throughout the semester and then you also have an exam at the end of the trimester. Having three trimesters rather than the usual two semesters which I was used to at King’s meant that you took a lot more classes throughout the year and you were constantly buying new study materials so the Edith Baer award funded my text books and course packs.

Socially, Barcelona is a great place to study. The Erasmus Student Network at UPF held two weeks’ worth of Erasmus events prior to classes starting which was a great way to meet other students. You had to pay an initial fee to sign up which was quite steep and put many people off but I would definitely recommend signing up. The first event I went to was called ‘Speed Friending’ which was like speed dating but you met lots of different people and were able to chat for three minutes and you covered a lot of people in the room in a short space of time. The first two people I met there were French and American and they were two of my closest friends in Spain until the very end which shows the events were a great way to meet people from all over the world and that was something I really appreciated about studying abroad, the opportunity to integrate yourself with people from so many different places and the Latin American’s I met through ESN were also great for my language skills.

While I was studying in Barcelona I really wanted to see as much of Cataluña as possible so on the weekends I would often dedicate a day to seeing either more of Barcelona, i.e. hiking up to Mount Tibidabo or visiting another town in Cataluña; I visited Montserrat which I would definitely recommend as the views are incredible and the monastery is very beautiful. I also went to Sitges which is a lovely beach town for my first carnival experience, all the dancers and floats were very colourful and the atmosphere within the community kept everyone going till the early hours. Dressing up is a huge part of the carnival tradition so we wore masks and head bands and bright colours.

Something I would recommend if you are going to Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona is Voluntariat Linguistic as they frequently hold weekend trips to other places in Cataluña and they will give you a free informative tour. With Voluntariat Linguistic I went to Girona, a beautiful city.

With the award I was also able to travel outside of Cataluña which was particularly interesting since I became very accustomed to the Catalonian customs so it was interesting to compare this to a more Spanish way of life. Having visited Spain many times before I had never visited Andalucía so this was a must and it was somewhere I was very excited to visit. I opted to go to Granada and one of my friends in Barcelona was also very interested so we booked flights and accommodation and spent a long weekend there at the end of March after our exams. Granada was very beautiful and it was interesting to see the Arabic influences on the country. We visited La Alhambra which was very impressive. The best thing about Granada, in my opinion, was the food. If you order a drink in a bar then you get a huge plate of tapas for free which made our weekend particularly cheap when it came to lunch.

I also visited Valencia for a long weekend and it was interesting to visit another region where they have another regional language, in this case Valenciano. The city of Valencia was is up of the old part of the city and then the new modern area with the science and art museum. It was particularly interesting to see this contrast as the new part and the old part are completely separate.

I would recommend travelling during your year abroad so that you can see more of the country that you are studying in rather than just the city you are in as you will gain a much wider insight into the culture. I can appreciate the wealth of traditions and customs in Spain a lot more after having seen different regions during my time abroad. Overall, studying abroad was an invaluable experience and I would really recommend it.

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