Student Life in Europe

We’re going to be talking about student life. And there are a lot of ways the student life is different in Europe, but it’s still really exciting.

Slide 1: On Your Mark

Lesson 4: Student Life

Okay. So in this lesson, we're going to be talking about student life. And there are a lot of ways the student life is different in Europe, but it's still really exciting. 

Slide 2: Why are there English-taught programs?

So the first thing let's talk about is why are there English-taught programs. The reason there are English-taught programs is to draw students from all around the world. Because if you're, you know, a Latvian school, there aren't going to be a lot of students outside of Latvia who speak the language well enough to attend the school. So they have English-taught programs, not just to draw students from the UK or the US or Canada, Australia, but from around the world because it's so widely spoken. So this means that your classmates, your friends, are also going to be international students, and they're going to have a similar — I mean, living outside of your home country is such a significant experience, and you're all going to share that significant experience. 

You're also likely to have similar values around global citizenship. You know, you chose to study outside your home country, which shows that you value other cultures, that you have interest in other cultures. So there's this great diversity, but there's also these core values that are similar. And these things really create meaningful bonds really quickly, and prevent loneliness from occurring as well. 

So let's talk about the different ways to get involved. You know, you have your friends, that's great, but how do you meet more friends outside of your program, etcetera. 

So if you guys could not tell already, technology is not my favorite thing in the world. And we are really going to test my technological skills by just switching screens.

Screenshare: Leiden University 2019 Orientation Programme

Okay. So hopefully, now you're looking at the screen. Orientation is the first way to get involved, to meet other people, and socialize. So this is Leiden University, which we will use for an example because it’s the one the student we talked about earlier attended.. And this is the agenda for their orientation week. This is the orientation week for students who will be attending in The Hague. So they have registration, they have lunches, they have workshops, they have a lot of social events. A pub crawl, a borrel, which means party, a beach day, a beach party, a final party that ends at four o'clock in the morning. So these are group events that are run by the Student Association, so you definitely meet a lot of people, both international students as a whole, but also, again, pub crawls and study programs, you meet students there too.

There's also another orientation just for students within his program. I'll tell you more about that in just a second. But let's, before we move on, talk about the elephant in the room. Here is this agenda that's public — you know, school sanctioned — and it has pubcrawl with study programs. So you are going to a country — you know, I assume you’ll all be 18 by the time you go there. So when you go to school in Europe, you will be of legal drinking age. So there's not like the taboo, or like the secret, or like you're getting away with something. And that kind of experimentation and getting blackout drunk, like happens on college campuses here, a lot of that happens younger for students in Europe. And so, the culture by the time they get to college, the sort of drinking culture, is a little bit more mature. 

And so yes, you know, students absolutely go out and drink too much at times. But that's not always why they drink or like the goal in drinking. It's more like, you know, they might have some drinks at dinner, and then go out later at a club, but it's less like it is here of like, “Oh, let's go get wasted.” It's more, “Hey, let's go out and get some drinks,” if that makes sense. 

So the other thing to note, some of these events, like the Grill & Chill, there will likely be alcohol served, and there will likely be professors there as well. So it's really important that if you choose to drink, you will learn how to manage it because it's not about just — because you're not going to want to make a fool out of yourself in front of your professors. Let's just say that. So anyway, it's interesting kind of having this level of transparency about it, because it's not illegal, because it's not taboo. 

So there we go. So orientation is the first thing that you'll have. Again, often, it's at the international student level, and then there's also one at your program level. So then we get into your school, and there are these different ways to get involved once you're there. 

Screenshare: The new board wishes you a great summer!

So I talked about there is a program orientation as well. Because what happens — remember we talked about how faculty, that means academic department. Each academic department, each faculty, they have their own Study Associations, is what they're called. Now they're called Study Associations, but they're not purely academic. They're for students of the program and they arrange academic and career development related events, but they do a lot of social events too. Because it's summer, most of these aren't updated. But you know, they have a Freshman Weekend. As you can see — let me show you the board so you can see how many different committees there are around things that are not just, you know, study groups. And of course, this is when my internet chooses to be slow. 

So anyway, suffice it to say that, at your program level, there will be many opportunities to socialize, to join groups, to have events, to go to academic events. So as you can see, here's exactly what I was looking for. These are all the committees just with the Basis. So Basis study organization or study association, this is the association that is just for the bachelor students in International Studies at Leiden University. And these are all the committees they have, which means that they have activities, and clubs, and groups, and all of these activities, be it sports, theater, travel, photography, dance. You know, there are a tremendous number of opportunities just at this level. 

So then we go to the school level, the university level. And they also have a number of different associations. There's usually something — sometimes it's called a student association, sometimes it's called something else. But it's basically like a student union, and they'll have either a branch of it that has to do with international students, or they'll have an entirely different international students association. So these sort of student union type associations do a lot things to represent student interests with the universities, but they also plan and sponsor a lot of social events. I've seen things like annual balls, or regular pub nights, or clubs, or sporting events, Stranger Things marathons. There was one school we visited where they had a weekend plan to Montenegro for a flat fee. You know, students had all their food, and transportation, and lodging, and drinks, and everything. That was all included. By the way, that fee was only like 200 euros, which is just crazy. So there are a lot of opportunities, again, at your program level, and then at the university level, because there are also clubs at the university level. 

Screenshare: Anglo American University website

So here's an example. This is Anglo American University in Prague, which is a member favorite. And so you see, they have Model UN, they have basketball. This is a very small school, so most of their clubs and such are at the school level, as opposed to a larger school that has the clubs that are sort of contained within the program. But you know, hiking, Hispanic American appreciation, urban gardening and sustainability. There's really just almost anything you can think of. 

Screenshare: Leiden United website

So then there are opportunities to make sure that you integrate with local students as well, outside of just your class environment. So this is an example. This is Leiden United. And it is a group specifically to connect international students and Dutch students. So they have a buddy program, they have dinners. You know, all sorts of activities and events for Dutch students and international students who want to get to know each other. Some schools have buddy programs as part of their orientation where they pair a local student with an international student. And it's awesome because then, you get sort of like the inside tips on things like using the self checkout at the grocery store, which always, always, always is a struggle for me. Or they'll have things like language cafes, where you sit down with a student who knows the language you're trying to speak, and they kind of conversationally help you, which is pretty cool. 

So if you're going to a larger university, there's likely to be a university sports center that has a huge amount of offerings. But it's not a collegiate sports scene like here. I mean, you're not going to find tailgating, you're not going to find big collegiate level sports. When it's associated with the school, it's usually at an intramural level. Some students I know have gotten — some of the students we've worked with at Beyond the States have gotten involved with league sports. There's a student who went there actually to play soccer. And actually, just one student I recently spoke to is on the baseball league, which kind of surprised me. I think of baseball as such an American sport. 

But don't let this worry you, even if you're, you know, really into spectator sports, because they're still there to get involved with, it's just more at the local level, than the collegiate level. So people really do get into their local soccer league. My brother lives in Portugal in Lisbon, and my niece is so into Benfica, which is a soccer something or other. I am not a sports person. But what I'm saying is there's still that culture, there is just not — the sports culture there is just not the same as we're accustomed to. 

Slide 3: Housing

So that brings us into the part of student life that occurs outside of school. You know, we talked about the activities and opportunities that the school organizes. But that's a really small fraction of your student life. In Europe, so much of your student life is based on the city. One reason is because housing is not generally owned by the universities, which means that when you're in a housing, in student residences, you're likely to be living with, or near, or in the same building as students who go to other schools. 

So the amount of resources around getting housing varies from school to school. In some places like in Sweden, if you're an international student, then housing is guaranteed. Some places, they say, “Hey, you're on your own. Here's a list of student residence providers.” And in most places, it's somewhere in the middle. Often, schools will reserve blocks of rooms for their students. And so, there's a limited number. But if you apply through the school early on in the process, then you're likely to get housing. 

That was the case for the member at Leiden. So at Leiden, you can apply to be on the housing list right when you apply to the university. You don't have to wait till you're in. He messed something up on that, with his deposit,  so we didn't get on the list until December. But he was still really super high on the housing list and he got his first choice housing. 

So let's talk about housing, what kind of housing looks like. Switching screens again. 

Screenshare: Housing Examples

  • Student Residence Example

So I want to show you this room. This is sort of a typical — this is Bocconi in Milan. And this is size wise, a typical room in a student residence. They're usually single rooms. So you kind of see the size there. Single rooms, and then you share a bathroom and a kitchen sort of eating area, with either one other student or four other students. Sometimes it's more than that, but it's not generally. Usually, you're either sharing with one other student or three other students in sort of a pod. And what's really nice about this is that it gives you privacy, but still that community. You know, you don't feel isolated in a single room because you have to go out there to make your food, which I'll tell you that, one reason there's a kitchen is because there aren't the meal plans that you have here. You know, the school have cafes and cafeterias, but students don't rely on those for three meals a day and really do cook for themselves. 

Don't worry if you don't know how to cook. I go into the grocery stores whenever I visit schools, and there are plenty of frozen and pre-made meals that you can choose from while you're learning how to cook. But one thing that's kind of cool here is the other people in the student residences are generally also international students. And so, meals become like this really cool multicultural activity, which is really amazing. 

  • Studio Example

So let me just show you a couple of other housing type things here, if you will. There are some pictures. So studios are also an option. I don't suggest a studio for your first year, because again, then you're not going to have that community that you get from sharing a kitchen with other people. Okay, so this is an example of a single room. So it's a single room with shared facilities with one other student. And see, it has like a little balcony, which is nice. 

So you can look at the websites of different schools and see some of their housing. And guys, I mean it's so much nicer than in the US, and cheaper than in the US. But even if you're going to a school where the accommodations are a little bit more basic, I still think it's important to do at least for the first semester, because you're going to build that community, and you're also going to get a lay of the land. And know, if you do want to rent an apartment, what neighborhood would be best to do so, and potentially meet some roommates through living in the residences initially. 

  • Student Hotel Example

So another option, because sometimes housing is really hard to find, depending on where you are, another option is a student hotel. And you can see they have — they’re mostly in the Netherlands and Germany, some in Italy and Spain, but they are expanding big time. It's a little bit more expensive, but they give you more. So it's called the Student Hotel, but they do have — let's just click on any of them. They do have a room set aside, or areas set aside, specifically for students not just to stay overnight, but to work kind of like a dorm. And so even though it's more expensive, you kind of get a lot more with it. And I know they have one in Rotterdam where it like includes bike rental. You know, they have like a — yeah, you know, game rooms. I mean, that looks pretty awesome. And often, they have meal plan options as well. So that's just something to keep in mind. If you're stressed about going to a school that doesn't offer support with housing, you might want to see if there is a student hotel in that area as well. 

So the other thing to note is that sometimes, there are formal social activities and groups planned through your student residences. Of course, there are informal activities and groups that occur just as you meet people and you go along. Because you're meeting students who go to other schools, a lot of your life is going to be around the city. So if you're going to a school that has a high student population, there's more likely to be more activities in places that appeal to students. You know, more pubs, more clubs, more concerts, more sports. You're going to find more of that if you're in a city that has a high student population. 

Slide 4:

  • Program
  • School
  • Student Residences
  • City
  • ESN

The one other thing I want to note is ESN. And we talked about what that means in another lesson. What ESN is, is a student-run group, usually for Erasmus students. So yes, it is geared more towards Study Abroad students, but all international students can participate. And so, it's sometimes a good way, especially if your school offers less clubs and activities and such, it's a good way at the beginning to benefit from organized trips. You know, all around Europe, or parties or things like that. So don't rule it out just because it's geared more towards Study Abroad students. 

So we talked about social opportunities at the program level, the school level, those with the student residences, with the city, with ESN. We talked about some of the differences with sports and such, and the drinking culture. So start to think about what parts of this again appeal to you, what don't, and your questions, of course. But come up with your list again of dealbreakers and preferences as it pertains to student life. And we'll use that later to narrow down your list.