Erasmus – moving abroad – finances

Erasmus Programme is a tremendous opportunity for all students to experience an amazing adventure. A couple of years ago I also enrolled and travelled all the way to Leiria, Portugal. You can read about my personal escapade here. Ever since I wrote my memoir though, I felt like I didn’t convey even 1% of information I intended to. Only when I returned to the post I realized, how weirdly written it was and how much more advice I could put into words. While considering all the difficulties I faced at the beginning, I decided to start my “Erasmus series” with finances, grants and how to get by without excessive saving.

The grant – be careful about the dates!

While applying for an Erasmus one has to fill in various documents and questionnaires, including grant application. When I went to Portugal I was to receive 400 Euro a month for the entire period of my exchange. Grant was supposed to be transferred to my account in two tranches. One two weeks after leaving from Poland, and the second one after four months. What I didn’t know, was that in order to receive the second tranche I had to send various protocols to my home school. It would’ve been fine hadn’t it been such a great problem for my Erasmus Coordinator.

Be careful about Erasmus Coordinators

In case you didn’t know, the Erasmus Coordinator is a person who is supposed to help you during the exchange. Since you’re transferring from one University to the other there are usually two Coordinators. Coordinator’s main purpose is to ensure your transcript of records is transferred without delay. They should take strong interest in getting your grant on time and that you don’t die, wherever you’re going.

For the purpose of this blog post let me name my Polish Coordinator as the Cool Lady, and my Portuguese one as the Lazy Lady. Continuing, my Erasmus Coordinator (the Lazy One) didn’t bother to send a protocol to the Cool one, so I didn’t get the second tranche for months. Literally, months. I was so desperate for money my sister had to aid me for weeks!

The Lazy Coordinator had no apologies for loosing my transcript, nor did she ever say anything other than: “I’ll send it next week”. For a couple of months I was so stressed I found a job cleaning offices just so I didn’t starve (mind you, couldn’t afford flight tickets and didn’t want to return back to Poland).

My advice is: the moment you get to your destination, make sure your Coordinator knows exactly what documents you have to send back home. Otherwise, your entire trip might get a little bit too stressful.

How much money should you take?

That is a vital issue. I was not prepared for what happened. Even if I moved out of my parents house when I was 15 and usually got well with money, this time I went completely unprepared. I took additional money (a lot more than I usually spend), included price difference, currency change and all the little details. What I didn’t include, was the fact I literally had to buy everything.

Accommodation issues

The apartment I was supposed to rent was stripped of everything, including light bulbs. Before my landlord helped me I had to purchase flusher, kitchen accessories and so forth. I wasn’t prepared, as I rented my flat from abroad and my application included all those things. At the end of the day, Portuguese Landlord ignored our contract and simply didn’t deliver. Because I didn’t have much money, I couldn’t take him to court. Luckily, I was partly prepared, as I had some “just in case” savings.

To sum up, you should always consider that there might be issues you didn’t foresee and only go for an Erasmus program with savings. For the beginning, at least 500 Euro of back-up cash is sufficient.

Earning money on Erasmus

And I’m not talking about the Eramsus Plus+ Program which is based solely on working abroad. During my Erasmus I used to perform various jobs just to get more money for travelling. I translated articles and technical sheets for my previous employer from Poland. For a while I drew in AutoCad for other students and got paid in lunches. I even worked for a friend ripping wallpaper off from furniture exhibition. I had friends who worked in bars and restaurants. There are various ways in which you can get extra cash, which is always very useful. Even blogging or vlogging, can give you profit you might just need to get by.

Saving money on Erasmus

Saving money on Erasmus and not missing on anything is quite difficult. Possible, but difficult. What is important is to never loose yourself info excessive frugality and experience your trip to the fullest. I’d advise to eat lunch at Uni cafeterias and purchase Erasmus discount cards, which are of great help.

Cash or credit card?

That is one of most frequently asked questions I encountered while searching for information on Erasmus. I had a friend who got robbed in Granada, Spain on the second week of her trip and was left without any cash nor a credit card. Her family had to send her money through Western Union, but before she could claim it, her mother had to send her a passport via Fedex. Also, she had to travel all the way to Polish embassy, just so she could get her ID back.

Nevertheless, I still think a card is more reliable than cash. You can always ask for more money to be sent to your account, in case of emergency. It’s also rather easy to retrieve your card if it’s lost or stolen. Also, keeping a lot of cash in the place you don’t really know is risky. Reminds me of Coyote Ugly and the scene when a thief stole main character’s money from her freezer.

Is new bank account necessary?

That’s what I’ve been thinking at the beginning. I should just open a bank account in a Portuguese Bank and don’t worry about anything. Firstly, it’s not that easy. Secondly, everyone I knew from Erasmus had problems while closing their accounts. European Union laws allow no exchange fees while exchanging money through Bank Accounts. Due to that I think there’s no reason anymore to open bank accounts in foreign countries.

Zadar's Monument to the Sun on Erasmus

In case you need more information or are generally wondering about an Erasmus Program, check out this link or send me a private message!

2 thoughts on “Erasmus – moving abroad – finances

  1. Oh dear I sorry your Portuguese coordinator did not sort all your stuff out in time. Being without money is a pain. For students, I think it is great to try and get as much discount on everything as you can. And what a shame about your rented accommodation. Great hints and tips Dorota : ) xo

  2. This sounds like an amazing programme for students but I’d be absolutely terrified something would go wrong and I’m so sorry that it did for you to a degree. Turning up with no lightbulbs or ANYTHING, I’d seriously panic!


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