💼 Master: South European Studies
⏳ Sep 2019 — Nov 2021
✅ Student Visa
💰 100% Financial Need Met
Erasmus Mundus Joint Masters degree scholarship is funded by European Union and offers a two-year Master's degree where you get to study in two or three different European countries. If you are an undergraduate student, you have the option to apply for Erasmus Exchange, but it’s not a degree-granting program.
I studied South European studies (EUROSUD), particularly politics and society of South European countries. My main university is the University of Glasgow in the UK, but I also studied in Madrid, Spain, and Rome, Italy.
Here is a full list of available programs.
Journey to Erasmus
I graduated from Eurasian National University based in Astana with a degree in International Relations. I then interned for 5-6 months at the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, which is a German political foundation in Kazakhstan. I knew that my CV needed experience at a solid and reputable company.
After finishing my internship I immediately applied for Erasmus Mundus. I considered a few other programs, such as Bolashak (national scholarship in Kazakhstan), but Erasmus was definitely the best program in every sense. Erasmus does not require you to return back to your home country or pay back the amount. It was also very easy in terms of the application process!
As I already mentioned, the application for Erasmus is quite simple, you need to submit the following:
Two recommendation letters
IELTS (6.0 or higher)
Transcript and diploma
Any relevant certificates
But it’s important to remember that you have to apply for each program separately. The more programs you decide to apply to, the longer it will take. When I applied we were only allowed three, but since 2021 there is no restriction on the number of programs.
If you already have IELTS 6.0 or higher, I believe you can prepare and apply within 2 months. But if you need to take IELTS, which was my case, I recommend starting at least 6 months before the deadline. I also spent a significant amount of time on my motivation letter, around 1 month. It took long not because it was difficult to write, but because I was applying for three different programs, and each program requires a separate motivation letter. It’s been challenging to tailor my life experiences to fit the topic of each letter.
How to stand out
The admissions committee values your unique background and work experience. By “work experience” I don’t necessarily mean an official job, but something you do outside of studying. For instance, if you are in academia, then your publications really matter. It’s very important to describe your work in the motivation letter to allow the admissions team to holistically evaluate your achievements.
Things like IELTS, or other "numbers" are not that crucial. They only play a role once you are directly compared to another candidate. If someone is as good as you are, but there is only one spot left, then a higher IELTS score will help to get selected.
What the scholarship covers
First of all, education in European countries is mostly free, so you don’t pay for tuition. The scholarship amount is 1,400€/month for living and personal expenses. You should be aware that flights and visas are not covered by the program. I spent around 200 USD on the UK visa.
The scholarship amount is not adjusted based on where you live. When I lived in the UK, my rent was ~650€, so the budget was definitely tight. But if you end up in places like Malta or Turkey, you will feel rich!🤑
At the same time, students are encouraged to work on the side and do internships, which is a great way to earn extra income. Especially for those who don’t want to pursue academia, but want to work in the industry, internships are very important!
Education in the UK vs. Kazakhstan
I appreciate the UK education system for freedom of thinking. Nobody condemns you for expressing your opinion or for not thinking “correctly”. Even if you are wrong, your opinion matters. In Kazakhstan, there was always the "right answer", the "right opinion". I remember being scared to say something out loud, which encourages students to stay silent and have no opinion.
Another difference I noticed is that in Kazakhstan students often try to please professors. While studying in the UK I was shocked to see how students can openly disagree with something the professor said. If they are not happy with how an assignment was graded, they would write a collective letter to a professor and ask him to reconsider. The system here encourages students to take initiative.
What I think could be better in the UK is how fair professors are. Back home they are very honest - if you deserve a D, they will give you a D. Here professors seem to be afraid of discouraging students from studying, so instead of a D you might get a B-. I think it’s happening because education in the UK is turning into a business. They need to have nice data on graduation rates, employment rates, etc, and they don’t want to damage it.
Moving around can be a total mess
Studying in three different countries for sure sounds nice. In reality, sometimes it sucks.
It normally takes up to 6 months to get used to a new environment, but as an Erasmus student you change countries every 6 months, so it’s a total mess. You arrive in the first country, adapt to a new culture and food, try to pick up the local language. But as soon as you are settled in, you have to move and again spend months getting familiar with a new country.
Many people don’t realize how different parts of Europe are. Northern Europe is different from the Southern, Eastern is different from Western. If you travel from the UK, which is not really a European country in their mentality, to a more conservative Italy, you feel a huge difference.
Such experiences make you compromise on studies because there are so many other things to take care of. But Erasmus professions are very aware of this challenge, and they are pretty soft on us. There are never hard deadlines.
Considering this unique lifestyle I would say that Erasmus is suitable for those who are able to accept change and adapt quickly. I’ve seen some people drop out of the program because they were not happy.
Career opportunities after Erasmus
After graduation, I work at an International Development company based in London. They used to focus on the MENA region but recently changed their focus to Central Asia and post-Soviet countries, therefore I became a very relevant candidate due to my background.
In the UK Erasmus Diploma is not particularly recognized, but it might be different in other countries. When applying for jobs, I was presenting myself as a gifted student with a prestigious scholarship, but I don’t think it mattered. In the UK recruiters simply look at your skills and their relevance to the job.
It’s important to understand that Erasmus is an opportunity for education, it is not a guarantee for employment. The job market in Europe is extremely competitive with high unemployment rates in every country. Don't forget that you can always return home and find a prestigious company to apply your new skills and knowledge at!
Pro visa tip:
If you stayed for one year in a European country, which is part of the Schengen zone, you can extend your visa for one year after graduating to find a job!