Are you craving for new experiences abroad? Would you be thrilled or intimidated to change your life completely, travel and live like a local student in another continent? Stop thinking twice because university years are the best time of your life to not settle, as you are yet to have much commitment. For those who want to get out of Singapore for an exchange semester, internship or volunteering program in Europe, here are the best countries to move to.
If I have to choose one of the best destinations to spend one semester abroad, it would take no second to consider the Netherlands. The Dutchies are known for not just football, tulips or windmill, but also their open mind, quality education and especially excellent language skills. And their bike culture is exceptional. Some of the biggest student cities you should stick to are Amsterdam, Rotterdam and Groningen. Last year, I had no doubt choosing Groningen for my ERASMUS exchange study program and it was splendid.
Keen to move to a bigger and more versatile country than Holland to spend your next exchange semester abroad? Consider Germany for your next stop! And advantage of studying here is the possibility to travel around the whole Europe, thanks to smooth connections between big cities such as Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt, Cologne and Munich and the surrounding countries. During the long winter vacation, my friend and her fellow exchange students rented a car and did a road-trip across Europe from Bavaria. However, a disadvantage of studying in Germany in comparison with the Netherlands is the language. While not all the courses are available in English, you would need to have basic German skills before arriving for necessary daily communication. Also, dont be surprised to find lots of exam and difficult grading in the German education system!
Want to see the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry with your own eyes? You will find Harry Porter real-life filming locations all over the UK. So why not spend a semester in England to explore your favourite scenes, from the wild Scottish Highlands to the historic market of London. London has always been the famous European capital city where you can find all sorts of fashion styles, foods, and cultures. Along with the Netherlands and Germany, England offers plenty internship opportunities for English-speaking undergraduates typically within 6 months.
If you are hungry for diverse cuisine, bustling nightlife and dazzling landscapes, Spain is the place to be! A couples of big cities where you would study or travel in are Barcelona, Madrid, Valencia and Malaga. You may find it hard to team up and work with Spanish people, as they always seem lazy, or waiting for their next ‘siesta’. No they are just chilling! And they can be productive too with a little push. Do not hesitate to pick up the language as soon as you arrive. Spanish may not be the best English speakers in Europe, but they are friendly and eager to help. Spanish is not a difficult language, and one of the most wide spoken one in the world. You will be fluent in daily conversation in no time.
Out of all the Nordic countries, Finland stands out with its top education quality known worldwide. Nevertheless, Finland remains an exotic and unknown destination for students not just in Asia, but also in the Southern parts of Europe. Indulge yourself in the Finnish education that embraces equality over grades. Experience the adventurous winter sport events or ‘sauna parties’ for students that you would not find in Asia. Some of the best partner institutions with NUS and SMU in Helsinki are University of Helsinki, Aalto University and Hanken School of Economics. You would find a wide range of programs in English here, including agriculture, biology, art and business. If you would like to stay in the country for longer than just a semester, go for a complete master program or a bachelor degree like me.
For those who are looking for a cheaper destination than Western and Northern European countries, head to the East! You would find the magnificent capital city Warsaw and the prior capital Krakow two ideal cities to study and explore. I would highly recommend staying in Poland for a volunteering program as I did in summer 2014 with AIESEC Szczecin. Whether working in a kindergarten or an NGO, you would find yourself in love with the Polish classic architecture, tasty cuisine, and local hospitality.
Budapest is not just an ideal student city, but also one of the most romantic capital cites in Europe. It is also an affordable destination, with good transportation to the Balkans countries where you would find more undiscovered countries in Europe like Romania, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia.
Moving to a new country where you dont know the language or culture could be overwhelming, and scary as hell! Do not let your fear interfering with the joyful journey, because life as a foreigner in Europe is completely fun, safe and versatile. If you are not sure where to start or feel out of the community, simply start a conversation with your roommate. Ask people out for a drink or dinner. Most European say no to neither food nor drink, or both! Join different social hubs and participate in on-going events besides study. It will take you no time to meet new people who would travel and even become life-time friends with you