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August 17, 2015

Blog Post: My Year of Studying in Europe

Europe, a beautiful continent with a rich history, amazing architecture, adorned by beaches and islands, spectacular views of the northern lights, palaces and gardens of ancient royalty to the homes and memorials of some of the most prominent artists the world has seen. It is, without doubt, a dream destination to many. I lived in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, for one year studying at IHS as a Nuffic fellow. Living as a student, preoccupied with studies and managing finances, one may expect the romanticized dream destination view of Europe to fade, but instead the experience only strengthened this image and made it more real instead of dream-like.

Student life in Europe was not limited to lectures and assignments nor was it a constant struggle to cut ones costs. My year in Europe was about travelling to amazing locations, being able to travel alone, making friends with people from literally all over the world, dancing to the music from everywhere, attending conferences and talks by  people I had only read about and admired, working with communities and neighbourhoods in a new context, seeing the original paintings and sculptures from celebrated artists – the art I had only seen in posters before, visiting the tomb of my favourite writer, and extremely importantly being able to do all this within frugal means.

Since graduation I received several inquiries by prospective students, mostly revolving, quite understandably, around one thing – the cost of attendance. Receiving a fellowship makes it a lot easier. There are several fellowships and scholarships available, for entire Europe or country-specific like the Erasmus Mundus Program for across Europe, Nuffic for Netherlands etc. In fellowship applications one should note that unlike applying for fee-waiver directly at the institution – the more commonly known way of requesting financial assistance at universities mostly in USA, fellowship application usually begins either before applying for admission or is simultaneous. In some cases, admission to the institute is conditional upon receiving the fellowship. Ergo, it is extremely important to not just find courses but also potential fellowships from the very beginning.

There are also many who choose to self-finance which during application becomes more direct and with less hassles and pre-conditions.  However, in either case a normal student needs to find ways to live frugally. In many cases, students can apply for subsidies for in-city transportation, entrances to museums etc., at the same time one can find things needed for temporary use like bicycles or printers at second-hand shops and online, which can later be sold. Budget airlines, affordable tickets on advanced booking and affordable accommodations at youth hostels and other services, including free activities either provided by the city administration or organized by informal groups makes it possible to have an all round experience of Europe within a student's frugal means.

About the Author: Swati Pujari (swati.pujari1@gmail.com, @PujariSwati) is an architect and urban manager from Nepal and an alumna of Institute for Housing and Urban Development Studies (IHS), Erasmus University Rotterdam. She is the coordinator and founder of a network called Nepal Rebuilds (www.nepalrebuilds.org). The primary aim of this network is to discuss, facilitate and promote processes of equitable development and rebuilding in the post-earthquake scenario of Nepal. She is also a writer/blogger (www.lifeasanurbanite.blogspot.com).