Advice and tips for running an Erasmus Society
During my undergraduate degree at King’s I not only went on a year abroad but in my final year I also decided to be a part of the Erasmus society committee. Running an Erasmus society was not only a fun way to help Erasmus students become integrated into life in England but it was also a great way to meet interesting people from all over Europe. Here are some tips I would like to offer you based on my experiences.
1. An Erasmus society is not just for EU students coming into your university.
Make sure you also attract students who are doing degrees at your home university and not solely Erasmus students. Erasmus students will appreciate the opportunity to mix with the locals and practise some English. You can entice home students with the idea that they will meet people who speak the languages they are studying. Moreover, they may meet somebody from the university they will go to on their year abroad and could find out invaluable information. As Erasmus works by exchange it is very likely this will happen.
2. Selecting the committee.
Do not wait until you start back at university to select your Erasmus society committee members. It is best that committee members are selected the academic year before. A good time would be around May. You can contact students who are currently abroad by asking your administration office to forward them an email. You should ask them to choose a position from the list and provide a CV alongside a brief explanation of why they believe they would be right for the position. If you have already started an Erasmus society then ask the current committee to read all the applications together and vote for who they believe is the best for each role. You should have a strict idea of what each role involves so there are no crossovers as this often leads to arguments.
3. Get in there early.
You should contact the incoming students as soon as you possibly can. In early August would be great. Email the students a while before term starts with a promotion email which not only outlines what the society is, but also states that the Erasmus society will be able to offer them valuable advice about settling into the UK etc. If you do this the incoming students will see you as an indispensable part of their year abroad and will be keen to come along to your events. If they email you for advice, please answer as this will demonstrate that you are a society worth joining. They may hit brick walls when trying to contact university administration in the UK so you may help to really alleviate their anxiety.
4. Set up a buddy scheme.
A buddy scheme is where you pair up an incoming student with a home student who wants to practise speaking their language. For example, you would pair up a student coming from France with a student of French at your university. I was in charge of this scheme when I was in the committee. I asked the study abroad office to forward an email to all the incoming students about the scheme. Next, I contacted all language departments at my university and asked them to contact their students. I wrote a brief email explaining what the scheme was and that if they emailed me I could pair them up. I kept a notebook with incoming students and their languages in one section and home students and what language they wanted to practise in another section. I also asked students to tell me if they preferred a male or female buddy and if what their interests were. When I found a match I would email both parties informing them that I had found a buddy for them. Many got in touch with each other before term started so buddies were able to offer advice about life in the UK and accommodation etc. before Erasmus students arrived. I also assigned myself a buddy. We keep in touch and have visited each other in London and Paris.
5. Have a weekly social.
This is really important because you do not want students to lose interest in the society. Maybe organise to meet occasionally in your student bar but also at a variety of different restaurants, pubs, bars and clubs. One time we organised a Monopoly event where the students had to go to find different places on the Monopoly board and answer questions about what they saw. They enjoyed the treasure hunt and we awarded prizes to the team which finished first. It was a great way to help them learn the underground. Here we are on St. Patrick's Day:
6. Plan excursions far in advance.
Erasmus students love excursions. Having excursions planned for them saves them the ordeal of trying to work out how to get somewhere and how much it should cost. Knowing that an excursion is coming up also keeps them interested in the society. You can book group train tickets which will cost less than if they went by themselves. Don’t forget to point that out to them! It is best if, at the beginning of the academic year, you all make a mind map of where you think Erasmus students would like to go. Then, do some research about transport (you may get a discount if you use the same bus company more than once for example) and accommodation. And finally, draw up a calendar. They will all want to visit London and Oxford. We organised trips to places they did not consider and they really appreciated that. Our society members particularly enjoyed visiting Bath, Liverpool, and Manchester. Home students may want to come on these trips too - do not forget to invite them!
7. The more you put in the more you get out!
This is of course true for most things, but, particularly of being on an Erasmus society committee. If you act as a unified committee and work hard to organise fun events you will reap the rewards from the wonderful time you will have with your grateful Erasmus society members. If you have just come back from your Erasmus experience, running an Erasmus society is a great way to extend your year abroad. Being part of an Erasmus society means you can keep up your Erasmus spirit, all the way through to your finals!
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