“It’s nice that you decided to go on exchange in Cyprus! Actually, you are the first student of THUAS going there, so I am as excited as you are about how it works.” Those were the rough words of my academic advisor, and I wondered whether an exchange in Cyprus would then be a good or bad idea. However, for me, it turned out to be the best decision I could have made regarding my elective space. Within this article, I will give you a quick overview of the possibilities during your elective space, how to prepare for an exchange semester, tips on what you could do better than I did, and what it’s like to be an Erasmus student in Cyprus.
What is the Elective Space?
In the third year of SSMS, students can decide by themselves about what they want to study during this time. Basically, there are three different options to choose from. First, students can take minors (comprehensive and intense courses about specific topics) which they attend at THUAS or another university within The Netherlands. The SSMS program offers very interesting minors about, for example, Terrorism & Counterterrorism or Applied Intelligence. Second, you can apply for an internship in a company and work practically. Third, you can apply for a semester abroad, and I obviously decided on this last option.
Between Paper War and Joyful Anticipation - Preparation for an Exchange Semester
The preparation can be divided into three basic steps which include the application, the completion of all necessary forms, and the organization of daily life matters, such as accommodation.
To apply for an exchange semester, it is important to have relatively good grades and all necessary credit points from the first two years. I think it would be difficult to be happy while studying abroad and simultaneously participating in resit exams in The Hague. Exchange spots are offered by the SSMS program and by THUAS (the latter are open to all university students), and each provider publishes a list of their specific partner universities in different countries. Be aware that SSMS and THUAS might require different documents that must be handed in for an application. Required documents will be published on Blackboard and the student portal.
Once you have been accepted you must prepare yourself mentally for a bunch of documents to be filled out, checked, and signed. I guess all the people on the internet writing experience reports about their exchange semesters and telling you that the whole bureaucratic process went smoothly and without problems were either outrageously lucky, or lying. There will always be a little problem or something missing, but don’t worry. I suggest making a checklist of all documents needed (including those demanded by THUAS and by the host university) and ranking them after priority regarding the deadlines. Additionally, remember that you always have a contact person of the SSMS program who will help you out (shout out to Ms Van der Wal who is a great supporter to me during my semester abroad). All information necessary must be filled in on Osiris under the rubric “study abroad”, and the two of the most important documents to be uploaded are:
Erasmus Learning Agreements: here you fill in the courses that you will take at your host university, and it has to be signed by you, THUAS, and the host university
Erasmus Grant Agreement: this is the application for financial support by the Erasmus program
Finally, you must consider all practical matters besides university, which most importantly includes travel, insurance and accommodation. Usually, the host university offers cheap accommodations for exchange students, but ensure to reserve a room or studio in time before the best are taken.
What you could do better than I did
One is always wiser afterwards. Going abroad is a huge organizational challenge, and one can simply not think about everything. Normally, you cannot prepare for every detail but here I will give you two tips about things that I neglected and which I would advise you to think of before leaving.
1. Inform yourself about the country you will go to
It might sound logical to do that, but it happened to me that I was too busy preparing myself regarding how to GET to Cyprus that I completely forgot to do some research about how LIFE in the country is. I just thought something like “Cyprus sounds nice because it is warm, sunny, and has beaches so I will go for it”. However, it is important to collect some trivial seeming information regarding how daily life on a Mediterranean island differs from The Netherlands. Useful information I would advise you to collect include the location of supermarkets, pharmacies and drugstores, the prices of food, the public traffic system, where to get a bike, how to get to the city centre or university, and whether tap water is drinkable (for instance, I did not expect to have to walk to a drink water station to fill up my water canister every week).
2. Get in touch with the Erasmus society
When I arrived in Cyprus, I was unaware of the size and usefulness of the Erasmus network. Erasmus societies exist in basically every European country and are very valuable to get used to the new environment and get in touch with other students. You can find Erasmus groups of your host country on Facebook, and they also provide links to WhatsApp groups to join. Erasmus organizes many cool events; for example, I attended club nights, a boat party, a mountain trip, a city tour, a beer pong tournament, a festival, and much more. Usually, these events are cheap and packed with many extras for students. I mean, we got access to clubs with open bars, which I assume to be the secret dream of every student.
Life on Cyprus
I would like to conclude my report with a short insight into my life in Cyprus, and for this, I will drop the most interesting or funny facts about my stay abroad as well as some pictures of my highlights.
First, the hard facts about living in Cyprus:
The island is a biker’s absolute nightmare, and it was not easy to adapt after coming from The Netherlands— aka the biking country. There are almost no biking lanes in Cyprus, and if you bike on the ways next to the street, they suddenly end with a thirty-centimetre-high curb forcing you to get off the bike and lift it down onto the street.
Did you know: Cyprus is one out of four countries in Europe where cars must drive on the left side of the road. Besides this, they also imitate other quite annoying things from the British, such as a socket system with three pins.
No bus system is more unreliable than the Cypriot one. Bus stops are rarely marked as such, and you cannot find any timetables about departures at the stations, on the bus, or the internet. Sometimes the bus is thirty minutes late, sometimes twenty minutes early, and sometimes the bus driver just doesn’t stop. On a more positive note, a ticket for students costs just 75 cents.
The island is divided by a demarcation line between Turkey and Greece. This line is guarded by the military from both countries and active UN troops. Nicosia, where I live, is equally divided, and to cross the line you must get through strict passport and baggage controls (out of one of my friend’s experiences, it is even prohibited to take pralines from the Turkish North into the Greek South).
Finally, I conclude with a few pictures showing my highlights of the country:
Ghost town in Famagusta: the inhabitants were deported after North Cyprus had been occupied by Turkey in 1974
Sea Caves in Ayia Napa: we actually did cliff jumping here from 8m height
View from Cape Greko at the coast of Ayia Napa
Cape Greko from a distance (picture was taken during a Quad tour)
Bazaar on the Turkish side of Nicosia
Turkish Cypriot port city Girne (here I learned to pay with Lira for the first time)
Center of Nicosia during the night (and where we went clubbing almost every week but don’t tell the teachers)
Finally, me in front of the blue Lagoon (can’t believe this picture was taken in November with 30°C)
I hope I could give you a small overview regarding the experience of studying abroad, and that I might have made you curious to try it yourself. If you need specific first-hand tips or tricks because you are also considering studying abroad, you can contact me by e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.