It's a massive city, being quite cheap and safe (in the right parts). It's got an incredibly diverse feel to it and it's very multicultural, you can feel like you're in Lahore one minute and Kent the next. There's lots to do, loads of culture and awesome architecture.
I went to Krakow, Poland and I studied Sociology and Intercultural Communications at a small private university called Tischner European University. I was a bit apprehensive to go to Poland at first, because I was the only one from my university going there. However, as soon as I got there, met my Polish flatmates and the other 15 Erasmus students at my university, I loved it! We immediately got on with each other, spending all our time together exploring Krakow, but also going further afield, travelling around Poland as far as the Belarusian and Lithuanian border. We also made a trip to Ukraine. My favourite place in Krakow would have to be Alchemia, which is a pub/coffee shop/underground cinema/gig venue, located in the Jewish quarter. This place has no electric lights, it’s lit by candle light at night and it has a really great atmosphere. I wouldn’t recommend packing too much, as you would most likely buy many things there. Prices may have changed now, but when I went, everything seemed very cheap there and I didn’t even manage to spend all my grant money!
Erasmus, administered by the British Council in the UK, is part of the European Union's Lifelong Learning Programme and is the largest organised mobility programme in the world, known and respected throughout Europe. Almost three million higher education students in Europe have taken part in the programme since its introduction in 1987 and agree it was the best decision they ever made.
It's quite small and is basically split into two halves: the Old Town (Medieval) and the New Town (Georgian). You can get anywhere in 15 minutes walk and the city is really worth travelling around on foot - it's really pretty and quaint. The castle is the main attraction at the top of the Royal Mile, with the Grass Market also offering itself up as a popular second choice. The buskers here are bag-pipe players! There's a strong sense of culture and pride, lots of Scottish memorabilia and tartan stuff. It's generally very safe, you can walk back home from clubs no problem. One thing not to miss is... The Edinburgh festival! Loads of people arrive and rent flats during this period and the atmosphere's really electric, with tons of art and culture to make the most of. Edinburgh has that capital city buzz, a bit like London, except on a smaller scale (and with a Scottish accent). Lots of Irish pubs populate the city ( the Scots and Irish must have a secret alliance). And the country even has its own Scottish bank notes!
I wanted to be somewhere in the developing world on my year abroad and I got an interesting job in Beira, working for a British NGO. It has to be said that Beira is not what you'd call scenic. From the sprawling slums to the Soviet-era blocks of flats, many parts of the city look as though they are slowly dying. Yet even amidst the urban decay, there is a unique Mozambican spirit that brings Beira to life - I felt really welcome in this country and more safe than I had expected. Golden sandy beaches are undoubtedly the highlight of any stay, and with the exception of the white-supremacist Bique’s, the bars that line the beach are a superb starting-point to an evening out. Ponta Gêa is the best place to reside, followed by the affluent Macuti. It’s important to note that unless you opt for the resorts around Tofu, you meet all that many expats. Almost everyone speaks Portuguese, but hardly anyone knows English. So it’s a good idea to get a steady job placement with the appropriate support, should you need it. While the country remains stable and peaceful, street crime is an issue. Don’t expect mod-cons either. Hot water and television are fairly hit-or-miss in Mozambique. But don’t let this put you off. The rough-and-ready feel becomes part of the appeal.
There was a distinct lack of university support in finding housing and a notable difference between taught Arabic and the colloquial language. My social life in Damascus mostly involved other foreign students as there were only one or two night clubs, men have a café culture and there are cheap restaurants everywhere, so going out for food with friends is the easiest option – but not the most sociable one when it comes to meeting new people! There were very cheap travel opportunities by bus to Lebanon, Jordan, Turkey and the rest of Syria.