Irish History Student’s Association: Conference Review

holinshed revisited

Uni of Limerick University of Limerick

The annual conference of the Irish History Student’s Association took place in the University of Limerick between 13-14 March. The IHSA was founded in 1950 to promote the study of history among students in third level institutions on the island of Ireland. The IHSA has served Irish history students for decades and has allowed them to experience the world of academic conferences in an open and helpful manner.

The conference provided many quality papers, too numerous to review in this blog. During a panel titled ‘conflict in the wider world’ there was a very informative paper on ‘The Red Power Movement: a symbol of Indian Resistance and native political action’ by Katya Radovanova (T U Dresden) from Bulgaria and currently an Erasmus student in NUI Galway. It examined the nationwide campaign of Native Americans to reclaim the tribal right to sovereignty and self-determination during the late 1960’s…

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Surviving your first week


What happens during the first days of a long (in my case 9 months) study abroad trip? So many things happen that it’s hard to keep track. If you are responsible for finding your own flat – it’ll be stressfull and you’ll have to go to viewings, and hope people will like you, and wish that your potential roommates are decent people. Also, you may or may not be hoping to find new friends at your brand new, temporary university. All these unknowns may give you a great rush of energy. However, they take their toll and may cause you a few sleepless nights as well.

Afterwards, once you have a place to live in and you know your way around town, then as you come down from the initial rush, you may become nostalgic of the home you’ve left behind. The people, the town, the life. Sure, it’s all temporary and yo can always keep in touch thanks to the amazing Internet but all those rational thoughts may not be able to convince you to let go of the nostalgia.

Lastly, (because this post is meant to be full of images rather than words) stress and a new environment may pose a threat to your health. Make sure you treat your body well and you’ll start to feel better soon. Or at least that’s what I keep telling myself.

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     Here is my one-week-long ErasmusPlus experience in a nutshell.

     Getting to know the campus, meeting up with people, and admiring the number of fun student societies that exist.

Seen here is the Potter society who organized a small game of Quidditch.


          And here’s another campus shot.


          Discovering Galway city on foot is the way to go.


Boats, boats, boats! Boats.


Wandering away from the city center is a must as well.


I went jogging along the seaside. It was great, however, now I’m sick. Still worth it!


After all:


Where has ErasmusPlus taken you? How are you adapting to your new environment? Old and new Erasmus students, feel free to share your thoughts in the comment section below. Cheers!

Packing. A guide in 5 simple steps.

Full disclosure, I lied to you. There is nothing simple about packing your life in a suitcase and hoping what you have is enough for a year abroad. And that it’s no more than 23 kilos. It is intense, and it is extremely nerve-racking. What should I leave behind? What deserves to take up the limited space I have in my luggage? Surely, you can buy many items in your new country, provided it is a country of a similar economic development and culture. Nevertheless, if you are worried about your lacking finances, you too would rather bring your own stuff, than have to spend money. I am not really talking about clothes, or make-up – most people bring their own. But what about towels? Sheets, winter shoes, hairdryer, blanket, a night lamp, a mattress? Okay, I might have taken it too far with the last two. Also blankets can be bought, right? That would otherwise take up a crazy amount of space in my bag.

Let’s see how far I’ve gotten with my luggage. Fair warning: upon reading, if you happen to feel a strong sense of panic rushing through your body, don’t worry, this is most likely me transferring my panic onto you. I apologize. My flight is tomorrow morning, and my bags are still far from ready. Okay? You may relax now. Panic is not healthy anyway.

Second warning: upon examination, the beginning of this “guideline” feels more like an internal dialogue between my stressed and relaxed selves. Read it as such. Don’t judge, and prosper, or whatever. Still,  I hope at least some bits are helpful.

Step 1: Relax! (that’s an order, I think) Ultimately, everything will work out. How many times have you managed to pack your suitcase the day before the trip? Every single time. Exactly. Has this strategy ever failed? No. Then why worry? Relax.

Step 2: *4 days before the trip* Short glimpses of panic. Overall: mood still set on ‘taking it easy’. House hunting is a bigger priority after all. Packing can wait.

Step 3: *2 days before the trip* Time for inspiration & list creation. Begin with watching a bunch of youtube videos and tutorials on packing for long trips. Side note: The word ‘trip’ helps me feel calm. To me it implies that the time spent abroad will be short, fun, and cause no troubles at all. Yay!

Step 4: *1 day left* Start packing and while doing so, make an inventory of your luggage. For example: mp3 player + charger -> small pocket of the inside pocket of backpack. Sounds confusing but I get it because I know my backpack very well. We go way back.^^

Step 5: If you run out of place follow this simple rule: Unpack + repack = key to creative space creation. And repeat until everything fits. If your bag isn’t infinite then at some point you’ll get the message. However, for a few extra t-shirts, or the odd pair of socks, this rule is pretty solid. Experience suggests that the more you repack and the more you stare at your bag and wonder at its depressingly finite spaces, the more creative you’ll get when it comes to circumventing the laws of physics.

Leaving home for a whole academic year is hard. Right now I envy all those Erasmus students who will only spend one semester abroad. I will be there for two. I can only hope that I’ll meet wonderful people, take in the beauty of Ireland’s scenic locations, read inspiring books, and, most of all, I hope I’ll have enough distractions so that I don’t get sucked into a dark hole of nostalgia.

Did you make your own short guide to panicing, I mean packing? Share it with me :)

Erasmus+ Checklist #1

The 2014/15 Erasmus+ time is approaching. Only fewer than 4 weeks are left. Excitement is growing, stress levels may be rising but we need to focus and figure out how to organize our remaining weeks: informing our bank that we are going abroad for 1, 2 semesters, freezing our phone contract, renting out our room, making sure we’ll have access to the account on which we’ll receive the mobility aid etc.

As with all things EU, the Erasmus+ program is both amazing and frustrating. It allows us to travel and study without any tuition but in order for the exchange to be a success, we need to work our way through a bureaucratic monster pile of documents, contracts & agreements. Or so I’ve heard. I have been living in Germany for the past 4 years and maybe that’s why the Erasmus procedure doesn’t frighten me. I’ve seen way worse. Just try applying for the federal aid ”Bafög” and then, if you still want to complain about Erasmus, …okay, then I’ll buy you a beer.

I hope the following checklist will be of some help to future Erasmus+ students.

Continue reading

Grants for aspiring entrepreneurs

As I have already mentioned in a previous post, the Erasmus program has evolved into a more inclusive, international exchange-providing super intiative. I suppose the EU has finally realized that more of us Europeans need to travel and meet each other if the Union is to continue to exist. We need cross-cultural, cross-border exchange programs &  Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs is one of them.

Next to travel, (social) entrepereneurship is becoming a symbol for Millennials. We cannot be bound by the restrictions of our country & we refuse to work solely for money and for someone else’s ideas we don’t believe in. We need to go out there and start our own business, if possible – a socially & environmentally aware one. This program is seeking to aid budding entrepreneurs. It also helps those who have already began running their businesses and are looking for an intern, i.e. a temporary fresh addition to the team.

No matter if you are still developing your idea or have already started your company, you may apply, receive a grant from the EU & be assigned to mentor – an experienced entrepreneur.

Now, let’s see if you’re eligible:

The 2 main target groups are aspiring & experiences entrepreneurs.

Your (future) company or activity can be in any sector and there is no age limit.

The aspiring entrepreneurs need to either already have a business plan, or to have started their company within the last 3 years.

The experienced, on the other hand, are those who have had a company for 3 years or more.

All need to be permanent residents of the participating countries: 37 of them More info and the list of all of the participating countries can be seen here. (28 EU Member States + other participating countries including Liechtenstein, Norway, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Iceland, Montenegro, Turkey, Albania, Serbia and Israel. )

And, of course, here is the most important piece of info: financial aid is available and can be found by clicking here!

Everything you need to know is there on the website, to which I’ve given so many links that I’ve even annoyed myself. Too much repetition cannot be great. But, if you want to get more personal and discuss the program with participants, you can join the discussion on LinkedIn. There you might even be able to find and get to know your future mentor. So, go ahead.


Has anyone participated in this already? Or do you plan on checking it out? Would you say that a program such as this one is profitable for both parties? I’d like to hear your take on it.


Falling through the cracks

Or how I plan on bankrolling my time abroad.

I want to focus a bit more on those who, like me, do not fit into the bureaucratically prescribed categories. Those who fall between the small, yet very much existing, cracks & end up being let down by the ‘generosity’ of certain financial aid institutions. One again, I will draw on my experience and expectations. I come from Bulgaria, an EU member, but I have a B.A. and continue to reside and study in Germany. I have been nominated for an Erasmus place at the National University of Ireland, Galway. If all goes well, I should move to Galway at the end of August and this is where I expect my financial struggles to intensify.

The Erasmus initiative, which was this year renamed to Erasmus+ ( #erasmusplus )  and has thus increased its effect on those who judge programs on how positive their names sound, offers a small grant, which can be literally translated to ‘mobility aid’. They are, metaphorically speaking, allowing us, the financially disabled, to move. Be that as it may, ain’t nobody can survive on the amount they’ll transfer. Now, I won’t know until after I go to Ireland, but the Erasmus coordinator has already managed to dramatically lower my expectations. And so, off I go on a hunt for scholarships, grants, more financial aid, whatever I manage to get my hands on will have to do. ( here I would like to mention that I am very happy about the existence of a program such as Erasmus+. It allows me to spend a few semesters pretending I had the money to afford studying in Ireland. Tuition fees are for suckers. Am I right? :D Please, don’t take everything I say literally or you’ll end up thinking I hate everyone and everything. Glad that we cleared that up.)

If you are or have ever been a resident of Germany, you will probably have heard of (Auslands)Bafög. Basically, you go through a very complicated process of filling out a myriad of documents (the wet dream of every Volgon), you send them to the institution (for Auslandsbafög for those who travel to Ireland the Studentenwerk responsible is the one in Hanover) and hope you are eligible to get roughly 600-700€  a month. Once you have graduated, taken a few years off to travel the world and then settled down with a boring old office job in Chemnitz, you can start paying off your ‘loan’ to the state. It is a loan in the real meaning of the world, not as banks tend to abuse it nowadays – you need not pay any interest + the state is really into young people and only charges them for 50% of what they’ve taken. Basically, Germany is your grandma. No, wait, scratch that. Your grandma would not want you to pay anything back. Jeez, Germany, try being more like our awesome grandmas, will ya?

Before I get too off topic, I have only 2 more things to say – Auslandsbafög can be awarded to German citizens who do not receive the normal kind of homefield-Bafög. Also to those who do. If you are from the EU then you also have a chance, but you need to have spent quite some time in the country. I have been here for three and a half years and it was not enough. I need to spend 3 more. So, it is safe to say that by the time an EU foreigner is allowed Bafög he’ll also be eligible to apply for German citizenship. Needless to say, I was denied Auslandsbafög.  Now what?

I have commenced a research mission – go through as many scholarship listing websites and find those you are eligible for. Then, apply! I have my eyes set on two so far:

1. Deutschlandstipendium – It is only for those who are enrolled in German high education institutions. They offer it every year and it seems as though the competitions is tough but also there are many scholarships to be given. So, I am still unsure about what my chances are. You need to write a motivation letter in German, so I shouldn’t be too optimistic. I will, however, apply this year. This is a link to the guys of Deutschlandstipendium. However, every participating university should have more information on their websites as well. Applications can be handed in July and the results come in roughly 2 months later.

  1. DAAD scholarships – those are definitely worth checking out. -> DAAD website

On the surface, a myriad of scholarship opportunities, but if you look into it, you might just find you have, yet again, fallen between the cracks.

I try (evidently not hard enough) to not sound cynical. However, my experience has made me a cynical person where money is concerned.

Look forward to your study abroad program, no matter how expensive it may appear to be. Just keep looking into different scholarship opportunities, some financial aid, extra work here and there to save up some money for the time abroad. Whatever you do, try not to picture yourself having all the money those offers promise. Money is fickle. It comes and goes. Your time spent abroad, now that will always stay with you. Perhaps, a little more struggle can do us some good.

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This post has taken me weeks to write. I am sorry if it is a complete mess. So are my thoughts on the issue of money & bureaucracy. Falling through the cracks is a major let down, so, if possible, always try to get as much information (call, write mails to the organizations who offer said stipends) as possible, before you get your hopes up.

Planning my year abroad

It’s time for another post on the Kate, i.e. me. I hope it manages to help you if you are, or ever will be, in a similar situation – preparing your semester/year abroad.

I am currently enrolled in the second semester of my Master studies. I am continuing my studies in Linguistics, Literature and Cultural Studies on the graduate level. My focus are British and American studies. My lifelong dream – living in Ireland. My efforts to combine both pushed me to apply for Erasmus and I will, if all goes well in the following months, spend 2 semesters at the National University of Ireland in Galway, starting September ’14.

Image   NUI campus

What I’ve done so far:

First I checked the places my university offers abroad. For my major there are 2 places in Dublin (Institute of Technology Tallaght), one at University of Warwick, Coventry & one at the NUI in Galway. In my motivation letter I explained the reasons why I want to attend the NUI but I also mentioned that I am open to taking a place in Dublin, if the one in Galway was given to someone else. According to the professor I asked, you have a higher chance of getting a place if you list several places in your letter. However, that may just be here at the TU Dresden. The best way to go is have a short talk with the Erasmus office at your institute or the professor who goes through the applications. Only then can you be 100% sure that your application was prepared according to their expectations.

The application usually consists of a one-page long motivation letter, a CV, transcript of records & a filled out learning agreement.

ImageGalway musicians

Doing some research on the university you want to attend is crucial. A big part of the learning agreement is the selection of courses you plan on doing. What I did was, first of all, create the list of courses I want to do. After that I had a clearer view of what the university had to offer and could mention several of the courses in the motivation letter. I have no idea if this helped convince the professor how much I wanted to go to Galway. At the very least, it gave me something to write about. A blank page could be very intimidating.

The deadline at my university was the end of March. About 3 – 3 and a half weeks later I received an email from the professor who approved my application and nominated me for the place at NUI.

So far so good. I am going to a pre-Erasmus orientation meeting in a couple of weeks and I’ll have more info to share then.

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photos taken from: