The day I received the Erasmus Mundus scholarship is one I won't forget in a hurry. It was a pleasant, rather unexpected surprise.
The scholarship is offered by the European Commission, with the stated aim of promoting the European Union 'as a centre of excellence in learning around the world.' What interested me most about the scholarship was the opportunity to study at -- and obtain degrees from, if all goes well -- two renowned European universities in two different countries.
The Erasmus Mundus scholarship is built into several such programmes, all of which involve studying at two or more countries. Being a student of computer science, I was particularly interested in the programme in Informatics offered by a consortium of the University of Edinburgh, Scotland, RWTH Aachen University, Germany and the University of Trento, Italy.
The scholarship programme is, unfortunately, not well publicised. It was merely by following a link I chanced upon at the University of Edinburgh's Web site that I stumbled upon the course.
The online application to the EuMI School -- as the consortium where I study is called -- was simplicity itself. The TOEFL is the only exam required, in addition to having obtained a first degree by July 31 of the year of entering the Masters' programme. However, I sent my GRE scores in as well, primarily because I had performed well at the exam.
There are 24 scholarships available at the EuMI for non-EU students. There is also a rather intriguing quota system that ensures a fair mix from around the world. Give the system a quick glance before applying.
Every student admitted to the EuMI school spends approximately a year at each university. He or she is awarded degrees from both universities, but it is at the main university that work on the thesis is done.
The most interesting thing about the EuMI school is the course structure. It is highly flexible and allows one to either focus in one given direction, or gain a taste of several disparate fields of computer science. What is also interesting is that the student is guided on a thesis by two advisors; one from each university. This allows for inter-university collaboration, and the student has the opportunity to assimilate ideas from two experts in the field.
As for the scholarship, it is very liberal. It awards a student 21,000 Euros a year. This includes 4,000 Euros to pay the fees (heavily subsidised -- do the math: it otherwise costs 11,850 GBP to study at the University of Edinburgh), 1,000 EUR for travel expenses and 1,600 EUR monthly. This is more than adequate for a comfortable life, free of financial pressures -- even in a ridiculously expensive country like Great Britain. The scholarship even allows you the opportunity to indulge yourself in moderation.
Since the rationale behind admission processes is seldom, if ever, revealed, it would be unfair for me to make sweeping statements on what makes a good application for the scholarship. But I think I could safely say that a good academic record, coupled with extensive extra-curricular activities and decent letters of references -- the latter being particularly important -- should stand one in good stead.
Another important aspect of the application process to the EuMI school is the Motivation Statement. It is rather similar to a Statement of Purpose asked for in American schools. This is where the applicant must try and bring to the fore the clarity of his or her vision. A well-constructed Motivation Statement can go a long way with the admissions committee. On the flip side, a bad Motivation Statement can be a detriment to an otherwise strong application.
Last, but definitely not least, application to the EuMI school (and thereby the Erasmus Mundus scholarship) is free! So why not give it a shot?
Siddhu Warrier is a student at the European Masters in Informatics School (Net-Centric Informatics), University of Edinburgh.
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