Failing Your Study Abroad Year (Erasmus)

So! By about February of this year I knew I wasn’t going to pass my year abroad in The Netherlands, and I suffered a lot of anxiety at the thought of having to pay back Erasmus grants and generally at the unknown consequences. I spent hours trawling through the internet, searching for others like myself who had failed, but I could find nothing. Just forums saying ‘oh you have to pay back the grant’. Shit. Or so I thought.

But it is super common to fail! I know of three other English friends who have failed. So four of us, at least, at one university all failed. I instantly felt better when I found this out.

Let me talk reasons for failing. It wasn’t (at first anyway) a lack of effort. Firstly, my education background is in English Literature. I’d spent my last two years of uni studying literature, and two years before that studying literature, history and philosophy. Unsurprisingly, the Netherlands isn’t hot on ENGLISH literature, and so I was thrown into third year business, art history and loads more random classes which I had NO background in. Quite simply, it was bloody hard!

Secondly, I always wanted to use my year abroad to travel more round Europe, and I succeeded in this, visiting more than 10 countries and loads more cities. But this meant that I missed some classes. So my year abroad academically was a failure, but I would argue I learnt more in visiting the Fotografiska in Stockholm, than I did in an art history lecture.

And then there was the issue of homesickness. I wasn’t actually homesick per se. But I went home for Christmas, and I was meant to fly back to Nijmegen after just a week and a  bit, but when I was home I didn’t want to return because I was so happy at home, and so I extended my stay to a month. I missed some exams. At this point I could’ve made up the credits in the second semester, but that didn’t successfully happen.

But I just want to reiterate, it is so much more common to fail than you’ll hear made out. If you’re reading this and are a few months into your Erasmus, worried you won’t pass- don’t worry!!! They ask you to take a hell of a lot of credits! Failing just means ‘with a year abroad’ won’t be in your degree title. Oh well!

Most importantly, I haven’t been asked to pay anything back. I could prove that I spent my whole year in Nijmegen, so obviously the money went on my year abroad. If you’re failing, and you just quit and go home, you may have to pay it back, but don’t do that! Just because the academic side isn’t going well, it doesn’t mean the year’s a write off!

Thanks for reading. It’s the first time I’ve properly spoken about failing my year abroad with anyone, and it’s a weird one because I’m not proud but at the same time I couldn’t really have done anything differently. So yeah! Make sure you’re following for more Jarrad!

*UPDATE* It’s been a year since my year abroad now and I’ve got my degree grading and whatnot and failing my year abroad was never an issue regarding anything- and nothing had to be repaid!


45 thoughts on “Failing Your Study Abroad Year (Erasmus)

  1. I’m pretty much in the same situation. Thought I’d go abroad to study in Germany bc it would show well in my CV but other than an amazing personal experience that taught me a lot about myself and gave me more self-confidence in life than I’ve ever had before, I completely fucked up my academic studies! Not only are students here rather intimidating, but nobody really tells you what and how to do and you’re left alone in this scary foreign place where you don’t feel like you belong and everyone seems so much better than you;;
    So I’ve had to struggle with that and depression most of the year, and because of it I was scared to even take exams so whichever I felt like I had no chance passing (though a part of me also feels like I would’ve passed if I at least tried) I just skipped so I wouldn’t embarrass myself and my home Uni… So now I’m at the end of the year with a lot of unpassed exams (more than 50% tbh) and scared I might fail even more…
    My home Uni requires a certain nr. of credits to pass into the next year and frankly I don’t see how I can make it, at least here. So on top of having to pay back the Erasmus grant, I’m scared that I’ll have to repeat the year and pay for that as well! It certainly makes me feel better that I’m not the only one in such a situation but mine seems worse and with no way out…
    Didn’t you have to repeat the year? Did you pass even though you didn’t get enough credit points?
    My parents have no idea and think everything’s quite peachy, Gods I really hope I can solve this without disappointing them so badly….


    1. Is the year abroad a compulsory part of your course? Because if not then you won’t have to resit the year, you just don’t get the with year abroad title on your degree so don’t worry about that. Also I never had to pay back the Erasmus grant as long as you live there the whole year you should be golden! So don’t worry about it too much- I know I did- but now with hindsight all is well and I wasted too much time worrying about these things!


      1. I’m afraid it’s compulsory so there’s a chance I’ll have to resit the year, unless they take pity on Erasmus students or something LOL
        At least I really hope you’re right about not having to pay them back, it would make sense so I hope I can at least not worry about that anymore…


  2. Hello, I’m not sure if you’re still responding.
    I searched google and Quora so much just looking for help, some hope that everything will be okay. I have a single mother raising four kids and I’m the child that everyone seems to think will be the next one to help support the family financially. For the past 3 years in university I have busted my ass getting A’s and being on the deans list for that reason. I came on exchange to Australia as an escape and I enjoyed every adventure I went on. However, academically I have never failed this bad (I really failed). I have personal reasons, such as mental health but I just can’t shake off failing. Seeing your article just gave me the hope I was searching for. I just want to say Thank you so much for writing this. For a long time I thought I was alone. The comments also showed me I am not alone. Thank you guys.


  3. I found this article today while panicking about the fact, that I probably won’t pass around 70 % of my classes at my Erasmus host university. It relieved me to hear, that there are also others, as the other Erasmus students at my university seem to be doing so much better than I am and the university I am in is very competitive. So thank you so much for this article!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I love that you say you learned more from traveling around the country than you did sitting in a classroom, that basically embodies my entire life philosophy. The time you spent learning and experiencing the world and the cultures you were surrounded by, is definitely not a waste of time.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Hey, its been like a few months since someone commented i hope you’re still replaying. I’m in the same situation, failed all my exams (which my home uni says that this has never happened with a student before), i honestly don’t care about failing it, it was the first time for me going in a foreign country and actually living there for 3 months and it was awesome. But now the Dean of m faculty says i have to attend to the overseas re-sit which is practically a re-exam (and pass) or else i have to pay Erasmus back. And that whole re-sit is just a headache and i have to pay for it too… i don’t know what to do, how to tell my Dean that i don’t wanna take those re-sit and that i’d rather risk and wait to see if they will ask for their money back.


    1. Your situation sounds really unlucky! I’ve never heard of anyone having to pay back Erasmus fees but have heard of them threatening it. I would have no idea if it’s ever followed through though..


      1. i honestly don’t even remember signing anything that said that i have to pay them back if i fail, it was more just the teachers and tutors saying it, i don’t even know if its true, but it makes sense cause this was ”a project” and the money comes from EU, the project (me passing the exams) was not accomplished so they want their money back… so i don’t know what i should and can do. it sucks:)
        Weren’t you in the same situation?


      2. My money was the Erasmus grant from the EU yeah, but as long as I got proof I spent the year abroad I retained the money- I guess they can’t fine you for not being smart enough as I failed on academic merit (or lack of) ?


    2. Are you sure that’s how it works? Cause then i also got proof i spent the semester abroad… Anyway ill let you know if they’ll ask me to pay them back :)) Thank you for your answer, you were very helpful.


  6. Happy to have come across your post!..I couldn’t find anything on the internet about these kind of stories. I find myself currently in the same situation on my exchange in Argentina…and cannot help but to feel like a complete failure…I’ve skipped so many classes to the point of not going to class at all. I am already sure I won’t pass for this study abroad experience. I’ve been more busy with adjusting to a new lifestyle here…trying to get to know a different culture Your post makes me feel a little less alone in this. Thanks!

    ps. good choice The Netherlands!
    greetz from a random dutchie

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really struggled to find anything informative too, which just added to the worry! That was pretty much me, completely know where you’re coming from. Definitely not alone in it!

      p.s. I love the Netherlands!


  7. Happy to have come across your post….I couldn’t find anything on the internet about stories like this… I find myself currently in the same situation on my exchange in Argentina and have the hardest time to not feel like a failure. Ive skipped so many classes, to the point of not going to class at all. I’ve been more busy with adjusting to the lifestyle here and trying to get to know the culture here as much as possible..
    Your post makes me feel a little less alone in this! Thanks !!

    ps. good choice The Netherlands 🙂
    greetz from a random dutchie.


  8. Hi Jarrad, thank you so much for just putting this ECTS issue down into something legible and understandable! I have been hassling my university with phone calls and endless emails asking these same queries. Plagued with worry about having to pay back my £3000 Erasmus grant, money which I frankly don’t have, I am still 10 credits off the mark and I simply cannot produce the word required. Bit like you, I feel like my experience of visiting museums, hiking mountains and playing the lead role in the drama group was far more enlightening academically than any old regurgitated text book drivel they gave us in the seminars. Don’t get me wrong the University was amazing and the Proffesors top notch, but I would have had to have solely presided in the library for a year with my head in dusty old books, if I wanted to reach anywhere near those credit requirements. Many other English students did do well but they certainly didn’t travel and expand themselves out of the classroom like I did. This sounds uppity but I am sure there should be more recognition in this system, of the cultural classroom, of how we can broaden our horizons beyond the University realm. Isn’t hat what Erasmus was built on, widening the educational experience?
    Thanks again anyway, even if I have to pay back a fee or catch up on these bloody credits you have at least made me feel like I’m not such a failure. Tamara


    1. Hi Tamara, sorry I’ve not replied sooner. Absolutely everything you say just takes me straight back to my Erasmus. The uni was great- no complaints, but why would you want to travel to another country and miss out on the culture etc and only see the inside of the library? I think something like a compensatory module upon returning home, detailing what the experience gave you would be hugely beneficial if it meant you could still pass. You aren’t a failure!! Hope you had the best time regardless!


  9. By ‘failed a year abroad’ did you mean you failed all the courses or only some of them ? Because I passed all my exams except this one hell of a course. And I’m wondering if i still need to pay for the grant

    Liked by 1 person

      1. As a young person, not an inaccurate assumption considering my age, you’re experiencing some things that will have long-term positive effects on your life’s journey. I must admit, I’m a bit envious. I came from a dirt-poor background. Getting a college education and taking care of my family was top priority for me. I looked around one day and realize decades had passed, and many of the adventures I vicariously experienced others enjoying had passed me by.


  10. This has really eased my worries. I am also an Erasmus student in Barcelona. I’ve been studying for 1 year and it has been an amazing experience that has really helped shape me as a person.

    Before arriving on Erasmus, My academic results in the UK were very good. Achieving a first, However since doing Erasmus. The academic side has not been so good, as I’ve also been travelling. I missed a lot of class and it looks like I will also fail 50 percent of my classes.

    I would say not to worry, You have taken a lot more from Erasmus than you may think. If you’re doing a 4 year degree, Look at it this way. 3 years of Academic development and 1 year (Erasmus) of character and social development.

    I think many people fail Erasmus and the main purpose of the EU funding and Erasmus overall is to integrate students from all over Europe and to learn from one another and make connections, If you have done this on your Erasmus then I think you should look at it as a success.

    All the best


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yeah I absolutely agree with everything. There’s no use worrying and realistically alls well that ends well- and it will end well! You have a great year, great experiences and memories and that’s way more valuable than a few academic credits!


  11. Hey man , I’m just wondering how badly you failed just because I completely disregarded the education side of my Erasmus and just went for the Experience (which was amazing) but I am now worried about having to pay back the grant . My attendance is shambolic and I have failed 50% of my units

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I did the exact same as you! I barely attended uni and missed every exam due to my travels, so even worse than you.. my student record at uni just says I’ve failed, they’ve never approached me about it or asked for the grant back! And i found out from asking that actually loads of people from my uni failed so you’re all good I’m sure!


  12. Definitely. I’m an international student with struggling parents who have 4 other kids to invest on. So failing in school abroad was like failing for life. Thankfully, I was able to get back up with the support I got from my family. I actually wrote something like this on my blog too, it’s the most recent. Please check it out and comment.


  13. I did the same thing during an exchange one semester – luckily, my advisors were extremely understanding and found a way so that it wouldn’t affect my grades at all. You live and you learn !

    Liked by 3 people

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