I had a chance to benefit from the Erasmus exchange programme and come to London to study for one year at City University Law School. The Erasmus Programme (European Region Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students) is an EU student exchange programme established in 1987.
For many European students, the Erasmus Programme offers their first opportunity to live and study abroad. Students who join the Erasmus Programme study for at least 3 months (or do an internship for a period of at least 2 months) of an academic year in another European country.
The Erasmus Programme guarantees that the period spent abroad is recognised by their university when they come back, as long as they abide by terms previously agreed. A key feature of the programme is that students do not pay extra tuition fees to the university that they visit.
Students also receive an Erasmus monthly grant (e.g. Polish students receive 500 euros per month when coming to the UK) to help cover the additional expense of living abroad.
Finding accommodation was the first challenge, but luckily I got a place in student accommodation. However this had to be applied for 6 months in advance. A lot of prior planning went into this trip!
London is one of the most expensive cities in the world. The Erasmus grant is not even enough to cover the cost of accommodation. In fact when compared to Poland, everything is 5-6 times more expensive. Most of my Erasmus friends also have part-time jobs as waitresses, shop assistants etc. to earn the extra money necessary to enjoy life in London.
Studying law as an exchange student is extremely difficult as each country has a different system of law. In the UK it is a common law system, in Poland civil law. In my country I am studying Polish law, here I am studying British law. Of course there are some subjects like International law or European law that are universal but still it was a challenge.
The education system in the UK is totally different for law than in Poland. To become a lawyer in my country you study a standard masters degree for 5 years. Division into undergraduate and postgraduate stages of education doesn’t exist. Poland is similar in this regard to many countries such as Germany or France, so coming to the UK was surprising. Now I am in my 4th year in Poland, but every Erasmus exchange student at City (irrespective of the year they are in their home university) chooses electives with the 3rd year UK students.
Also the route to becoming a professional lawyer in Poland is longer than in the UK. On average it takes about 8 years altogether. Advocates, legal advisors, notaries, bailiffs, patent attorneys, and tax advisors have their own professional associations. There are several methods of admission to the bar. For advocates and legal advisors the option that is chosen the most often is the 5 years’ master’s degree in Law followed by bar training (3 years for advocates and legal advisors, 3.5 years for judges and public prosecutors, 2.5 years for notaries) and the bar exam.
The examination for admission to bar training for advocates and legal advisors is a written test, 100 out of 150 points are necessary to guarantee admission. The examination includes:
– Criminal law and criminal procedure
– Infraction law and infraction court proceedings
– Financial criminal law and financial criminal proceedings
– Civil law and civil procedure
– Family law
– Public business law
– Commercial companies and partnerships law
– Employment law and social security regulations
– Administrative law and administrative procedure
– Administrative court proceedings
– European Union law
– Constitutional law
– Organisation of justice in Poland
So it is a long journey to become a lawyer in Poland. There are no fast-track options like the Graduate Diploma in Law.
Was it worth it?
Of course there were many difficulties at the beginning of my stay in London but definitely it was worth it. I came here with no friends, no family and no job but I will leave London in June having met wonderful people whom I can call my friends now. I found a part-time job and secured an internship in a law firm.
It is incredibly interesting to learn about a different legal system – common law although studying in a foreign language is not easy for anyone.
In my free time I am still trying to explore London as there are so many places which are worth visiting. Coming here taught me how to be independent and how to seize the opportunities which are given to you. I would recommend coming to the UK for an exchange to any international student. I am sure you will never regret it!
Thanks to Anna Jablonka for this fascinating insight into study in Poland. Anna is 22 years old and is studying law in Poland. Since September she has been taking part in the Erasmus exchange programme, spending one year at City University London.