Since September 2012, every student nurse at my university is now required to undertake an elective placement in their 2nd/3rd year. There are two options. Firstly a 4 week long elective. This can be within the UK or anywhere in the world. The other is the Erasmus program. This is 12 weeks long and is more structured than a standard elective placement. You are allowed to achieve practice competencies outlined by the Nursing and Midwifery Council (NMC), which you cannot in a normal elective placement. The University of Nottingham is one of the very few UK universities which has an established Erasmus program for nursing.
The Erasmus is an exchange program for higher education students within Europe. 33 countries to be precised. Set up in 1987, it is funded with support from the European commission. You can gain European Credit Transfer Scheme credits (ECTS) from the completion of the exchange. This system is a standard for comparing the study attainment and performance of students of higher education across the EU. These show up on your university transfer scrip on graduation.
With the Erasmus comes a grant which can help towards living costs or any other manner of support while away. During the 3 months I am not (unless for emergencies) able to return to the UK otherwise I could lose my funding.
Aside from being a educational program, the Erasmus exists as a social and cultural vessel for student to experience another country. You get the chance to travel and gain an international perspective that you may have otherwise not had the opportunity to obtain. It is also a great chance to improve your language skills (languages have never been my strength so it will be interesting to see how much Norwegian I can come away with at the end).