Having finished my BSc back in June, I feel I have now closed another important chapter in my life. Over these past 3 years I met a lot of great people and reencountered some I had not seen for many years (primary school friends and teacher for instance), learned and developed valuable skills related to my area of study, got my driver's license and my own car, had my first contact with the professional (as opposed to academic) environment not only with an internship at Caixa Mágica but also with a job shadowing opportunities at DRI, and many other valuable experiences and events, too many to count.
Last year, during the summer vacations, I started wondering where I would like to go after finishing my BSc. I could stay in Portugal and just continue in one of the Master courses offered at IST but I felt I wanted more. Not that IST isn't a good university, far from it, but I felt I needed to become more independent and I've always wanted to travel and live somewhere else and interact with other cultures during a prolonged period of time. To that end, I started researching some foreign Master degrees related to Computer Science mainly in Europe and the United States.
I examined a lot of universities and courses but found that most had no or very small scholarships for Master degrees taken by non-national students resident on the EU (there were several with offers for Indian students for example). On those that did indeed offer some kind of scholarship, I found that most universities either couldn't guarantee it until after you had finished the course enrollment (thus, should you not be selected for the scholarship, you would still have to pay the tuition fees since you confirmed enrollment) or had strict requirements which I couldn't meet at the time of application (such as already having a thesis proposal backed up by a professor at the target university or having already graduated). There were also some universities like KTH in Sweden or Aalto in Finland that didn't have scholarships for EU-students but these students were exempt from paying tuition fees.
Eventually, I stumbled upon some of the Erasmus Mundus (EM) courses. The Erasmus Programme is the most widely known students-exchange program in Europe. In this programme, students usually spend one or two semesters on a foreign university during their BSc or MSc. Erasmus Mundus takes this concept one step further and allows students to take their entire MSc abroad on some of the most prestigious European universities. In the end the student gets a double-degree from the two universities where they studied at. These EM courses also offer 2 different types of scholarship: 500€/month + Tuition Fees for EU students (Type B) and 1000€/month + Tuition Fees for non-EU students (Type A). The selection for these scholarships is based on your academic and professional experience as well as on your application letter and you have the opportunity to cancel your application should you not be selected for the scholarship. This was exactly what I was looking for!!
Examining the list of EM courses, I singled out Erasmus Mundus in Distributed Computing (EMDC) and NordsecMob as being the courses that best catered to my interests so I applied to both of them with preferred study tracks of UPC/KTH and Aalto/KTH, respectively. You are eligible for the scholarship as long as you don't apply to more than 3 EM courses at a time. However, I soon found out that each application, atleast in Portugal, is quite expensive. With all the requests for transcripts, certified copies and translations I ended up paying more than 70€ per application.
In April 2012, I received the results of both applications and I was accepted in both with a Type B scholarship. I eventually chose EMDC as I find it more interesting and am now preparing to leave to Barcelona on the 24th August. I intend to document my experience here in this blog so keep posted! :)