The weather is getting warmer, the sun is shining and another academic year is coming to its end. You know you shouldn’t have even opened this article because you are in the process of preparing for your exams, but you simply can’t stop yourself from reading all these interesting facts about our Section in the Spotlight for June: ESN Zagreb.
ESN Zagreb, the first Croatian section, was founded in 2010 as Zagreb Exchange Committee by 10 adventurous students taking care of around 100 exchange students. Today, the section has 80 members taking care of more than 800 exchange students each semester, as well as 203 local students acting as buddies.
The section is divided into a Local Board, consisting of President, Vice-President and Treasurer, and 7 teams - ESNcard, InterCultural Exchange or ICE, Party, PR, SocialErasmus, Sports and Travel - where all the active members are. Additionally, they have a Project Manager and coordinators for Buddy, Mov’in Europe and ExchangeAbility, who work on their own. With such a broad structure, they make sure to cover all the work fields that contribute to the pleasure of their exchange students, as well as the growth and improvement of their section.
Speaking of section growth, ESN Zagreb recruits new members once a year, in September, by organising informative presentations, after which they choose new members based on their motivation letter and an interview they conduct with all candidates before making a final decision. New members receive ESN 4 Newbies documents, created especially for them and their understanding of the network, and they are welcomed to participate in various workshops, such as Mov’in Europe for Beginners or how to use Photoshop and Illustrator.
Alumni members play a big role in the section - they may not be actively involved in the organisation anymore, but they are always at the section’s disposal when it comes to sharing knowledge or educating members. They also organise two big teambuilding activities per year - they have a sleepover in a hiking cabin, where they do various activities to create a better connection between their members.
“In our section, each person has a chance to find a place for themselves, to find out what their interests are and to really give all of themselves in order to organise an event, workshop, trip, to design a booklet or to be the best buddy there ever was."
ESN Zagreb is also very active when it comes to the implementation of international projects of ESN. There is an entire team around the idea of SocialErasmus and they organise activities such as dog shelter visits, helping out in the soup kitchen, workshops in schools, kindergartens and retirement homes. Their ExchangeAbility coordinator has successfully organised several informative presentations on Erasmus+ opportunities for students with disabilities, as well as started some online campaigns in collaboration with the PR team.
When it comes to Mov'in Europe, they organise informative presentations and workshops for local students regarding Erasmus+ opportunities. They’ve also held CV and motivation letter writing workshops, and this year they have successfully organised “Employ Your Skills”, an ESAA-funded event on youth projects and entrepreneurship.
“The speakers were enthusiastic to see a motivated crowd eager to learn about entrepreneurship and youth projects, even if it meant waking up early on a Friday and Saturday morning.”
They also have two of their members on the national level - National Event Coordinator and National ExchangeAbility Coordinator - and several of their members are involved in the organisation of ESN Croatia’s national event, Croatian Erasmus Event or CEE. Their members are also active in Committees - ICE, NEC and ComCom - while some local Alumni are still involved in the work of the international level. They have successfully organised several international events, such as CNR back in 2012, SEEP in 2013, SECM in 2015 and NBM in 2016. This winter they are also going to organise their second National Platform.
“We think that it is very important to forward the information about all the different opportunities that the network offers, and to explain right from the very beginning what each person can gain through the work on different positions.”
They also take great pride in their cooperation with their buddy section, ESN Split, as well as ESN Lisboa, with whom they received an Erasmus+ grant back in 2014 for their project Twinning Up 4 Start Up.
With such a strong structure and motivated members, it seems there’s nothing ESN Zagreb can’t do. We expect great things from them in the upcoming year, as well as many more years to come.
- Tajana Mohnacki
OLA is a digitalisation initiative led by the Erasmus Student Network and the European University Foundation, aimed at simplifying student mobility by reducing administrative workloads and connecting European universities better.
Join the live stream from our launch event, where we will be hosting a first live demo of the Online Learning Agreement and discussing how you can implement it in your universities. We will be taking questions from the online audience!
On 23rd April, ESN elected a new International Board to lead the network for the year 2017-2018.
The Board of 2017-2018 is (from L-R): President - João Pinto (ESN PT), Vice-President - Tijana Stojanović (ESN RS), Treasurer - Tim Bastiaens (ESN BE), Communication Manager - Kacper Olczyk (ESN PL), Web Project Administrator - Jeroen van Lent (ESN SE).
The new International Board will take office on 15th July 2017.
The elections took place at AGM Germany 2017 in Berlin, with 900 representatives from 40 ESN member countries across Europe. At the event, several STARawards were also handed out, including an award for Best ESN Country, given to ESN Croatia this year. The title of Best ESN Section went to ESN UEK Cracow; the first time a section has won the award twice.
More awards at esn.org/starawards
In keeping with a tradition established in 2016, the annual Honorary Achievement Award was presented, this year to former President of ESN, Davide Capecchi. Davide received acknowledgment due to notable contributions to the development of ESN and his heavy involvement in a network-wide organisational review that has lasted almost a year.
The gathering also represented a celebration of the 30th anniversary of Erasmus+. In support of the success of the Erasmus programme in uniting people from diverse backgrounds, a message was sent loud and clear by the 900 students marching through the streets of Berlin: #WeAreOne. The march ended with Safi Sabuni, President of ESN, and Mr Richard Kühnel, Representative of the European Commission in Germany.
For a day-by-day report on AGM Germany 2017, visit ESNblog - The Voice of the Erasmus Generation.
What do the following have in common?
- A 10th birthday
- One of the most beautiful cities in Poland
- A unicorn
If you’re still unsure, let us help you with this. It’s time to give a round of applause to this month’s fabulous Section in the Spotlight, Kraków’s very own ESN AGH!
With humble beginnings raging back to the ancient smartphone-free times of 2007, ESN Akademia Górniczo-Hutnicza (if you’re not Polish, don’t even try to pronounce this) started off as part of the University Student Council, but as the number of incoming Erasmus students grew, something had to be done. Dramatic changes came in 2010, when the HR coordinator organised an enormous recruitment, increasing the number of members threefold, at the same time creating the basis of what would eventually become one of the most well-known ESN sections on the international level.
ESN AGH’s board is run by 3 people, who oversee and lead the work of coordinators and 6 different committees to create the perfect experience for incoming exchange students. Did you know that ESN AGH has an active member from Spain? Talking about a proper international environment! After new members are chosen, they all participate in a special integration camp, where proper knowledge transfer and training sessions take place. Did we mention that it’s also a great place to make fantastic friends?
ESN AGH makes sure to keep older members busy and motivated too. Apart from organising a series of meetings – called “Saturday with ESN” – with the help of other sections in Kraków, the section also organises several barbeques throughout the year to get the positive vibes going, and plans to organise a Sailing Trip for ESNers after a long year of hard work. Nice job, ESN AGH!
When it comes to keeping Erasmus students entertained, these guys really do not mess around! From museum trips and international sporting events to cooking workshops, ESN AGH has something to suit everyone’s taste. In true ESN spirit, they often involve local communities in their activities too. The most popular are “Mobility Day”, an infomarket designed to promote mobility projects and the Erasmus+ programme, and the Mentor Programme, which last semester attracted over 300 mentors from all the different faculties in the university!
ESN AGH is proud to have two flagship projects, directed at the local student body and foreign students respectively. The first project is called HRproject, composed of a series of workshops organised by representatives of big local companies.
“The representatives lead trainings to show us how easily we can get a job and achieve a success during an interview.”
The second flagship project is an ideal combination of Mov'in Europe and ExchangeAbility, a project aptly called “ABLE TO MOVie”.
“It is about creating a series of movies showing the lives of students with disabilities at our university. We want to show them the facilities and encourage them to come here.”
So we’ve pretty much covered two of the three main features that make ESN AGH what it is today… but what about that mystical unicorn? Apart from being the national animal of Scotland (not kidding!), it has been the famous mascot of ESN AGH since 2011.
So there we go! Unicorns, a fantastic atmosphere among members and Erasmus students alike, and over 10 years of improving, learning, and having some good old fun along the way. Let’s raise our glasses to another 10, or even longer!
Written by Cris Ptasiński
ESN is nominating Valentin Dupouey from ESN Nancy for a second year as member of the Advisory Council on Youth of the Council of Europe. The following is an open letter from our candidate.
Dear Member Organisations of the European Youth Forum,
I’m very excited to be supported by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) for the upcoming elections. I truly hope you will give me your trust for a second mandate as a member of the Advisory Council on Youth (AC) of the Council of Europe.
Being a member of the AC is a positively challenging experience thanks to the diversity of topics addressed by the AC, but also due to the structures of the Council of Europe and of the co-management system within the youth sector. Being part of this unique structure that allows meaningful participation of young people is a constant learning experience that requires dedication, a broad understanding of youth issues in Europe and the ability to work and cooperate with a wide diversity of stakeholders.
The experience I’ve lived during this first year as member of the AC provides the basis for what I want to help achieve during a second mandate. Steadily, with a small team of AC members, we have been actively working to make the work of the AC more accessible, better understood and more visible through renewed communication practices. This work should be carried on in order for the great work of the AC to be recognised outside our usual circles. This goal goes beyond a simple communication issue. Ensuring clarity and visibility is also a way to increase the impact of our work. A stronger understanding and knowledge of the results of our work and how it can be used by young people, their organisations, by local and regional authorities, and by governments will strengthen our position as an impactful actor in the youth field.
Internally, I want to actively take part in the knowledge transfer and training of the newly elected AC members. As new members, the input and knowledge we received from more experienced members were invaluable to help us navigate in the sometimes unsettling waters of the Council of Europe’s structure. I believe the transition process can still be improved to ensure the full and effective participation of new members from the very start of their mandate.
Content-wise, I want to keep focusing on youth participation. This question of active youth participation has been at the heart of all my voluntary and professional engagements for the last 8 years in the NGO sector. I am committed to keep working for a renewed cooperation between the Advisory Council and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities which, I am convinced, can lay the foundations for stronger youth participation at the local level. Besides, I believe that the current issue of shrinking civic space, which has been integrated in the Council of Europe Youth Sector’s priorities for the upcoming two years, is a fundamental threat to democracy affecting young people in particular. I am committed to support the actions the AC will lead under this orientation of the youth sector’s programme.
Finally, I would like to put both ESN’s experience with the European Youth Foundation (EYF) and my own project management experience at the service of the Programming Committee (PC). The EYF and the PC have been constantly improving the way the EYF is cooperating with its beneficiaries. This work needs continuous adjustments to the reality of the work and projects of youth NGOs. I believe my experience as project manager can be a strong added-value to the work of the PC.
My long-term engagement within the Erasmus Student Network, within the European Youth Forum (YFJ) as an active volunteer of the platform, and currently within the Young European Federalists, from whom I have also received the informal support, will undoubtedly help me represent the diversity of views and interests of YFJ’s Member Organisations within the Advisory Council.
I’ll be happy to exchange with you during COMEM about my experience in and aspirations for the AC, but feel free to already contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Now you have a chance to help future international students, by submitting your best Erasmus tips! Bring online your expertise on accommodation, administration, social life or finances, to make it easier for the next generation of Erasmus+.
Selected submissions will be published on the Erasmus+ App, new mobile platform aimed to support exchange programmes, to be released in June 2017.
Share #ErasmusPlusTips with your former exchange friends and take part in this initiative by 30th of April!
Join or create a Junior Enterprise!
Just like ESN, our friends at JADE are working hard within the active student community. Are you running a business or aspire to do so? Then JADE might be exactly what you need.
Please give a warm welcome to one of the newer sections in our network and our Section in the Spotlight for April: ESN Nicosia!
ESN Nicosia is the only section in the country, which means that the Local Board acts as the National Board of ESN Cyprus as well. The Local Board was first established in March 2015 and consists of the following positions: President, Vice-President, Treasurer, PR, Vice PR and Education Officer.
At the moment, the section has 30 active members who support the work of all Board members as well as the work of coordinators of ESN’s international projects. Whenever they organise an event, no matter the scope, members form an Organising Committee (OC) and divide the tasks among themselves.
Actually, there are two requirements for new members to pass the transition period: attend at least two regular meetings, and become an OC member once. Additionally, they organise some amazing teambuilding activities, formal and informal ones - they do karaoke, further explore the island, they cook and study together, and during Christmas time they arrange the famous Secret Santa game!
“When we decided to join the ESN Nicosia family after our Erasmus experience, we didn't know each other, but now we have a great bond from the teambuilding activities we've been through.”
Older members are always welcome in the section since they make sure that the knowledge transfer process is done correctly and efficiently. In the beginning of each academic year they organise a training for new members with local and international ESN trainers where every new member gets an older member as a buddy.
ESN Nicosia plays a big role in the life of Erasmus students in Cyprus. Erasmus and other international students often express the wish to join the section, so the local members try to involve them the best way they can, usually by inquiring about their needs and ideas for events and activities. They organise a wide variety of events, both weekly and one-time events. Their Welcome Weeks usually consist of movie screenings, karaoke evenings, parties, tour to the old city of Nicosia, among others.
As a fairly new section, they have more than enough room for exploring new events such as visit to the paintball park, and a workshop on how to make and taste souvlaki. Every Monday they organise movie screenings, where students get to vote on which movie they want to watch, while Wednesdays are reserved for theme parties, and Thursdays for Tandem Language Exchange meetings with various games. They are very much aware of the beauty of their island and they are using it to its maximum by organising various trips, beach parties, exploring various villages and monuments, hiking at the mountains and parks, and similar.
They are especially proud of their flagship project which consists of their participation at the largest carnival parade in Cyprus, which is also a part of their tradition. The parade usually entails around thousands of participants and hundreds of groups, and they contribute with a group of approximately 200 international and local students. They opt for themes that promote the Erasmus spirit, like “Destination Erasmus”, ''Make Erasmus not War'', ''Erasmus Gypsies'', etc. This year they will be organising it with the Foundation for the Management of European Lifelong Learning Programmes, since it will be dedicated to the 30th Anniversary of Erasmus Programme, and this year’s theme will be ''Passports and Tickets''.
“This way, we manage to bring local and international students together, showing that cultural differences are not an obstacle for having a great time.”
They are very active when it comes to the implementation of ESN’s international projects. Under SocialErasmus they have organised a series of events under the common name “Random acts of kindness” which consisted of free hugs, candle making for children in need, blood donations, clothes donations to the Red Cross, and similar. Under the ExchangeAbility and MappED! projects, they have managed to map four big Universities and make their common activities accessible for students with disabilities. When it comes to Mov'in Europe, they organise mobility days, radio shows, and Tandem meetings under the slogan "to have a second language is to possess a second soul".
They have a good cooperation with their University, International Relations Office, National Agency and other NGO’s in the area. In October 2016 they became a Connected Member at Cyprus Youth Council. In collaboration with the University of Cyprus' radio show, "Erasmus on Air", they host current Erasmus students in Nicosia and locals who are willing to share their experience and the benefits of studying abroad. With only one section they have managed to cover all Universities in Cyprus, which is an amazing success!
ESN Nicosia has managed to achieve big things in such a little amount of time, and we wish them the best of luck in their further growth and development - you made us proud!
Written by Tajana Mohnacki
ESN is delighted to host the Spring 2017 edition of SocialErasmus Week during the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme, to show students and young people alike how student mobility is enriched by volunteering.
SocialErasmus Week is organised twice a year by the coordinators of the SocialErasmus project, to unite both international and local students across Europe in activities and events that will make a positive change in their local community.
From 3rd to 9th April 2017, project coordinators of 40 countries will host events to raise awareness and take action under the 8 causes of SocialErasmus: animals, disasters, discrimination, education, environment, health, poverty, and violence.
While celebrating and enjoying their Erasmus experience, students and young people will have the chance to take part in activities such as food drives and donations, fundraisers, clothes donations, animal shelter visits, educational workshops, and many more.
Some of the highlights from the past editions of SocialErasmus Week were activities such as the Nenäpäivä Charity Bake Sale by ESN Jyväskylä (Finland), Unite Against Racism by ESN Bilbao (Spain), Playdate by ESN Tartu (Estonia), Cycling Without Borders by ESN Odense (Denmark), Eko Kosice by ESN Kosice (Slovakia), and Dash The Trash! by ESN Eger (Hungary).
The SocialErasmus project combines Erasmus exchange and youth volunteering with the slogan ‘Leave Your Mark’, inspiring local and Erasmus students to enrich society by taking part in the activities.
‘Thanks to the Erasmus programme, we have such amazing opportunities to help students make the most of their mobility, and to make society better for everyone. I can’t think of a better way to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Erasmus than by showing how it benefits both the students and the local society as well.’
- Gizem Pelin Altun, Project Coordinator
To follow the project and activities of SocialErasmus Week in your country or city, search social media for the hashtags #SocialErasmusWeek, #LeaveYourMark and #SocialErasmus.
From 20th to 24th April 2016, Berlin will be host to ESN's Annual General Meeting 2017, the largest and most important annual meeting of the network.
The event is organised every year by the Erasmus Student Network. As a de-facto representation of the Erasmus generation, the AGM is the largest European student conference focusing on the theme of mobility, with over 700 student volunteers present. Organised by local member associations from Germany and France, the prestigious event will be held in Berlin this year, turning the city into the ‘Capital of Erasmus’ for four days.
AGM Germany 2017 carries special significance, as we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus programme. As an acknowledgement of this momentous occasion, a panel discussion will be organised under the theme Strangers to Friends: Three Decades of Erasmus Mobility. The panel will be open to the public and tackle topics such as the reasons for the success of Erasmus and the expectations of students regarding its future.
Another central feature of the AGM will be the Mobility Fair, where student representatives from hundreds of European universities, along with companies like the Deutsche Börse Group, will be present to showcase job, internship and study opportunities abroad. The fair takes place from 11:00 to 17:00 on Friday 21st in the Henry Ford Building of the Freie Universität Berlin. All local and international students and pupils are invited.
The Secretary of State for Science and Research in Berlin and patron of AGM Germany, Steffen Krach, says of the AGM:‘The idea of a joint Europe must always be an idea of its people and must bring them closer together. And this is exactly what Erasmus does, in an ideal way.’
The MappED! project, part of the ExchangeAbility and MapAbility projects established by the Erasmus Student Network, will host a press conference on the occasion of the launch of the tool and accompanying app.
Funded by the Erasmus+ programme of the European Commission, MappED! aims to create a unique online platform for students with disabilities, to help with finding information regarding mobility. The platform will provide information about existing opportunities such as additional grant requests, as well as learn about the accessibility of HEIs in Europe and their surrounding areas.
During the launch, the website and the accompanying mobile app be presented, along with a demonstration of the tool. The conference will be attended by national project coordinators, students involved in the project, partners of the project as well as important stakeholders in the area of inclusion of students with disabilities.
The agenda is as follows:
- Welcome and official opening of the conference
- Case Study presentations from stakeholders and key Institutions and Organisations in the field of mobility of youth and students with special needs
- Live demo of the new website and mobile application
- Conclusion of the conference
Please register to guarantee yourself a seat at this event!
More information about the project can be found at mapped.eu.
With the cold, desolate winter feeling slowly being replaced with rays of sunshine, one cannot help but feel more optimistic about the grand scheme of things. To evoke even more good vibes, allow us to introduce you to this month’s Section in The Spotlight: ESN URJC!
(Don’t worry, unlike at the Oscars Ceremony, we’re 100% sure it’s not La La Land.)
ESN Universidad Rey Juan Carlos (or more conveniently known as ESN URJC) is a Madrid-based ESN section which has been in operation since 2004. Considering the fact that their university receives around 800 international annually, it is a feat of gargantuan proportions that they manage to keep everyone satisfied & up to speed with only 30 active members (did I mention that they only had 10 members just 2 years ago?), as that roughly gives us a ratio of one ESN member for every 26.7 incoming exchange students. Impressive.
The structure of the section puts into practice both trusted and innovative methods of organisation, ranging from efficient and sturdy work groups which deal with the vast majority of ESN matters, a local Board of Directors and their own Communication Committee (more on this later!)
In terms of actually taking care of international students, members of ESN URJC have created a truly rich plethora of different events ranging from the tested and trusted Orientation Days, Tandem meetings and parties with other sections from Madrid to more unconventional events such as the “Integration Weekend”: an action packed event with a complete ban on using social media and mobile phones!
“It’s an unusual three-day trip which aims to get involved the international students in the Spanish culture through non-stop activities and it’s the perfect occasion for making the first friendships abroad”
Without a doubt, members of ESN URJC are most proud of their very own Communication Committee which has been responsible for all the great content the section has been providing. Ranging from aftermovies of parties, thematic Christmas videos and wonderful content on their other social media channels (make sure to follow them!), their positive content is bound to make anyone happy, even if the weather outside is more reminiscent of Siberia than Europe. ESN URJC believes that through the power of communication special bonds can be formed between incoming exchange students and ESNers. All this effort and commitment sure does pay off after seeing the satisfied faces of students from all around the world.
“Our goal is that the exchange students consider us not just coordinators but their friends, and they can count on us in any moment”
In just two years, ESN URJC has tripled in size, it has revamped its structure to be more efficient and its members are full of energy and optimism. They’re a perfect example of a section that has found new motivation to fulfil the core missions of ESN despite the long years of functioning behind it. We salute you!
By Chris Ptasinski
Witten by Ana-Marija Ramić - the winner of "Mobility is My Lifestyle" contest, organised by Mov'in Europe.
On 15th January 2017, I started a great adventure. By winning the “Mobility is My Lifestyle” competition organised by Mov'in Europe, StudentUniverse, Hostelling International and Thalys, I got the chance to travel and explore some of Europe's most famous cities: Brussels – the capital of Europe, Paris – the city of light and love, Frankfurt - the major financial centre of the European continent, the Golden City of Prague and last but not least, Budapest – the Pearl of the Danube.
The 2-week journey was a huge challenge. Not only for me, but for my family too! This was the first time I was actually travelling alone and the excitement was overwhelming. I found out about the winning the trip on Christmas Eve, and it turned out to be the best present ever.
In each country I was welcomed by amazing people from the Erasmus Student Network who took me on city tours and introduced me to more amazing people and their lives as a part of the Erasmus community. And this is my journey.
Due to bad weather, my first flight was late so I didn't catch the second plane on time. And I must admit, at first that seemed horrible, but then I got coupons for free food and my second airline gave me more free food; suddenly tragedy seemed like a blessing.
Arriving to Brussels a bit later than expected (but with a full stomach!), I was warmly welcomed by Audrė, the Communication Officer of Mov'in Europe, who then took me to check in my hostel - Jacques Brel Youth Hostel. At first sight, I loved it! It was located in the heart of the city with lovely staff, a cool bar and other spots to hang out! After a quick look around, Audrė showed me the city.
We visited many attractions, such as the Grand Place, Manneken and Jeanneke Pis, Royal Palace with Parc de Bruxelles, Fritland (best place for Belgian fries) and of course the Atomium. Needless to say, I slept like a baby after such a long and exciting day.
During my stay in Brussels, I also had the chance to meet the fabulous crew of the Erasmus Student Network at their office, where we had breakfast (thank you Gaffar). I was shown around the office and given loads of ESN merchandise. The atmosphere was really family-like and it was so amazing to meet people who are behind this project. I felt like I was really close to tearing up from happiness!
After 3 days in Brussels with Audrė, it was time to move on. Paris was the next stop, and this time I didn't fly – I was offered a train from Brussels to Paris. Wonderful, right? Thalys (a high-speed train operator) arranged that movie-like ride. So, in just a bit more than an hour I was in Paris! I was hosted at Yves Robert Hostel - an eco-friendly accomodation located in an old warehouse of a French railway company (it's a wow here!) just a few subway stops from the beautiful Montmartre. The first afternoon I was welcomed by Paul who took me to the Louvre and many other places of which I can't correctly remember the names, but the photos will tell!
The next day I met up with Lisa and Julien, who took me on intense tour of Paris. We visited dozens of places, sneaked into Sorbonne University, ate the best bagels and had our eyes always looking at wonderful architecture. After 12 hours of mainly walking and seeing as much as possible in such a short period, I ended my night overlooking Paris from Montmartre, full of positive feelings and just with a tiny bit of pain in my legs. Basically, every night I would pass out on my bed trying to steal a bit of rest before continuing the journey. And the next dawn, it was time to continue. I had a fairy helper, Ombeline, to get me to the airport, and then I sat on a plane to Frankfurt am Main.
Frankfurt had a different city vibe from Brussels and Paris, but I loved it all the same. Again located in the city centre (shout out to Hostelling International), in the Haus der Jugend Hostel, and picked up by Aïtem, I had a chance to visit places other tourists wouldn't have a chance to. We also visited Goethe University and student dorms where I had a chance to meet and to speak with many Erasmus students, and there I already made up my mind that I will find a way to become an Erasmus student myself.
What I really didn't expect was the amount of Croatian people in Frankfurt. On every corner I could hear Croatian, which turned out to be a life-saver when I was taking the subway to the airport at 3 a.m. Not really the safest and smartest way, but it was definitely an interesting experience. The fact that I met a group of Croatians who live "a village away" from my home in Pula is especially surprising!
A few hours after that, I found myself in Prague and settled in Downtown Hostel, which turned out to be the best hostel ever. My host for the city was Andy, and after a tour of the city and trying Czech cuisine, she had to work, while I had to find a way to meet people and see the city even more. Luckily, my hostel had all planned it out! Many activities for their guests, such as family dinner, Ghost tour of Prague and a pub crawl. That way I found myself in a group of people from USA all the way to Siberia and to New Zealand. Some were solo travellers, some groups of friends; some younger, some older; but we all became friends and great explorers of Prague.
As my last stop of the journey – Budapest was sugar on top. Cold sugar I must say! The temperatures were freezing and even the Danube River could witness that, but nonetheless I was warmly welcomed by Aventura Boutique Hostel and my city host Ámir. My hostel shared with me some leaflets and because I had a bit more time in Budapest, I joined a free walking tour, again surrounded with people from all around the world. And in the evening a tour of popular Ruin pubs of Pest.
As my journey came to an end, I was becoming really emotional. I felt and still feel such gratitude for this opportunity and for the luck I had – literally, every day in every city it was sunny; 10 flights went great; amazing accommodation; amazing hosts; amazing people and a lot of amazing memories.
I learned a lot in just these two weeks. A lot about myself (that I need to learn how to cook something more than hotdogs) and a lot about other people and other cultures. It is really hard to put into words what a big impact this had on me. It strengthened me in many ways and it also strengthened my will to continue exploring the world. The biggest cultural shock wasn't even being in 5 different countries in such a short time – it was more of a shock coming back home to my small town of Pula, and being back at the school desk.
To anyone that has been thinking about travelling or doing an Erasmus exchange and doesn't feel like they have courage for doing something like this - do it. Just do it. You will experience something incredible and realise you have more courage than you thought. And even though there might be some downs (for example slipping on the icy streets of Brussels, ouch), you will have so many good things coming to you that you will feel like you are floating on a cloud.
And here I am, 3 weeks after my journey, still floating on a cloud with a clear vision - that mobility is my lifestyle. And who knows? Maybe it is yours too. Give it a try. No regretting guaranteed.
I want to say "thank you" to:
- the Sun for shining all of the days;
- Erasmus Student Network and Mov'in Europe for creating this idea and getting everyone together for the competition, and giving me this opportunity;
- StudentUniverse for literally allowing me to float on the clouds;
- Hostelling International for hosting me and making me feel at home in their hostels;
- Thalys for taking me on a movie-like train ride to Paris;
- And every person who welcomed me and hosted me in their lives, and to all of those I met on the road as fellow travellers.
The weather is frosty, exam season is upon so, we are still waging war with a buildup holiday weight, but at least La La Land is as good as they say. You know who else is as good as they say? Our Section in the Spotlight for February: ESN UJ Cracow.
ESN UJ was established back in 2001, and today they are one of the largest sections in Poland. The section recruits twice a year, with the beginning of the semester, and in one cycle they welcome between 40 and 50 new members. If you want to join ESN UJ, you have to fill out an online application, and if you are lucky they send you an invitation for an interview. However, if you wish to become a regular member you need to be engaged in the work of the section. After each recruitment cycle, they organise Training & Integration Camp which serves as strong motivational factor for freshmen to try hard enough to obtain the status of a regular member.
They organise activities for other members, some of which include bowling, ice skating, karaoke, and similar activities. To ensure good communication with other sections in Cracow, they organise Trainings United. Exchange students are welcome to apply for a membership in their section as well. Two years ago, an Erasmus student from England acted as a Party coordinator. They often organise events, such as Eurodinner and Cultural Evenings, which provide a chance for exchange students to get involved. No wonder they won an award for the best ESN section back in 2013!
The section is divided into four parts: Board, Coordinators, Members and Freshmen. The Board is in charge of the entire section, while Coordinators are responsible for their teams and projects. They have 14 teams and projects, some of which include Culture, Tandem, Discover Europe, ESNband, Travel, and many more. ESNcard team in their section works especially hard - at the moment, they have more than 40 partners! Now you know whom to turn to when it comes to partnership tips and tricks.
“ESNband is an apple of our eye - it is a band consisting of ESNers and Erasmus students who meet every week to practice together. At the end of every semester, we throw gigs and the afterparty. There is nothing better than seeing your friends rocking the stage!”
Team coordinators and members are working hard to turn an exchange period in Cracow into an unforgettable experience for everyone. They organise everything, from sport events, band practices, remarkable parties, language meetings, city games, museum visits, to extraordinary travels. They are especially proud of their flagship project, Erasmus Date Auction, a huge charity event involving international students and ESN members who offer their free time in exchange for money for a noble cause. The project is carried out in cooperation with other sections in Cracow, and last year they have managed to collect €1665 for a centre of permanent stay for people with autistic disorder.
Speaking of what they are proud of, they find the work of their ExchangeAbility and SocialErasmus teams extra delightful. They try their best to stay active in the community by organising visits and events in cooperation with orphanages, animal shelters, hospitals, schools and similar institutions. They also prompt local students to take part in their events, especially during Tandem Language Meetings and by taking part in their Mentor Project. Apart from being active in the local community, their members are also active on the national level of ESN Poland and international level of ESN AISBL.
However, the project that makes them unique is ESNdrama, project created by the Culture team for ESN members and Erasmus students who are in love with art and drama. The project consists of weekly practices and a final performance at the end of the academic year.
“It is a perfect opportunity for creative international students to develop and strengthen their acting skills while integrating with Polish students!”
After successful section cooperation with ESN PW Warsaw, as well as international cooperation with sections ISC CTU in Prague, ESN VŠE Praha - Buddy System and Faranto Verein Dresden, 150 events organised in every academic year, and 15 years of existence we can proudly say that ESN UJ Cracow is one of the most dazzling stars in our network!
Written by Tajana Mohnacki
The next ESNsurvey questionnaire has been launched!
This year’s edition of the ESNsurvey is focused on homecoming exchange students with disabilities and students with disabilities without any mobility experience. It aims to explore the challenges and enablers of international exchange programmes for students with disabilities across Europe.
1.4% of Erasmus beneficiaries are students who have chosen to disclose their disability and apply for the Erasmus+ supplementary grant in order to participate in an exchange. ESN’s previous research shows that there are still barriers for students to go on mobility and adding a disability into the equation often makes it feel impossible for some students.
ESN wants to understand the situation as much as we can and find out which conditions and itnerventions at universities contribute to a more accessible atmosphere. Both mobile and non-mobile students with disabilities take part in the process of internationalisation of higher education, and it is in ESN’s interest to understand in which way and to what extent these two benefit the student. How can universities improve the access and inclusion of both local and international students with disabilities? This is our main question, and hence this year's topic: Accessible Mobility.
The questionnaire is divided in nine parts and will deal with the subjects of support services of sending institutions, information provision, participation, barriers and opportunities, grants and funding, and satisfaction with the experience.
Additionally, by gathering information about demographics and the study abroad context, we want to discover the effect, on mobility, of certain variables such as nationality, country of study abroad, length of study abroad, finances, accommodation, etc. The ESNsurvey 2017 aims to map the challenges and enablers of mobility for students with disabilities across Europe. We believe that the results of the survey will help various stakeholders, policy makers and practitioners improve the accessibility and inclusivity of higher education and the structures of international exchange programmes.
For the results of previous surveys, visit ESN.org/ESNsurvey
What is ESNsurvey?
ESNsurvey is the biggest European-wide research project conducted solely by volunteers. The Erasmus Student Network uses the results to advocate for improvements of exchange programmes in Europe. As every year, we hope that thousands of students all around Europe will fill in the survey and tell us their experiences and perceptions related to student mobility.
2017 marks the 30th anniversary of Erasmus - one of the most succesful programmes of the European Union.
Established in 1987 as a student exchange programme, it has since given 9 million the chance to live abroad. Over the years, the programme has continuously grown, bringing all the EU's schemes for education, training, youth and sport mobility under one banner.
Today, Erasmus+ brings far-reaching benefits to Europe. It is widely said that Erasmus plays a significant role in fostering European identity and improving youth employability.
The anniversary campaign began with a press conference held at the European Commission. In a room filled with journalists, Commissioner Tibor Navracsics highlighted the impact and reach of the Erasmus+ Programme, simultaneously releasing the latest figures. Joining him onstage with personal testimonials were Erasmus+ alumni, Michael Ward and Simona Bisboaca.
The opening speeches were followed by a question-and-answer panel with the audience, tackling the topics of European integration and the future of the programme.
The launch event, held at the Parlamentarium on the other side of the European Quarter, saw a ceremonial opening with a performance by our very own Kelly Claeys, member of ESN Belgium. The ceremony was graced by the presence of Commissioners Tibor Navracsics (Education, Culture, Youth and Sport) and Marianne Thyssen (Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility) as well as Ms Silvia Costa MEP.
A notable announcement made during the event was the establishment of the new 'Erasmus Pro', an initiative that aims towards 1 million young European apprentices by 2020.
The floor was shared with Erasmus+ ambassadors - alumni of the programme from its different funding opportunities, sharing their success stories. Besides live testimonials, the screening of inspirational video clips enhanced the message of the plusses in Erasmus+.
ESN also saw a strong representation of over 20 members, demonstrating the support that the network has lent to the programme since its founding in 1989, two years after the establishment of the Erasmus programme.
With such a festive opening, 2017 looks set to be an exciting year ahead, with a host of events organised on the European as well as national levels. For more information, visit the official Erasmus+ 30th anniversary website and the Facebook page of Erasmus+.
On 24th January 2017, ESN and Pernod Ricard signed a partnership agreement to renew the two organisations' collaboration for the 7th consecutive year.
The debate, on the theme of a responsible lifestyle for European students, was graced by the presence of Ms Martine Reicherts, Director-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission, who delivered the opening speech.
The debate also featured Mr Xavier Prats-Monne, Director-General for Health and Food Safety; Ms Martina Dlabajovà MEP; Alexandre Ricard, Chairman and CEO of Pernod Ricard; and Safi Sabuni, President of the Erasmus Student Network as panellists.
A stimulating discussion ensued, with the audience engaging in a lively debate with the panellists. Topics such as cultural differences in alcohol consumption patterns across Europe saw much contribution from the audience, while questions related to alcohol and marketing stirred the audience considerably.
Despite the sometimes challenging nature of the debate, the atmosphere was overwhelmingly positive, with several audience members contributing with their tips on responsible alcohol consumption for youth. ESN representatives from 30 countries also shared their experiences with Erasmus students in encouraging responsible drinking.
Online, participants interacted with each other on Twitter, seeking to capture the atmosphere of the debate and share their advice.
— Euractiv Health (@eaHealthEU) January 24, 2017
The event was partially streamed on the Erasmus Student Network's Facebook page, to a live online audience of over 1,700.
Acknowledging the importance of raising awareness on the dangers of binge-drinking, Alexandre Ricard says of his approach of encouraging the responsible consumption of alcohol:
— ESN International (@ESN_Int) January 24, 2017
At the closure of the debate, Safi Sabuni and Alexandre Ricard took the stage for the official contract renewal ceremony, putting pen to paper on a partnership initially established in 2010.
Over the years, the partnership has grown from strength to strength. Since 2010, the program has organised close to 500 “responsible parties” in 32 countries across Europe and raised awareness about the need for convivial and responsible consumption of alcoholic drinks amongst 330,000 students.
— Pernod Ricard (@Pernod_Ricard) January 24, 2017
In 2016, the 2nd annual Responsible Party Questionnaire yielded over 30,000 responses, a significant improvement compared to the previous years. Preliminary results demonstrate the success of the project - 85% of student respondents view the program positively and 92% of them find the tips they are given very useful.
About Responsible Party
Since 2010, Pernod Ricard and the pan-European association ESN which supports students on university exchanges across more than 39 European countries, have together been organising Responsible Parties during which “ambassador” students raise awareness amongst their peers of the importance of drinking responsibly. Awareness has been raised among 330,000 students since the programme was launched. The ambassadors deliver positive messages about drinking alcohol responsibly and hand out information during student parties.
2017 marks the 30th anniversary or the Erasmus+ programme - a milestone for Europe!
An enduring European success story, Erasmus+ is a cultural phenomenon that has been credited with fostering a pan-European identity. The current programme, running from 2014 to 2020, is set to provide mobility opportunities to over 4 million people. Erasmus+ has also been said to boost employability and job mobility. According to the Erasmus Impact Study, young people who study or train abroad are half as likely to face long-term unemployment.
In celebration of this momentous occasion, a website has been launched to bring together all key players in Erasmus+.
As the key student organisation supporting Erasmus+, ESN has been actively involved in European student mobility for over 27 years. Founded in 1989, 2 years after the establishment of the Erasmus programme, ESN is now a network of over 500 student organisations in 40 countries across Europe. Every day, our members provide services on a voluntary basis to over 220,000 students, under the principle of Students Helping Students.
"The idea to create a student network supporting the Erasmus exchange programme was born in January 1989. The Erasmus Bureau invited 32 ex-Erasmus students to come to Ghent in order to evaluate the Erasmus exchange programme up until then."
Amongst the 32 were a group of students who believed that a more practical, peer-to-peer approach was necessary to facilitate the mobility process. The rest, as they say, is history.
Today, more than 27 years later, ESN is proud to be a close collaborator of the European Commission, working together in a multitude of ways to constantly improve and facilitate youth mobility. Especially in times like these, times of rising xenophobia and Euroskepticism, ESN believes it is ever more important to expose ourselves to other cultures and travel widely - values espoused by Erasmus of Rotterdam, the famous philosopher who lends his name to our cause.
Throughout the year, ESN's member organisations will be organising various events and activities under the scopeof the 30th anniversary celebrations. Many of our sections will also be collaborating with national-level celebrations organised by Erasmus+ National Agencies. To keep informed on ESN's celebrations, be sure to follow the Erasmus Student Network on Facebook!
We wish you all a happy 2017, and many happy years of travelling ahead!
On Tuesday 24th January 2017, EurActiv will host a high-level debate on the topic of experiences around the Erasmus programme and the road towards a more responsible and safe behaviour of young adults.
Organised in collaboration with the Erasmus Student Network and Pernod Ricard, the event features an opening speech from the Director-General for Education and Culture, Ms Martine Reicherts.
The debate itself will be graced by the following panellists:
- Dan Luca Senior Director, EurActiv (Chair)
- Sarantis Michalopoulos Journalist, EurActiv (Moderator)
- Xavier Prats-Monne Director-General for Health and Food Safety, European Commission
- Alexandre Ricard Chairman and CEO, Pernod Ricard
- Safi Sabuni President, Erasmus Student Network
- Martina Dlabajovà MEP
- Vannessa Debiais-Santon Head of Sector Erasmus+, European Commission
Questions will include:
- What are the experiences and expectations of Erasmus students?
- How can responsible partying be promoted among students?
- What are the roles for student organisations, stakeholders and policymakers?
We kick off 2017 with a visit to the capital of Bavaria, Munich! A city full of culture, fantastic traditions, wonderful spirit and an ESN section, which manages to combine all of these elements together to create something very special indeed. Say hello to ESN MESA München, the first Section in the Spotlight of 2017!
Their rather long history began in 1999. The section, which back then was known as Munich Erasmus Student Association (or MESA, in short) was founded by former exchange students who wished nothing than to support incoming exchange students on their new journeys in Munich universities. They took the next step of embracing the ESN spirit by officially joining the network in 2003. Since that fateful year things have really began to kick off for them!
The ESN MESA team functions thanks to the guidance and vision of their 9 member board of executives. More importantly though, ESN MESA consists of international members and members of other Munich universities, creating a truly diverse environment in which people of different backgrounds can improve themselves.
While new members are treated to a lovely organisational workshop, older members can enjoy the so called “Stammtisch”, a bi-weekly informal meeting where exchange students and ESN MESA members can mingle in interesting locations. ESN MESA also organises a “Team Building weekend” once a semester where old and new members alike have a chance to become a team.
”We always stay in the countryside to reduce distractions, be within the team and enjoy one afternoon hiking or relaxing in nature.The weekends are a huge success in case of motivation, growing together as team and integrating the new members.”
ESN MESA also organises around 50 activities for Erasmus Students per semester. From cultural events such as visiting opera houses and museums to very original ideas such as “Kastenlauf”, a peculiar beer-cart-race which was awarded the StarAward in 2008! Despite all these great events, the one flagship project which makes ESN MESA stand out from the rest is their ESN Oktoberfest project. By inviting exchange students from different regions (and countries too!) they create a truly unique opportunity for Erasmus students to experience one of Bavaria’s most well-known events, Oktoberfest.
“This event is not just a lot of fun and a taste of Bavarian culture for everyone joining - it as well strengthens the cooperation of the regional sections.”
Apart from being one of the regional precursors in making exchange students happy, ESN MESA has not forgotten about their ESN spirit. By frequently organising SocialErasmus events like cleaning up cities after floods and helping out in refugee camps and animal shelters, and eagerly creating ExchangeAbility events such as Dinner in the Dark and Wheelchair Basketball, ESN MESA truly shows that they understand that a little compassion can go a long way.
Sure, ESN MESA is a section which frequently excels in organising national events like the German National Platform in 2015, or the Cultural Medley in 2007, and that many members of ESN MESA end up in the National Board of Germany (5 members over the last two boards!), but the real magic of this section lies in the fact that they’re willing to go above and beyond the call of duty. They’re not afraid of breaking the mould and creating something truly visionary and breakthrough, which can probably be summarised by their section mascot, a lovely Wolfpertinger! (Don’t worry, I also had to google what that is!)