Spring is already here, and so is our Section in the Spotlight of this month. Ready? Drum roll, please, for a Spanish powerhouse - ESN Barcelona UPF.
ESN Barcelona UPF, otherwise known as UPFamily, was born in 2009 when several curious ex-Erasmus individuals started communicating with their International Relations Offices. Since then, generations of newbies called by different names - ranging from animals of the year, to places connected to the President’s last name - have been contributing to the expansion of the section. This year belongs to the generation of Ballenas!
The section consists of 40 members, including 6 Board members and 5 Committee Chairs - Culture, Sports, Projects, Buddy Programme, and Website and ComCom. Furthermore, over the year, they often create Working Groups in order to deal with specific tasks and support some of the functions of the Local Board. If you are a former Erasmus student, you can apply for membership by filling out a form and participating in a meeting focused on ESN and internal work. Only after that can you help the section to coordinate countless activities.
Other the constant care they provide their exchange students with, they celebrate the international spirit by having dinner in a Chinese restaurant after every meeting. This opportunity is most suitable for newbies because they can become acquainted with experienced members through improvised speed friending. It is obvious they appreciate their members since, twice a year, they organise a training event meant for new members. The main goal of the event is maintaining good relations within their UPFamily.
Speaking of events, they spend most of their time with their exchange students. They hold dozens of events for them, starting with Integration Weekend, which seems to be their number one activity. However, the most intense days are Welcome Days when volunteers work endlessly to help integrate exchange students into their local community. Furthermore, cooking classes are also popular - is there a better way to get to know the region than by tasting it? As well as these, sports activities are popular, too.
They put a lot of effort into activities organised within the frame of international projects of ESN where they collaborate with coordinators from 3 Barcelona universities. They actively work on implementing Erasmus in Schools, while nowadays they are working hard to improve the aforementioned activity in combination with Mov’in Europe aimed at high school students. They also care about the cause of ExchangeAbility and plan to map their university in the near future. They are not behind with grants either. They have received a grant from the Government of Catalonia to organise the pre-AGM CNR Barcelona 2018 and an ESAA grant to organise an educational event.
It is worth mentioning that members of ESN Barcelona UPF are involved in social causes as well. Their current flagship project is a Gender Working Group which wrote a protocol against gender violence in cooperation with Gender Department of UPF University. It is aimed at informing and preventing gender violence within the section which applies to their activities and students.
The involvement of local students is an integral part of the section. By creating a project "Mov'in Your Buddy", they intend to match local students going on exchange with international students coming from their future universities.
“There’s no doubt this year is the year of our members.”
We shouldn’t forget section cooperation; not only do they cooperate with other three universities in Barcelona, they have section cooperation with ESN Unicatt Milano as well. They cooperated on the organisation of SWEP Milano 2018, and very recently on the largest network event, AGM, which took place in Costa Brava.
“All these events can only motivate new members to keep leaving the mark of our section on every level.”
The uniqueness of ESN Barcelona UPF lies in the quality of its members. They have an incredible amount of respect for each other, they like to share the kindness and happiness which makes for a positive impact on the teamwork, as well as on the high-quality experiences of international students. They are creating one UPFamily that can’t be stopped from making changes while still improving the section and themselves.
The temperatures may be under 0 degrees, however, our sections are working hard to stay on fire! Make yourself a cup of hot beverage, wrap yourself in a blankie and prepare to be amazed by our Section in the Spotlight for March: ISC VUT Brno!
International Students Club of University of Technology in Brno or ISC VUT Brno was officially founded in 2007, however, they have a history much longer than that. Back in 2003, when the section wasn’t formally recognised, it had only one member - the section founder - taking care of 20-30 exchange students.
ISC VUT Brno is managed by its Local Board consisting of seven members who make all the major decisions and lead the section according to specific internal rules. Each Board member is responsible for one or more specific teams consisting of various number of people who help them handle their workload in their respective fields. Currently, there are more than 30 active members in the section alongside 120 buddies who take care for more than 600 exchange students at the University of Technology in Brno. Wondering how to become a member or a buddy? Well, all of them are chosen by the HR, after filling an application form and doing an interview which aims to check the applicants' communication skills and their possible contribution to the section. They also have a unique position in the section, Knowledge Manager, who’s responsible for transferring knowledge between old and new members.
It’s obvious that ISC VUT Brno takes care of its members, so it’s no surprise they organise team buildings, workshops and other activities for their members regularly. They have three days team buildings for all of their members, as well as Board team buildings. Alumni usually hold workshops for new members in order to educate them about the structure, projects and everything else related to ESN. With regular section meetings, they also organise Buddy meetings where they educate new members about the Buddy programme and how to easily solve typical situations or problems exchange students have.
When it comes to activities organised for exchange students, they rock at various sports activities such as ice skating, skiing, tennis and volleyball, as well as cultural activities such as movie nights, board games and karaoke. Every Tuesday they organise Presentation of Nations where 2-3 groups of exchange students present the countries they come from. Afterwards, they organise a thematic party. Quiz Nights are a regular occurrence at ISC VUT Brno as well, where they test the participants' knowledge in various thematic areas.
“These events promote team spirit, closer acquaintance, but also to deepen knowledge.”
They also organise lots of events and trips, some of them even on regular basis. They divide them into two categories, small or one-day trips and large trips which can last up to several days. Small trips include travel to the nearby locations, while large trips include cross-country travel.
They organise some trips and events in cooperation with other sections from Brno, better known under the name ESN Brno United cooperation. The cooperation includes events such as International Ball, Erasmus Cup, Flag Parade and interesting themed parties. All these events and activities are possible due to the section’s good relations with University and Municipality, as well as an extremely successful distribution of ESNcards.
They’re also very into the projects of ESN International. They organise activities such as Dinner in the Dark and Sign Language as a part of ExchangeAbility project, and they often organise Erasmus in Schools under SocialErasmus. They organise one unique activity called “Drink Beer, Save Cats” where they collect returnable bottles from exchange students and from the money they receive in return, they buy food for cats from Cat Shelter in Brno.
Although the section supports all international projects of ESN, they have especially fuzzy feelings towards Mov’in Europe.
“Main goals are to show the local students that studying in a foreign country is not as hard as they might think, to increase the interest for mobility and to entice cultural understanding by organising meetings for local and exchange students.”
By attending the events, local students have a chance to hear lectures from university employees, former exchange students and find internship opportunities abroad. This year, their plan is to organise the same event together with all sections from Brno, meant for all university and high school students from Brno. Talking about aiming high, huh?
However, this isn’t the only way for them to include local community in their activities. Twice a week, they organise an event called “Run for Friendship” which aims to create a bond between local and international students through sports. Also, they organise a BBQ for approximately 400 local students twice a year, during the summer and before the winter semester.
ISC VUT Brno is very active on the national and international level of the network - they find it’s very important for their members to stay aware of what’s going on in the world of ESN.
When asked what makes their section unique, they answer: team spirit! After every meeting, they go to a pub where they chat about everything related and not related to ESN.
Well, there’s definitely a thing or two all of us can learn from this lively section!
Written by Tajana Mohnacki
2018 may have only just begun, but this section has already achieved a major breakthrough! Although it will turn only four this May, its members’ impressive achievements ooze effort, experience, commitment and excellence. And that is why the Section in the Spotlight for February 2018 is – ESN ASE Bucharest!
ESN ASE Bucharest was officially registered on the 24th of May 2014 at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies after it was formally approved as a section, which is when they celebrate their birthday. Ever since, it has grown to have ninety volunteers, forty active members and fifty buddies in their Buddy Team. Their activities are coordinated by the Local Board, comprised of a President, Local Representative, Vice-President, Vice-President for Marketing and PR, Treasurer, and Secretary, who are supported by two members each: ESNbuddy Coordinator and Alumni Coordinator, who support the VP; Copywriter and Visuals Responsible, who support the VP for Marketing and PR; ESNcard Coordinator and Partnership Manager, who support the Treasurer; two Events-planning Coordinators, who are supervised by the Secretary; two Project-management Coordinators, who are supervised by the LR and who take care of the implementation of SocialErasmus, Mov’in Europe and ExchangeAbility.
ESN ASE Bucharest has two recruitment processes each year, one in August and another one in February. Their last recruitment proved to be particularly successful, following an extensive online campaign, resulting in 65 applications and 32 new members. The section cultivates their team spirit carefully:
“If there’s something we have learned from the previous years, it’s that volunteers play a major role in the development of the section. Therefore, we try to motivate them by constantly organising events for them.” - say members of the section.
The most important event happens during the induction days which are usually held two weeks after recruitment. Over a period of two days, volunteers get better acquainted with the section and ESN in general by attending presentations on topics relevant to ESN ASE Bucharest, such as their identity, activities, events, projects, opportunities within the organisation and so on. This is also a good opportunity for them to get to know other volunteers and moreover, the ‘family’ they are going to be part of.
They usually have two meetings per month with all the volunteers and a couple of team building sessions throughout the semester – social games, board games, cooking, etc. They also award the volunteer of the month for his or her activity during the past month - they give them a certificate and a small gift for their involvement. They work very hard to enable their volunteers with opportunities to develop their skills, so sometimes they bring speakers to teach their members, for example, how to speak in front of big crowds or perform first aid.
This big family is always open to making new friends from other sections in their city - they organise team buildings for volunteers not only from their section but also for the ones from other sections in Bucharest. They often organise joint events for Erasmus students in their city which sometimes requires they have regular informal meetings in cafes, pubs or other places.
ESN ASE Bucharest also organises a wide range of events for their international students.
“Since most of our section members already went on an Erasmus+ mobility, we are aware of how important it is to organise as many interesting activities as possible for our incoming students.“
They organise different types of events, such as: Welcome Weeks, which usually include: an introductory session; Buddy meetings; Traditional Dinners; parties each Thursday or Friday together with ESN UniBuc and the candidate section ESN Politehnica Bucharest; entertainment events, such as Laser Tag, Escape Rooms, Urban Pool, bowling, board games, treasure hunt etc.; and trips, for example the trip to Mogosoaia each semester, Halloween in Transylvania (their National Event), Winter Trip, Ski Trip, and Escape to Vama Veche (another one of their National Events). In the past year, they have managed to organise over ninety-five events.
Among those, there are events not so strictly related to either ESN or Erasmus but aimed at other students and the local community. They organise meetings at different faculties where students who would like to go abroad can meet former Erasmus students and find out about their experiences in a different country and ask them for advice. This is also a good opportunity for them to find out about ESN ASE Bucharest since many of them want to join the section once they come back from their mobility period.
Thanks to their work, dedication and creativity, they have managed to attract several very valuable partners and sponsors. They have a strong partnership with their municipality in terms of promotion materials – printed bags, booklets, t-shirts, badges and other materials – for the Welcome Days and for other events such as National Platforms, Local Board Meetings, etc.
When it comes to sponsorships, Accenture has been helping them financially in the past years, especially for their ‘GoInternational’ project (Mov’in Europe), dedicated to outgoing Erasmus students. In June 2016, the section applied for the ‘Go Social with ESAA’ grants and received €700 for the project called ‘Go Green! Go Clean!’. Moreover, in 2017 they had a lot of sponsors such as Red Bull, LovePlus, Lipton, Corso and others which offered them materials for national and internal events.
Their ideas don’t end there. What’s next for them is the implementation of a brand new original flagship project, ESN Romania’s new national event - Erasmus LAN Party. The aim of this event is to offer Erasmus students from all over the country the opportunity to satisfy their need for playing video games on PC, PlayStation and board games. Erasmus students can challenge their friends to play games outside the competition as well, just for fun.
ESN ASE Bucharest has members in every Committee except for the IT Committee and has sent many of them to ESN international events. Some of them have also been part of the OC of two of the biggest international events in their country, Escape to Vama Veche and Halloween in Transylvania, and will participate in the organisation of the national event ESN LAN Party.
What makes ESN ASE Bucharest unique?
“Someone who all other sections are always interested in, especially during national and international events: Parizaki – our mascot! Parizaki comes from far far away, from a distant Erasmus land, with a purpose to protect Erasmus students. He comes with us to all major events. When we take Parizaki to events we have to pay attention because he’s a very desirable mascot and he has already been kidnapped a couple of times – he always finds his way back to us, though.”
Every Erasmus+ student in Bucharest knows Parizaki, as he has his own Facebook profile and can get friend requests. You can add him too, he is always happy to make new friends!
Their hard work, dedication and imaginative nature, especially when it comes to organising events, has rightfully deserved ESN ASE Bucharest the title of the Section in the Spotlight. Behind that success hides a team that is strong, open-minded and open-hearted. Do you feel like joining them on Escape to Vama Veche or Halloween in Transylvania yet?
All photo credits: ESN ASE Bucharest
Five former Erasmus students, full of freshly gained experiences acquired during their studies abroad, have decided to immerse themselves in a new adventure and introduce ESN to their local university - the section was founded in 2011 at Cattolica University in Milano. Only a year after the section was established, it becomes known inside the Italian network thanks to the quantity and quality of the organized events. Let us introduce you to the very first Section in the Spotlight of this year - ESN Unicatt Milano!
The section counts around 50 active members including 5 Board members, 3 guarantors and some Board supporters who work on the specific projects or activities. The section is divided into 6 working groups - Partnerships, Communication, ESN Projects, Tandem, Culture, and Sports. In order to ensure proper integration of members, meetings are organized by each working group, focussing on plans for the future and certain skills needed.
New members of the network come from two groups: "the returnees" and the international students. "The returnees" are the students returning from studying abroad. Every 2 or 3 months the “Welcome Back” activity is organized by the section in collaboration with the International Office, which is aimed at "the returnees" and their inclusion in the ESN activities. Since Cattolica University is an international university, the section is composed of international students, as well. To ensure successful integration, each new member is assigned one experienced member to mentor them. The section members also integrate newbies into the ESN community by allowing them to join groups and mailing lists in order to show them how ESN works and what kind of work the network does. To become an active member, newbies have to participate in the section meetings or become a person responsible for a certain activity.
Other than that, they organise ESN School at least twice a year to ensure proper training of new members and their introduction to the ESN structure, its projects, and more. In addition, members can participate in Lombard Coordination organised by all the sections from the Lombardy region. Members dedicate most of their time to ensure the best experience for their exchange students, which is evident from their full calendar composed of diverse activities. They also offer help to exchange students in their academic life and provide a housing service. “ESN Tuesday” is an important day for their activities, during which there are karaoke nights or tandem nights, which consist of teaching Italian in an informal manner by playing fun linguistic games. Apart from that, there are also international dinners, cultural visits, sport-events, and trips. The most popular party is definitely a "Tram Party" held in a historical tram that goes around the city.
In 2015, ESN Unicatt Milano organised "Integration Weekend" - the main event during the "Welcome Days". It’s an event where participants spend 24 hours together in a country house doing activities which help them to get to know each other. The section is very proud of their "ESN Swim Break | Milano Pool Party" - a section's flagship project. The event takes place at the biggest Italian indoor waterpark and it is nationally recognized since it has more than 1,000 participants every semester.
The section cooperates with the other five Milanese sections under the name of "ESN Milano United" which allowed them to win an award for "Best Section Cooperation" at AGM Warsaw. The section's cooperation mentality goes beyond the Italian borders and ESN Unicatt Milano collaborates with ESN Barcelona UPF and ESN Budapest Corvinus.
The uniqueness of the section lies in its diversity and the capability of its members. Since the university offers a large variety of courses, members have the backgrounds suitable for their positions. ESN Unicatt Milano is a really close group of friends; they call themselves a family and are very proud of that. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this magical section?
This month's Section in the Spotlight is a true representation of the spirit of the Erasmus Student Network. It was founded all the way back in 1991, but it has not lost any of its enthusiasm, motivation and drive. After all these years, they are still keeping their spot under the lights. The Section in the Spotlight for November 2017 is – ESN Porto!
ESN Porto was established in 1991 at the University of Porto and is the oldest ESN section in Portugal. At this very moment, the section has around 45 members, which include: a Local Board of five people (President, Vice-President, Treasurer, LR, and Event Manager); the coordinators of seven departments (HR, Communication, IT, Projects, Partnership, Activities, and Parties); and two supporting positions (Education Officer and Secretary).
Each semester, ESN Porto welcomes new members into their group. In order to make sure the quality of the section is maintained, they have a special system of selecting newbies:
“We do the first screening and invite them to a session where we explain ESN on the international, national and local levels. To be accepted, they need to have more than one academic year left of their university course and be free every Monday night. After choosing the candidates, they join ESN and are called ‘Parachutes’ – because they fall from the sky. They have the welcome month to show us how they work - which is then evaluated by HR with the help of all the members. If they pass, they are called ‘New Members’ and have a maximum period of one year to be nominated by an existing member to receive full membership” -
ESN Porto is famous for their events. They have their own ESN Porto Academy, which organises training sessions, workshops and team building exercises. In international ESN circles, they've hosted numerous major events: the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 1995; the South-Eastern European Platform (SEEP) in 2006; the Council of National Representatives (CNR) in 2009 and 2014; and the International Erasmus Games (IEG) in 2017. They will also host the South-Western European Platform (SWEP) in 2018.
“We organise all kinds of activities, from cultural to educational. We host a trip every weekend (!), mainly within Portugal and sometimes to Spain. During the Welcome Month, we have events every day, such as a boat trip on the Douro River with Porto wine cellars visit, Surf Day, Portuguese night (our most famous event), City Rally, Night Walk and many others. During the rest of the semester, we organise at least one cultural activity per week, for example, a World Dinner. Every Wednesday and Saturday, we have themed parties and on weekends, as said before, we run trips. Last year, we organised 80 activities, 25 trips and 38 parties” -
ESN Porto’s flagship project is their own brainchild – the Portuguese Night. This is an event they do every semester, during the Welcome Month in a big house in front of the river, decorated with all the symbols and figures of Portugal. Their Erasmus students have the opportunity to try all the traditional Portuguese dishes and assist in the performance of academic tunas – the people that dress as Harry Potter in Portugal – fado groups and Rancho Folclórico – all traditional music.
ESN Porto collaborates with universities and companies involved in education and employability events. In collaboration with the University of Porto. “We believe that we can only improve if we have all of our members on the same level of knowledge or at least work on acquiring that knowledge. ESN Porto has always had a problem trying to plan workshops and training sessions for our members because we are extremely busy with events for our Erasmus students, so now we do it in the first hour of our weekly meeting” -
The section also implements the ESN projects ExchangeAbility, Social Erasmus and Mov’in Europe. The members regularly travel to other ESN countries’ events and are involved in the activities of the Committees, the Audit Teams and the Secretariat.
What makes ESN Porto unique? In their own words:
“We work with 15 universities and 30 local partners for 3,500 Erasmus students; we organise two Welcome Months, 80 activities, 25 trips, 38 parties, and 20 international projects activities; we sell 3,000 ESNcards; we have 2 recruitment drives, 12 team building activities, 2 weekend retreats, and 15 training sessions per year. This is what makes us unique – we work hard” -
For their 20th birthday, in 2011, ESN Porto created their own brand: t-shirts which said either “Please, send me back to Porto” or “Erasmus Addicted”. Their impressive history really proves that their members are still Erasmus Addicted and that this addiction is not fading away. Parabéns!Photo credits: ESN Porto
This small section located in western Slovakia was founded in March 2016 and is currently working under two universities - University of St. Cyril and Methodius and Trnava's University. ESN Trnava is mainly managed by the President, Vice-President, Local Representative and Partnership Manager. Among local coordinators are Mov’in Europe coordinator, SocialErasmus coordinator, ExchangeAbility coordinator, HR and Buddy coordinator. Buddy coordinator is responsible for connections between local and exchange students. The structure of the section is very inclusive and all active members are welcomed to participate in the meetings between Board members and local coordinators.
Since the section is young, there are no foreigners as members of the team. At the moment the section is focused on the recruitment of new members which is conducted by the HR team who makes campaigns at universities and manages social media campaigns. All potential members always go through the personal interviews with the board members.
ESN Trnava is active in organising many events both for ESN members and exchange students. Events for ESN members include teambuilding activities when members share the experiences that they have outside of ESN life. They also include special meetings with insights of the section's work. In April 2017 ESN Trnava held first ever "Meet Your Colleagues" meeting where Slovakian ESN members could share their experiences. To empower relationships with thirty exchange students the section organised a special event called “Weekend in the Forest”.
ESN Trnava places a big emphasis on showing the Slovak culture to exchange students by organising trips around Slovakia and Slovak Nights with traditional food and dances. During national dinners, exchange students can present their countries through food, culture, quizzes, traditional clothes and dances.
ESN Trnava is also actively involved in international ESN projects. For example, SocialErasmus which includes volunteering help to the local community. Exchange students and ESN members help to locals with dog walking, clothes donation and many other activities. They also organise Erasmus in Schools, where exchange students talk about their home countries and mobility experiences with local pupils at secondary schools. On top of that, exchange students can join “Books, Children & Erasmus” campaign when students visit elementary schools and read books together. Furthermore, ESN Trnava is involved in work with ExchangeAbility and Mov’in Europe projects.
Members of ESN Trnava do not stand back when it comes to the participation in national and international events. Not only can you meet them at National and mini-National Platforms of ESN Slovakia, they also participate in Czechoslovak Platforms, National Platforms held with their neighbours, ESN Czech Republic and Meet Your Colleagues meetings. When it comes to international events, they are presented at AGM and CEP. All of this helps them stay motivated and gives them new ideas.
“We want to ensure the best time for our exchange students and leave a mark on their memories with our work. Smiles and happiness of our Erasmus students are the most valuable reward which we can get.”
- Stanislava Vojteková, Local Representative of ESN Trnava
Although ESN Trnava is a relatively small and young section, it is capable of big things and we can expect that they will continue their growth and success. As they stated, they are not afraid of leaving their comfort zone to make revolutionary things!
October marks the beginning of a new semester. It is a time when all sections of the Erasmus Student Network start their engines and get ready for another ten months of action and excitement. Some of them have already got the ball rolling and thus have earned the right to contend for the prestigious Section in the Spotlight award. But there can only be one winner, and this time it is – ESN PW Warsaw!
ESN PW started off back in 2005 as the initiative called Mentor for foreign students at the Warsaw University of Technology. Over the course of time, the members of Mentor noticed they needed more activities than their initial organisation could provide, so they founded an ESN section, which was officially registered in 2007. The section celebrated their tenth birthday this January.
ESN PW Warsaw consists of several levels of members: freshers, the newbies; regular members; honorary members, ‘ESN PW’s Hall of Fame and Glory’; supporters, who do not attend university; the Audit Commission; and the Board. The Board is composed of the President, the Vice President, the Treasurer and two HR Members. Their work is facilitated by the team coordinators within the section.
Like all the sections of ESN Poland, ESN PW Warsaw is well-known for putting together all sorts of fun projects aimed at both its members and exchange students. They have organised numerous workshops, training sessions, social activities such as ice-skating and bowling, city games, visits to museums and sites of cultural importance, and so on.
The section also created several very special and distinctive projects which include Creative, which “focuses on the cultural side of Warsaw’s life”; Travel, which is their flagship project; and Polish-themed parties. Perhaps the most interesting ones is ESNband, a musical group that gathers ESNers and exchange students who play musical instruments, sing or simply have a passion for music.
ESN PW supports the international projects SocialErasmus, ExchangeAbility, Erasmus in Schools, MapAbility, Mov’in Europe, and Responsible Party. Many of its members are involved in ESN affairs on the national and international levels. ESN PW organised several meetings of ESN Poland, and most importantly, co-organised pre-AGM CNR and AGM Warsaw.
When asked what made their section unique, they said:
“It may sound a bit cliche, but it’s the team. ESN PW consist of many different personalities, people with different talents who just get along. We are one big family, ready to act. Thanks to having such a great team, we are not afraid of organising big events like CNR, NP, CLR or Polish Wedding party for one hundred people. Other sections can definitely look up to us, when it comes to integrating members & training them.”
The team spirit among the section’s members and their dedication have made ESN PW Warsaw the deserving winner of this month’s Section in the Spotlight. If they have managed to do all this in just ten years, who knows what will happen in another ten? Their work should serve as an inspiration, encouragement and motivating force to us all.
Photo credits: ESN PW Warsaw
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 email@example.com!
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.