Being part of the LGBTQIA+ community while on Erasmus may sound like a tricky combination, but thankfully the volunteers from ESN have found ways to make each international student feel safe and respected in such a multicultural and diverse atmosphere. One of these good examples comes from the ESN sections in Prague and ESN CZ that organise and support the initiative “Erasmus in All Colours”.
The event is nothing new for the ESN volunteers from Prague: it is, in fact, a tradition already - with 6 previous editions. The most recent one happened at the beginning of March 2023 and gathered more than 100 participants - both local and international students united in their willingness to learn more about LGBTQIA+ topics and the current situation in the Czech Republic regarding people from this community. “Erasmus in All Colours” has a special place in the event calendar of the local volunteers. There is even more potential for it to become a more prominent and recognisable initiative promoting the awareness and empowerment of the LGBTQIA+ community. So far, it is a one-day event that includes presentations, workshops, a discussion forum, as well as icebreaker games, a drag show and an afterparty. In other words, it is indeed an event that celebrates diversity by teaching you new things and providing you with a safe environment to feel and express yourself.
What makes the event very diverse in content as well, is the collaboration between the ESN sections in Prague with LGBTQIA+ student clubs (from Charles University for example) that enrich the agenda and give more insight to the whole event. What’s more, the moderators and facilitators are members of the LGBTQIA+ community, eager to answer the questions of the participants and help them shape what this community stands for and how it improves diversity in our society.
Some of the ESN volunteers shared that the biggest achievement after the last event was that the Erasmus students themselves took the initiative. They created an informal WhatsApp chat for LGBTQIA+ people where they exchanged recommendations, ideas and good practices, they started going together to drag shows and other events in the city and in general they found a safe space.
The feedback from the event has been positive, which encourages the ESN members to keep up the good work and think about how to make it even better. They told us that even though it may be tiring to organise and coordinate such an event, in the end, the result is rewarding and they see the positive change in thinking among their peers and communities.
“Being international is being diverse!”
It is very rewarding to see that the event “Erasmus in All Colours” was a great success and even other sections from ESN CZ have reached out to get some tips on how to organise similar events on the topic. The most rewarding part of it is that not only the international students but also the volunteers are more educated on LGBTQIA+ topics and more tolerant in their daily lives. Sharing experiences from locals and people coping with similar issues helps others in the community feel understood and free to speak.
We hope that ESN UCT Prague will keep up with creating space for this initiative and inspire more people to do so!
Here is the Section in the Spotlight for April - ESN en UV! Let's get to know the biggest section in Valencia and its fantastic initiatives.
ESN en UV was founded in 2011 by five members, and here they are today with 80 active volunteers. With the motto “there is strength in unity”, they work tirelessly together with their neighbours ESN Valencia UPV and ESN UCV to promote their Mediterranean city full of magic and ensure an amazing mobility experience for incoming students and trainees.
When you look at their event calendar you will see that they are busy as a bee but it is certain that they have fun at the same time. They organise many activities, ranging from parties to sports events, from trips to social responsibility projects and many more. Alongside their fixed calendar (different theme parties and International Dinner every other Tuesday, beer pong on Wednesdays, cultural events every Sunday, and beach cleaning every month) they have organised various health and well-being activities such as surfing, running, zumba, volleyball, dodgeball (yes!), etc., plus some unique events such as soap making, zero waste tour, axe throwing (taking the necessary safety measures of course), and 8th of March Banner Workshop. When it comes to parties, the variety is large - they have Spring and Easter Parties, Traffic Light Party, their famous Meeting Points, and multiple Fallas Parties to celebrate the festival in Valencia with the well-known mascletà (a firework show during the day). But do they organise trips? Say no more! They arrange plenty of trips within the city and country, and they promote ESN Spain’s National Events as well. They even hosted the Evento Nacional: Valencia in October last year for the second time since 2019.
However, in ESN we do not only have fun and travel, and they know that very well. They are very good at implementing multiple principles of ESN (the so-called Causes) in their events. For example, they organised an Erasmus in Schools project on Christmas combining it with social inclusion by motivating local students to write Christmas letters to elderly people. Bringing up this subject, we should not forget their other inclusive initiatives such as LGBTQ+ friendly events (Rainbow Meeting Points), safe zones for both members of the community and women, and activities with refugees and elderly people held jointly with local associations.
On their superb Instagram page, besides the colourful memories from their events, ESN en UV often marks important days such as International Women’s Day, Transgender Day, Equal Pay Day, Day of Women and Girls in Science, Day of Persons with Disabilities, etc. It should be noted that their posts are in English, which also is proof of how inclusive they are, and through their communication they promote the responsible drinking campaign within the Responsible Party initiative.
The section has many local partners that can be found on their website, highlighting an interesting partnership with the tattoo studio Inkpulso within which they provide discounts for the Erasmus Memories tattoo collection so that the mobility people remember their experience for good.
But how do they cope with multitasking? Well, the answer is hidden in their comprehensive structure and volunteer management strategy. Every local board member of ESN en UV has their community. This helps with the division of tasks in the short term and preparing future board members in the long term. Additionally, they have groups for the different Causes, which is the reason for the diverse and rich activities the section organises. Yet, “ESNing” does not always mean working hard but also having fun and bonding with other volunteers. ESN en UV sustains their members' motivation by keeping their WhatsApp groups active and sending funny memes (who doesn't love that, right?). They hold local platforms to discuss their strategy but also regularly meet online with their buddy section in Italy - ESN Torino, which expands their members' network. They try to meet outside of ESN, particularly inviting newer members as well since this strengthens their internal communication.
ESN en UV is a pretty active section constantly trying to improve the experience of thousands of mobility students and trainees coming to their city every year and to organise impactful activities enriching society. They have learnt to never give up in the face of a challenge and always try to make progress. Their Communication Manager Rocco Gargiulo says, “ESN is like a place where you can make mistakes, the important thing is to learn from them. If you have an idea, we can do it, we can put the idea into reality.”
Written by Deniz Hızlı
There are around 380 international students coming to the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague each semester. Now, there are around 13 active volunteers of ESN CZU Prague that make sure those students have the time of their life.
ESN CZU Prague works with the university to enhance the quality of mobility for incoming students. The University often contacts the section to show up at the events organised by different faculties. This is a great opportunity to talk to local students and tell them more about the opportunities for youth, but also the ESN section itself. Additionally, there is cooperation between ESN CZU Prague and student associations that results in networking and joint events. The section also has an alumni network they collaborate with.
On the first days of introducing students to life in Prague, they do campus tours and in the evening ice-breaking games at the pubs. Up next - and cannot be forgotten - the city tours! Prague is a real gem to discover. On the Welcome Week weekend, small Prague trips are organised, to beautiful places also outside the city.
They make trips around the Czech Republic for international students - it’s an easy way to stay connected. It happens often that international students take part in trivia organised by the section where they can gather in a pub or cafe and get warm and cosy.
"Being part of the team is one of the most exciting things, showing students around, and guiding them with information. Every time we make a trip, we can see the gratitude. Making the trip happen is difficult, but when it's done, it’s rewarding!" - says, the current Communication Manager of the ESN CZU Prague, Jana.
Copyright: ESN CZU Prague
When asked about their ways of keeping the international community engaged, they explained that communication is the key and a proper way - an impactful way of addressing things to others. Giving people more information and answering their needs leads to success.
"I think we are engaging the students to stay with us; it’s based on the relationship. We are with them from the very beginning. The Welcome Week is the most crucial one to make all the connections. Students really need us, and they know we’re there for them. That’s also why they join our activities and events", continues Jana.Balance between life and organising events
Of course, sometimes it may be difficult to find time and meet all the demands.
"Staying in the community of Erasmus people is the best. They are open-minded, and it’s easy to talk with them. Our section is full of great people, we’re like another small family. When you do the events and you get feedback from students, asking for even more - that’s my motivation. When we joined ESN, it was during the pandemic, and we did it because we wanted to meet people. It was also after my Erasmus and I wanted to stay in that community", shares Jana.
Copyright: ESN CZU Prague
By the initiative of one of the members, the section started to work with a calendar to plan everything. It’s just another step that helps out in making even more diversified activities.
They also post on Telegram and try to reply to all of the questions. Students share feedback with them after the events, but more often they come to the members in person during the events.
Copyright: ESN CZU Prague
"I just stepped into ESN and took over. When I think about doing something, I stick to that. As the President, I’m determined to take care of my section and motivate the members. Sometimes, there is lots of pressure and information coming to me, however, I won’t give up. I wish more people would go with me to the statutory national events and there were more members, to have more support, knowledge for the section as there has not been enough knowledge transfer", - says Teresa.
What can be therefore a takeaway for all the ESN volunteers that want to promote their initiatives among incoming and local students?
"Take advice from the experienced ones, don’t panic if there is a problem. You’re doing it for students and we’re volunteering. Do it for fun because fun is what you want to take from the events", - says Teresa.
How can being a volunteer help you improve your mental Health? What can we do to improve the lives of the Erasmus students coming to our city? Why should mental health be that important in our lives?
These were some of the questions that led ESN Venezia to organise “Volunthealing”, the Event that won the Activity in the Spotlight of October. How is an event like this born? Let’s dive in ESN Venezia!Life in the Laguna
Venezia is a city in the North East of Italy, built on 118 small islands, all located in the Venetian Lagoon (or Laguna Veneta in Italian) and separated by canals and over 400 bridges. It has been the capital of the Republic of Venice for more than a millennium, making the city the most important centre of trade and commerce.
It’s no wonder that approximately 1000 students decide yearly to come to this city for their Erasmus. ESN Venezia is always ready to welcome them and make their experience meaningful.The Importance of Mental Health
Mental Health has always been an essential topic to the ESN volunteers of Venezia: as most of them are not from the region, getting settled in such a particular city as this one can be tricky, if not impossible. ESN gave them a lifeline, and this changed their perspective on volunteering.
When the situation presented itself, the Section members didn’t think twice. They started drafting an idea that soon became a reality.
They wanted to organise an event that focused on the importance of volunteering on mental health for everyone, from the volunteer to their target audience, the Erasmus students. Thanks to the help of the ESN’s Eduk8 team, a project which focuses on developing the skills of young people through non-formal education, and the Italian Pool of Trainers, “Volunthealing” was born, and they drafted together a Training Session Outline (TSO) for the Event.The Event
“Volunthealing” lasted for three days. It was composed of different events targeting different audiences, from the local community to the international students of Venezia.
The local environment played an essential role in this event, granting a more personal approach to it from the volunteers and giving a more significant social impact to the Section; this allowed ESN Venezia to explore new possibilities.
On the first day of the event, the Section organised two sessions, both held in Italian, about the importance of volunteering on mental health: the first one was a lesson held by a psychotherapist that focused on the impact that volunteering can have and how it can be one of the best ways to express one’s love for life; the second session was a training organised by Pool of Trainers.
Starting from simple questions such as “What are the things that can influence the mental health of a foreign student when coming to Venezia?” the training moved to a proactive approach on how to address these issues: how can the Section, the University and the Institutions intervene to make the process of settling in easier?
The second day began with Venezia Football Club giving ESN Venezia tickets for a match: supporting the city's football club was an opportunity to make the Erasmus Students feel like citizens and not tourists for one day. This was a unique and complete experience: the stadium is located on an island, so you can reach it with a vaporetto and have an aperitivo before attending the match. “Mens sana in corpore sano”; after the game, to help achieve a healthier mind thanks to a healthier body, they organised a yoga lesson in Sant’Elena. Besides the activity, the participants also had the opportunity to experience a view of the Laguna and St Mark’s Basilica.
On the last day, ESN Venezia organised a round table during an aperitivo: the focus of the open discussion was about what ESN could do to positively impact the mental health of exchange students and make them feel part of the city they’re studying in.What’s Ahead of Us
This event led the Section to start wondering about their position in the city of Venezia. New activities they are organising aim to make ESN Venezia more involved in the city’s society and engage in something that can benefit Venezia thanks to their strength and proactivity.
Now the Erasmus students have stopped being only the target of the activities; they are active participants, making a massive difference for the city.
Some events that ESN Venezia is organising involve Addolciamo l’Autismo, a pastry shop run by people in the spectrum and a retirement home: during the last few weeks, several Erasmus students baked some typical, traditional pastries. They also participated in one of the most traditional activities of winter holidays, a Tombola in the retirement home.
This event and what the Section is now doing because of it is the perfect example of how a simple concept (the importance of mental health) can influence us and our work as volunteers to have a positive impact on the local communities, bringing the international students closer to them and helping their integration through active participation and volunteering.
“I want to provide a supportive environment for members and students”.
“My goal is to integrate students into the local community”.
With the Tunas Night event, ESN Évora won the Activity in the Spotlight in October, appointed by the Network Committee of ESN International. For local volunteers from Portugal, it is time to shine and let the world know about the factors that make their events unique.For starters
In case you are wondering, Évora is located in the South-East of Portugal. Its origins date back to antiquity and Celtic tribes living there before the Roman conquest.
There should be no question about the choice of international students that come to Évora to experience the rich culture. This semester alone, over one hundred students came here for their mobility and ESN Évora welcomed them with a warm spirit that made their arrival feel like home.The Event You’d Love to Be a Part of
Tunas Night is a common event for Welcome Week in Évora, as it allows the exchange students to encounter Portuguese culture through the typical "tuna" music groups that spread the perpetuity of academic spirit.
For the event, the participants gathered in an auditorium. The performance started with the opening act by the whole group, followed by the presentation of each member and the music itself. They wore traditional black clothes and their music filled the room with wonder. The entire tradition in the academic environment is unique. Additionally, mobility students are welcomed to see what praxe looks like. In Evora, there is a tradition of initiation - hazing - where the 3rd-year students involve 1st-year students in the community.The Family
ESN Évora currently has around 20 active members. What describes the section best is the word “teamwork”. It starts with creating an event calendar together, from preparing to helping out during the initiatives. They have their backs and support each other as they know that each opinion in their section matters.
“We can always count on each other, especially when it comes to decision-making. When we need a common opinion, we just ask, because they are really active, help as much as they can, brainstorm and simply make this section better” says Filipa, who is the local board member responsible for finance.Events Melting Pot
The members of ESN Évora take care of organising events that students would not come across anywhere else. There are also recurring events (such as karaoke or trivia nights) because they know their exchange students’ needs and interests.
“I entered the section during the pandemic, it was hard to motivate myself. Once I started meeting people and hanging out with mobility students, I realised that there’s a whole new world you can live in, and that’s inspiring: people are very different from each other but they still connect.”Getting connected - the power of collaborations
The section is active also in working together on joint projects. It is a way to help internationals in a variety of ways, yet with the same goals.
One of the collaborators is FEA - Fundação Eugénio de Almeida, which works on a voluntary basis as well. Another one is with a feminist group Núcleo Feminista de Évora, who participate in actions together on stopping violence against women or create a support group for minority groups.Having the impact
ESN Évora represents every bit of local heroes that truly care about the international newcomers. With such a spirit, they have a tangible impact on the academic community, steady contact with exchange students and the list of possibilities is constantly being developed, also through the power of local collaborations.
“Just when international students do something meaningful, they experience getting to know the community, and they don’t feel like outsiders”, explains Madalena, the local vice president. “To me, events through which we integrate international students can also be impactful because they mean students are not left alone. It can change their lives as well”, adds Filipa.
There is however one question that still needs to be answered: What’s the recipe for a successful ESN section?
“Not seeing each other as coworkers. You choose to work together and do it well while doing it. We became a family. Of course, sometimes we get annoyed with each other but that’s normal. At the end of the day, it’s amazing to see international students and ESN volunteers grow together”.
Stay tuned to their activities and follow their social media:
Activity in the Spotlight is a project led by ESN's Network Committee which features outstanding projects within the local associations of ESN to inspire others and learn about the diversity and impact of the Network.
Between the 19th and 22nd of May, members of the Erasmus Student Network and the Erasmus Mundus Association gathered in Brussels for the GlobErasmus training. It aimed at educating the participants about global citizenship and global competencies developed through different organisations and reinforcing them through workshops and training sessions with external partners with an overall goal of empowering the Erasmus alumni and volunteers.
GlobErasmus is one of many steps ESN is taking in expanding own horizons and keeping up with the developments of the new Erasmus programme which aims to expand globally. The training allowed for new knowledge and a wider perspective on activities we are already implementing and the ones we could organise to ensure even larger impact and spread our mission of "students helping students" globally.
Right from the start, the participants had the opportunity to learn how different organisations approach the topic of global citizenship from guests such as Ajaree Tavornmas from Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), Sebastiano Putoto from Young European Federalists (JEF) and Jo Deman from World Organisation of Scout Movement (WOSM).
In the following days, participants continued to further explore the relation between their organisations and global citizenship education with a focus was on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. Participants of GlobErasmus analysed activities of their own organisations that already tackle SDGs and explored new methods of approaching them. Together, they began building a set of recommendations that address each of the SDGs in relation to the fields of actions of the organisations.
Finally, the goal of setting the ground for potential collaboration between ESAA members focused on the topic of global citizenship and competence will result in a Toolkit about Citizenship Education in ESAA organisations based on the inputs from participants of the GlobErasmus.
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The event was organised by the Erasmus Student Network and the Erasmus Mundus Association, in partnership with ESN Greece and funded by the Erasmus+ Student and Alumni Alliance (ESAA).
The winner of the last Section in the Spotlight of this semester takes us to the south of Europe where the land meets the Atlantic ocean. We will be transferred to one of the nicest European capitals which is famous for the dessert called pastels. Let’s meet the winner of this month - ESN Lisboa.
The section was founded in 2008 by nine former exchange students. Even though there are multiple universities in the city, they decided to found only one section to establish good relations with all universities. ESN Lisboa has been growing quite fast, especially due to a high number of former exchange students. Nowadays there are 60 active members who work in eight section departments (e.g. Sports and Trips, Integration and Cultural Events, Human Resources) and are managed by six board members.
Every semester ESN Lisboa recruits new members. Whoever wants to become a member of the section has to go through an interview with experienced members. After that, potential members help for a month with the section’s agenda and then they are evaluated and promoted to junior members. After 3 more months, the General Assembly votes on the seniority and junior members become full members of the section.
Not only do they have a strong team of current members, but ESN Lisboa also cooperates with section Alumni. The Alumni network provides the section with guidance and support whenever it is needed. To fully integrate Alumni into the section’s work, there is an annual gathering called the History Day organised. Alumni have a chance to tell their stories to the current members and remind them of the history of the section itself.
As it was said earlier, section members are its most valuable asset, therefore, there are many events organised to strengthen their relationships, keep their motivation and teach them more about ESN. For example, the Team Buildings take place every semester and they are targeted especially at newbies. The event is aimed at teaching newbies everything about ESN through a series of workshops with examples of real-life situations and how to deal with them. Last but not least, there is an event called ESN Lisboa Upgrade. This event is also organised for its members and is dedicated to all section positions and their specifications, especially to the transition of new candidates who achieve the important positions within the section.
Apart from internal events, ESN Lisboa organises lots of events for exchange students. Working in a lively city like Lisbon brings many opportunities to integrate international students into the local way of living. It is worth mentioning that members of the section organise the event called Surf Days where international students can learn how to surf. Furthermore, there are trips to other Portuguese cities, hiking trips to national parks nearby, events like indoor climbing and many more sporting activities.
ENS Lisboa also organises parties during each semester. At the beginning of the semester, there is the biggest Mega Welcome Party where more than 1 000 students have fun and meet each other. In addition, the section organises PubCrawls, free live concerts, Quiz and Movie Nights and Pool Parties etc.
In ESN Lisboa members believe that integration is meant to be implemented not only between exchange students but also between exchange and local students. To maintain this they use Papaya Buddy System where there are more than 600 registrations per semester. In order to help international students with their start in the new city, the section members publish the Welcome Book. This almost 100-page guide consists of all information needed for better integration of international students. There are tips for moving abroad, information about the city, accommodation, universities, ESN events, traditions, must-see places and more.
ESN Lisboa also put an emphasis on social issues. They believe that the Erasmus+ programme is a strong tool to bring about change. Thanks to a successful application for an ESAA grant the members were able to help a disadvantaged community in central Lisboa, for example, help a family of a single mother with four children to rebuild their apartment. The section organises many more events aimed at social issues where they help local communities, homeless people, abandoned animals etc.
The principle ‘students helping students’ is taken very seriously in ESN Lisboa. The section with its 10-year-long history has been working ever since to become a place where members can find not only friends but become a family of ESNers who they can always rely on. And thanks to their hard work and tons of events organised every semester, they assure the unforgettable memories and experiences for international and local students.
The story of ESN Oviedo started back in 2011 when they became a section of ESN Spain. A year later, their voices were already loudly heard. A thousand voices to be exact - during a national event, a thousand people gathered and sang the regional anthem, the Asturian one, breaking a world record. What a way to start their journey that will sometime after lead them to spotlight!
ESN Oviedo works in an efficient team made out of a five-member board and a General Assembly - all section members that have the right to propose any topic and contribute to the development of the section with new ideas. This way, everyone is included in the work of the section. On the other hand, members work in committees specialised on certain fields, always bearing in mind to follow the causes of ESN. The events cover sports, parties, socially inclusive and cultural events. In fact, some of these events earned them recognition not just within the network, but all around their local community as well!
There is no better way to bond than through sports and culture.
To keep their students active and in good health, ESN Oviedo organises dynamic sports events, such as football, volleyball, basketball and rugby matches or hiking and promenades in nature. Not to forget the perks of being on the coast - beach volleyball and surfing are often on the ‘events menu’.
Activities that serve to have students bond with the locals and between themselves are also numerous, and they include international dinners, speed friending, or the heartwarming “Host an Erasmus for Christmas”. Making the students feel like an important part of the community comes with organising blood donations, strolls to animal shelters, and visits to the nursing home.
ESN Oviedo tries hard to introduce the incoming students to not only Spanish but also to the regional and local culture, by organising city tours telling the beautiful history of the Asturias region in order to let the Erasmus students know the area in depth. However, the Spanish culture gets its time to shine during events such as Tandem, Film and Poetry Evenings that also aim to improve the students’ language skills.
Feeling the region through cultural exchange.
These inclusive and cultural exchange-pumped events do for sure make them constantly proud, but there is one certain activity that made noise all over the Asturias region. For two years, ESN Oviedo organised Rural Erasmus in Schools (EiS), while the next year’s event is already in the making.
Last year, the section paid a visit to a school in Panes, a very rural village situated on the eastern boundary of Asturias that has only 568 inhabitants. The purpose of this Rural EiS was to show the Erasmus students another part of Asturias, its unique and ancient culture, and to give the local students the opportunity to have direct contact with other cultures which they may not have the chance to meet due to the isolation of their village.
This year, they tried to go even further. In March, they organised a whole Rural EiS Weekend in Grandas de Salime, a village of 853 inhabitants situated on the western boundary of Asturias, in a unique area with a very special cultural mixture of Galician and Asturian features. In this very traditional and rural landscape, there was only one school in the village, which they visited with eight international students.
Among other things, the international students presented their countries to primary school students through facts, traditional dances and food; had a chat and a debate with secondary school students; lived the experience as pilgrims; visited the “castros” (traditional and ancient houses of the inhabitants of these valleys) with local children to learn about the carnival traditions and “fala”, the endangered language of the area. Thanks to this activity, ESN Oviedo appeared on the regional Asturian television (TPA), in the main regional newspaper (La Nueva España) and took part in an interview with a Youtube radio, where the international students talked about the weekend and the benefits ESN Oviedo brings for them.
Now, why is this activity so precious and valuable? Because ESN Oviedo managed to introduce international students to the rural and traditional areas of the region, to promote the culture of the region, to provide the locals with a touch of different countries’ cultures, and to promote international students as the ambassadors of intercultural learning and global citizenship. What a way to work for the right cause!
Family and friendship above all.
Since they were founded in 2011, ESN Oviedo has achieved a lot. Last year alone, they managed to double the number of their members and days of Welcome Week and increased the number of their trips, showing unknown places in Spain to their international students.
They say for themselves that they are a small section, but able to make a real impact on the international students and the local society, especially by carrying out projects such as Mov’in Europe and Erasmus in Schools. As they are the only ESN section in Asturias, they consider themselves responsible for the internationalisation of the region. Except for making their region a better place, their motivation also comes from the inside, from the section itself. They believe everyone should feel like they belong to a family, and that is how they treat their members and international students.
ESN Oviedo is one big family of mobility ambassadors that tries hard to leave an impact on both Erasmus students and their region while having great fun on the road. What more can you wish for from your ESN section?
This month’s edition of Section in the Spotlight will take us to central Europe. To the section which organises countless events, shows the culture of the city, and cooperates with other sections to bring unique experiences to incoming and also, local students. Read more about the inspirational members of the section ESN AGH Kraków!
ESN AGH Kraków was founded in 2006 by two members of the Students’ Council of AGH University of Science and Technology as an answer to the need of taking care of international students. Nowadays, the section consists of 72 regular members who do an amazing job every day.
There are many reasons for this. The first one being the carefully organised recruitment that takes place twice a year and consists of a couple of phases. Firstly, there is the promotion of the section consisting of public stands around the university with the introduction of the section and its function. Then, the students who are interested - both local and international - can fill in the application form and are invited to an assessment center. The last phase is a personal interview with potential candidates.
Also, there are many events organised for members. The most important one is the Newbies Camp. This event is a perfect way for newbies to get to know other members, boost their motivation, and pair with more experienced members as their buddies who are there to show them the ESN world in detail. Apart from this event, there are regular meetings such as ‘Workshops Weekends’ and ‘Saturday with ESN’ which three other sections from Kraków join and there are internal and external trainers invited, too. Finally, it is vital for ESN AGH Krakow to keep the family atmosphere so they usually organise celebrations of Easter and Christmas for all their members.
International students are fully involved in the section’s work. They attend the recruitment events, help to organise the flagship project of the section and also help the university’s Office of Foreign Affairs with leaflets, videos, etc. ESN AGH Krakow even has its own band run by international students!
To welcome international students there is the Orientation Week prepared for them every semester. Karaoke Party, City Game, visit to Weliczka the Salt Mine and weekend trips are not missing. Also, ESN AGH Kraków does their best to organise cultural events such as visiting local museums, going to philharmonic concerts, celebrating Christmas in a traditional way or planning cooking classes where international students can learn how to cook traditional Polish meals. A great weekly event which should be mentioned is the Tandem organised in cooperation with ESN Kraków United. During the event international students and also ESNers have a chance to try to talk to each other in several languages.
The flagship project of the section is Exchange Zone. It is a cyclical event which promotes mobility and culture among Polish students. The main idea is sharing experiences of students who have been on mobility in a chosen country and show its culture with the help of an international student from the same country.
The section also promotes events leading to inclusiveness. In the frame of ExchangeAbility the event called ‘You don’t need eyes to see’ takes place. During this event, attendees experienced what it's like to visit a museum as a blind person. The section also works on video episodes of ABLE TO MOVie where Kraków is shown as an accessible city and mobility is promoted among people with disabilities. For the SocialErasmus project the section is involved in the Noble Box Projects where they collect money and prepare Christmas presents for people and families who struggle financially. Also leaving international students can give their stuff they don’t need anymore to incoming students and help them to save some money. For all of this ESN AGH Krakoów within the ESN Kraków United was awarded as The Most Inclusive Section in Poland.
The section also promotes projects such as ErasmusIntern, ESN Survey where their alumni are the international coordinator, and ESNcard. Regarding ESNcard there is an ESNcard party held where partners and activities are promoted. Last but not least, ESN AGH Kraków contributed to the origin of International Erasmus Games in 2015.
The members of ESN AGH Kraków are not only visible within the section. Thanks to the promotion of the national and international level of ESN to the members, they are very active there. They even got the title as the best within the ESN Poland Association and the section with the biggest involvement. They eagerly implement new projects and best practices from both levels. There are regular meetings to discuss current projects and everything happening in the network.
The sentence which describes ESN AGH Kraków the best is: ‘We never give up’. They eagerly work to bring the best experience to the incoming students, to involve local students and help the whole network. Their biggest success was the organisation of this year’s CNR. Apart from their own events and activities planned every day they are also proud of the section cooperation which exists since 2012: ESN Uni Wien, ESN BME, ESN BFI, ESN BOKU, and ESN Usti. One can say that ESN AGH Kraków are unicorns among the ESN network - by the way, this thought is also proven by their choice of the mascot!
Trips to the heart of Romania, plenty of socially inclusive events, World Cafes, and a determined team of volunteers - all of this combined describes our March edition of section in the spotlight!
ESN Cluj-Napoca, the first section of ESN Romania, was founded in 2004, and now welcomes the biggest number of Erasmus+ students in the country, from all four of the universities in the city.
A good team doesn’t come unprepared
Having a large number of students requires great care and knowledge from the members. For this reason, ESN Cluj-Napoca recruits newbies twice a year. To keep the members educated, they hold General Meetings - regular departmental meetings, that include monthly workshops based on previous National Platforms or international events.
Before the semester kicks off, they organise a day dedicated specifically to newbies where they are taught the basics of ESN, ESN causes, and the way the section works. It is easier to memorise all of that information in a pleasant atmosphere, and for that reason the newbies take part in team-building games, followed by a dinner to get to know each other and connect with one another.
Now that they are all set to go…
After all these preparations, it is time to kick off the semester with daily activities running on for two weeks, which include buddy-student meetups, a professional city tour, visits to museums, a treasure hunt, speed friending, board games evenings, quiz nights on various topics, and many more. Erasmus Sports Competition, a local edition of International Erasmus Games, follows not long after, to keep the young muscles fit for the upcoming semester.
To show that Erasmus is not only about partying and sports, ESN Cluj-Napoca organises a rich programme promoting inclusiveness, not only during the Social Inclusion Days. They focus on the integration of the incoming students in the community and organise all kinds of events, such as: World Cafes, where they debate how they can fight discrimination; photo exhibitions based on the ESN causes; social thematic oriented Movie Nights, Blind Dates where participants are blindfolded; Erasmus in Schools to talk about stereotypes; Share a Smile Day in parks to spread hugs and smiles; and of course, visits to dog shelters to raise awareness of animal well-being.
Nothing beats good old Dracula
But the activities that they believe are their flagship ones, are their trips. Romania is a large country with amazing landscapes and captivating folklore and legends, so it is no wonder that the trips are very successful. ESN Cluj-Napoca organises a one-day trip to Turda Salt Mine - a historical salt mine that after restoration became one of the most popular underground attractions of the area; a trip to Maramures, the heart of folkloric medieval Romania, and a trip to Moldova - the land of monasteries.
Furthermore, they participate in all national events: Escape to Vama Veche, a trip that marks the beginning of summer by heading off to the sandy beaches of the Black Sea’s Vama Veche; and Halloween in Transylvania - an adventure through Dracula’s realm.
Sharing (your culture) is caring
To show that Erasmus isn’t an exclusive community, ESN Cluj-Napoca tries hard to involve local students in their activities, make them meet the incoming students, and learn about their diverse cultures. Therefore, they have original events such as Travelling Evening, during which local students can learn how to travel on a budget, an international flag parade, or Intercultural Evenings where the students represent their countries through facts, traditional dishes and specific activities. At the same time, close connections with other NGOs and student organisations help to integrate incoming students into the community by organising activities and trainings (such as the one of Red Cross for first aid).
ESN Cluj-Napoca doesn’t stay local
The hard work of ESN Cluj-Napoca’s members isn’t only visible on the local level – on the contrary, they also actively take part in the work on the National and International levels, so in the past year alone they have had three of their members in the National Board, three members in the Communication Committee, and three members in the Network Committee.
The section’s oldest members encourage their volunteers to get involved on the other levels by telling their own experiences and stories, as well as trying to support them financially in their travel costs, with the help of universities.
All it takes is...
As a section that has been around for 15 years, they have had their ups and downs, but the determination and motivation of its members has kept it going all this time.
What are the reasons behind it? As they say, good knowledge transfer between generations, constant cooperation with the biggest university in Romania, and involvement in the higher levels of ESN.
At the same time, they never forget their roots and always represent them with pride. No wonder Erasmus students love coming there!
Eager to know who Section in the Spotlight is this month? The section comes from the third biggest city in Poland, their members can be met basically at every ESN event and it is also a home section for one of the IB members. Sit down with a cup of coffee and give a round of applause to ESN-EYE Łódź.
ESN-EYE originated in 1999 and was first a part of former organisation European Youth Exchange Poland. After the organisation stopped running, ESN-EYE didn’t give up and joined ESN. Currently, the section is managed by 5 board members working together with 14 project groups including Social Inclusion, Erasmus Games, and many more.
The section is unique in many ways. One of which is their recruitment process. First of all, there are promotional events at each faculty and special meetings where the activities of the section are presented. Candidates then get a buddy to help them to get involved. After a semester of work, they are invited to an interview and the most motivated people are accepted. This process ensures high quality of section members.
Then it is very well cared for by section members. Not only are there informal meetings for new members with their buddies, a 3-day training and an integration event take place twice a year. Eduk8ers, Alumni and section trainers are invited to hold workshops for participants. Apart from this, there are informal events such as bowling nights or visits to escape rooms every month.
Regarding the international students, the members of ESN-EYE try to make them get the most out of Polish culture. The biggest event is “Murals Trips” when Erasmus students discover the street art around Łódź.
“In our opinion, it is important to provide Erasmus students with unusual, extraordinary experiences, to make their stay in Poland unforgettable - to throw themselves into things they wouldn’t experience back home or on their own”, says Dominika Jastrzębowska, President of ESN-EYE.
They also organise Canoe Trip and Integration Weekend. Regarding Canoe trip, it is a one day trip by bus, all day spent canoeing and finished off with a barbecue. Integration Weekend is aimed at international students, ESN Members and Mentors (the ones that aren’t ESN Members) and is considered as the most successful event of the section. The event is held at the beginning of every semester with almost 180 participants getting out of town. Through different games and sporting activities, participants get to know each other.
The biggest section event annually organised is the Academic Job Fair. This event is organised only by students from ESN-EYE and other four student organisations focusing on students and their familiarisation with companies. The companies come from fields such as IT and management. During AGM Costa Brava 2018, the event got an award for careerSTAR.
Furthermore, the section can be proud of their collaboration with the university. Thanks to the fact that some ESNers work in the Student Assistance Office, they directly help Erasmus students with documents. This ultimately helps to strengthen the relationship between section members and Erasmus students. Also, together with the university’s International Office, they prepare Mobility Week. During this event, mobility is promoted in every possible way. The event includes workshops, appraising with the recruitment process and impact of mobility on people’s lives.
It is hard to believe but apart from the activities mentioned above, ESN-EYE is not behind with other ESN projects. Regarding the ExchangeAbility programme, there are events like Mouth Painting and a Dinner in the Dark in cooperation with ESN UŁ. They also arrange a Charity Collection for the Orphanage, Shelter Dogs Walking and also took part in ESN Poland’s event “100 for 100” campaign, organising SocialErasmus events for 10 years of SocialErasmus in Poland.
ESN-EYE has had its representation in the National Board and even in the International Board. Current Communication Manager from the IB, Kacper Olczyk, comes from this section. In addition, the members attend many ESN events on the national and international levels such as CEP (Central European Platform), AGM, Eduk8 and National Platforms and workshops. And around 20 members are present in ESN international committees. It is also the first Polish section offering internships for international interns.
To keep members updated and acquaint them more with how ESN works, there are ESNdays prepared, where the role of national and international committees is presented. Every Tuesday there are “Wtorki z Wiki” (“Tuesdays with Wiki”) which are emails with information from ESN Wiki.
All in all, ESN-EYE organises countless events and activities for its members, ESNers and international students. Furthermore, they try to implement activities based on the Causes of ESN and promote them. Every semester they have between 80 and 115 newbies because they put an emphasis on the recruitment process. As you can see ESN-EYE is unstoppable and its members do their best in every aspect of their work.
Written by Lucie Vachova
Our network consists of sections and volunteers who work hard to provide an amazing time for their exchange students, but every now and then, one takes the spotlight with their outstanding work. This time, the section that shines the most is ESN Porto!
ESN Porto is the oldest section in Portugal and was founded in 1991. Throughout its long history, the section has organised numerous national and international events. It all started in 1995 with the organisation of an AGM - this also happened to be the year in which the President of ESN AISBL was from the University of Porto. In more recent times, ESN Porto is proud to have organised a Council of National Representatives (CNR) in 2009, another CNR in 2014 and the International Erasmus Games in 2016. Last year they had the opportunity to organise the Portuguese National Platform of March 2018 and, last but not least, SWEP Porto 2018, an event that received great feedback regarding the OC, logistics, and Social Programme.
Considering the number of ESN events held by the section, one would assume that ESN Porto is a large team, but in fact, they currently have only 45 members. The board consists of five members - President, VP, Treasurer, LR and Events Manager. Also, there are coordinators for HR, Communication, Projects, Partnerships, Activities, and Parties departments. Each department has a board supervisor. They also have 2 support positions - Education Officer and Secretary, and two working webzine groups - ESN Porto Green and IT Taskforce.
All members are encouraged to participate in national and international events, which is supported by the board and results in a large number of volunteers going all around Europe to receive training and connect with the rest of the network.
“Motivating the members to experience the national and international level is something we really put a lot of effort into”, says Eduardo Ribeiro, the Local Representative, and it really shows. ESN Porto members went to all the national and a number of international events, including the NEC Winter Meeting and the Eduk8 Autumn training in Vienna.
Such active participation in events motivates the members to take part in the work of ESN on the national and international levels too. As far as the national level goes, this year one of ESN Porto’s members is in the National Board as the VP, and they also have a member in the Audit team, an Education Officer for Community Development and a member of the National ComCom. On the International level, ESN Porto has three members in NEC and one in ITcom.
ESN Porto is a dream come true not only for ESNers but for exchange students too! Every weekend, ESN Porto organises a trip, usually in Portugal but also to Spain. On top of that, at least one cultural activity is held every week, while Wednesdays and weekends are reserved for parties. Each semester starts with a bang, as in 2016 ESN Porto decided to upgrade their welcome period game and turn Welcome Week into a Welcome Month, with events organised almost every day for the whole month! No wonder ESN Porto students are #ErasmusAddicted - the section’s motto that was created in 2011 and which features on the section’s t-shirts which say “Erasmus Addicted/Please send me back to Porto”.
ESN Porto takes care that the Erasmus experience isn’t only about partying and travelling, but also investing in the future - the section collaborates with universities and companies in the field of education and promotes employability events, thus providing a good opportunity for their Erasmus students to find a job and stay in Portugal.
There is no lack of socially sensitive events either, as ESN Porto regularly cooperates with various associations and provides Erasmus students with all kinds of opportunities to make the world a little better. Spending time with the elderly at the daycare centre; helping the homeless by distributing food once per week; volunteering with children with cancer or drug addicts - the choice is up to you.
As you can see, in ESN Porto, everyone can find their own perfect event. However, the event that proved to be the most popular and is their flagship event, the “Portuguese night”! During this night, students spend time in a house decorated with symbols and figures of Portugal, while trying all the Portuguese dishes and enjoying musical and other performances. This event won the Portuguese StarAwards (Lobos d’ouro) as the best event of the year, and other sections aim to organise it as well in the future.
With such a huge range of activities, you may wonder how the members keep themselves motivated.
The answer is: with lots of team-building, learning about ESN together, creating bonds with the newbies, and trainings! Their own ESN Porto Academy happens every week and serves to polish their members’ skills in event planning, communication, and their ESN knowledge.
Does ESN Porto sound like a great team to you? There are a couple of ways to join them! Apart from becoming a regular member, you can join as an Erasmus intern or an EVS volunteer. So far, ESN Porto has received three Erasmus interns (office administrator, photographer and videographer), and has also been accredited as a coordinating, sending, and receiving EVS organization, which means it is able to send and take in volunteers funded by the Erasmus+ programme for a certain period of time.
If all of this hasn’t convinced you that ESN Porto is a team of hard workers, take a look at some numbers: each year, they work with 15 universities and 30 local partners for 3500 Erasmus students, organise 2 Welcome Months, 80 activities, 25 trips, 38 parties, 20 international projects activities, sell 3000 ESNcards, have 2 recruitment periods, 12 teambuilding activities, 2 weekend retreats, and 15 trainings.
It is very easy to say that each ESN Porto member is #ErasmusAddicted.
During this summer heat, which arrived earlier than usual this year, let’s travel to the cold of the North where diversity truly means unity. Here comes our Section in the Spotlight for June - ESN Lund!
ESN Lund was established in 2005. Since then, they have achieved many successes, such as contracts with Akademiska Föreningen (Academic Association in Lund) and travel agency Timetravels. In addition, theirs was the first section where the position of a local Education Officer was established.
The section is led by six Board members and eighteen ambassadors, including ambassadors for trips, parties, sports, SocialErasmus coordinators, ExchangeAbility coordinators, PR managers, Media managers, Partnership managers and Education officers. Furthermore, there is an Activity Committee composed of enthusiastic members who help during the events organised by the section. They cooperate with other student organisations in Lund and share resources to organise events, as well as keep good relationships with Lund University.
If you want to become a member of this great Swedish section, you can join in their “fika”, an event which takes place every semester where potential members can get information about ESN and specifically about activities held by ESN Lund. One of the specialities of the section lies in its internationality. Out of 24 members, only one is Swedish.
Regarding events they organise, they have established a strong position among other organisations in Lund. For instance, they have a cottage weekend for members to get to know each other and create long lasting bonds through some challenges and games. Also, member meetings are followed by social events like board games, movie watching or informal socialising in a pub. To reward council members, they organise events such as potluck dinner or bowling night.
On the other hand, they never forget about their international students and devote most of their time organising activities for them to make sure their stay in Lund will become an unforgettable experience. There are, for instance, canoe and hiking trips, Skane highlight trip, Helsingor day trip or cottage weekend prepared.
Members of the section also spread their knowledge of social issues through events within the scope of SocialErasmus and ExchangeAbility activities. Regarding SocialErasmus, there are events like Clothing Drive, LGBTQ awareness events or Earth Hour celebrations.
Once per semester, they organise "Internationen" - a dinner where non-students (mainly refugees) have a chance to familiarise themselves with Swedish student lifestyle. In order to raise awareness of the issues in the scope of ExchangeAbility project, they organise a 'blind' Valentine dinner in collaboration with the Lund University. They are also working on mapping the university to make it more accessible for students with disabilities. In addition, sports fans can enjoy wall-climbing, a running club or different sports tournaments. ESN Lund cares about the well-being of international students and provides them with stress relief workshops.
Flagship activity of the section is ESN Tuesdays. This weekly event consists of activities starting from the running club, sauna or yoga classes to movie and board game nights. Open mic nights are extremely popular and unite talents from all over the world.
You can meet ESN Lund members on many national events, especially their National Platforms. They regularly attend Eduk8 events, AGM, and other international events. Thanks to section cooperation between nearby sections such as ESN Malmö, ESN Copenhagen, ESN Odense etc. they organise Cooper8 - one of their training events.
“Collaboration is the key.”
Despite the strong competition, ESN Lund maintains a powerful position among student associations and provides high quality and unique events for international and local students. There are definitely some points we can learn from them.
With summer rapidly approaching, it’s only natural we move towards the warmer parts of Europe. However, the section in question isn’t only in our sights because it’s in Spain, but because it’s the oldest section in the country! Meet our Section in the Spotlight for May: ESN UCM Madrid.
ESN UCM Madrid was founded in 1991, which makes them the section ESN Spain built its foundations on. They are constantly growing and improving, as well as adjusting their structure according to the needs of their ever-changing environment.
Currently, they work in teams. They have 12 teams - Tandem, Salsa, Cultural, ComCom, Legal, Partners, Tutor, Merchandising, Sports, Projects, IT and Parties. Each team has a Head, chosen by the team itself, who is responsible for creating the Action Plan and ensuring that the team meets its goals and objectives. They also have local coordinators of international projects such as Mov’in Europe, SocialErasmus and ExchangeAbility who cooperate with local coordinators of the other five other sections in the city.
Nowadays, they have more than 40 active members!
“The sense of belonging that unites us provides material for great teamwork.”
All of their members can receive proper education and training at Local and Regional Platforms. Local Platforms are crucial for the understanding of local, national and international level for newer members, while Regional Platforms are organised in cooperation with other sections from Madrid. Team building activities are also a regular occurrence in their section! All of this is possible thanks to the funds they receive from ESNcards, as well as local, regional and national grants and partners. This year, they have sold 2000 ESNcards!
They organise, on average, around 15 trips per year, and around 5 project activities per month for their international students. When organising these activities, they often cooperate with other sections from Madrid. Monday evenings are reserved for tandems, Tuesdays for sports, Wednesdays for salsa and Thursdays for parties. Additionally, they organise two cultural events per week: a cycle of fine arts and the Royal Palace. Weekends are reserved for the exploration of the Spanish countryside!
“Today we co-exist with 5 other sections in our city and we have achieved harmony and a unique joint force throughout our country.”
ESN UCM Madrid is an eco-friendly section, proven by their flagship project EcoWeekend, a two day trip to the mountains of Madrid. There they spent the weekend learning about environmental issues, having workshops, eating non-processed food, and recycling. The workshops were on the following: removal of rubbish in the mountains; a hiking tour; a soap making workshop; a t-shirt dyeing workshop; and a tour of sense, an ExchangeAbility activity. They have managed to educate and entertain their exchange students, as well as have an impact on the local community.
They are also killing it with their Buddy Programme - this academic year they have managed to pair up more than 1000 exchange students to 270 tutors! The university helps them in their approach to local students by offering them ECTS points for this activity.
Their members are active on both the national and international levels. Several of their members are on the national level, and they regularly host Spanish National Platforms as well as other national events. Their members are in the OC of KINESI, a national training event which will take place this summer.
Being the oldest section in the country, and one of the oldest ones in the whole of Europe, can’t be easy. However, ESN UCM Madrid has mastered this task, and this award proves it!
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!