Learning languages, meeting people and travelling are the three main goals of students when they decide to “go on an Erasmus exchange”. They achieve all those goals and, in addition, recognize that after the exchange, they feel proud to be Europeans and mo re aware of the problems being experienced by the European Union.Challenges facing the continent, such as the refugee crisis, unemployment and security, as have been pointed out by twenty-eight young people who have participated in the “Great Erasmus Meetup”, should be solved by the governments by dedicating more money.
For a few hours, these young people have been the ambassadors of Europe, and have discussed the future of the continent, while also assessing their Erasmus experience, which will be an added feature in their résumés. The meeting was held on the occasion of the celebration of Europe Day and is part of a wider cycle of events, such as Coffee with Europe, a series of informal discussions with young people in various locations in Spain, organised by the European Commission.
The question that opened the discussion was: ‘How European do you feel after the exchange?’ “I feel extremely European and more aware of the three problems Europe has: “Brexit”, Trump, who has driven a wedge between the continent and the United States, and the rise of extreme right-wing movements”, said Daniel, a young Italian, in statements to the Efe news agency.
Cassia, from Poland, stated that the Erasmus scholarship has allowed her to fulfil her dream: to become a researcher. She is now preparing her PhD at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid and explained that, thanks to this project, people are more familiar with her country. “Eight years ago, Spanish people would ask me whether we had the Internet in Poland. The world no longer sees us as a strange country”, she added.
A young Croatian, Emma, indicated that, in her country, “a lot of people once wondered about becoming part of Europe but it is now possible to see how much Croatia has developed. There is a lot of tourism and my friends are more open to travelling to other countries”.
On the advantages and opportunities, they all agreed: Meeting people, hearing other points of view about the world, and travelling. “At first, I felt a little lost in Madrid, but that makes you grow as a person,” explained Leoni, from Germany, who is studying Audiovisual Communication at the Universidad Complutense. “This is an incredible opportunity. You experience other ways of teaching, which has allowed me to develop the way I think, and to feel more European”, said Olivia, from Sweden.
In addition, these young Erasmus students pointed out that they have found more work experience in Spain than in their countries of origin, and that being able to indicate in your résumé that you have the scholarship is a positive element when you have to compete for a job.
The discussion closed with the question: What should be the EU’s priorities in terms of its budget? Most of them replied that it should improve education, while others opted for the environment, security and information policies, so that “it is not so closed”. Other ideas put forward included cheaper transport to ensure that all young people can travel, an Erasmus programme for Vocational Training, and better migration policies for refugees fleeing war zones.