One of the first students to go on an Erasmus exchange, Désirée Majoor spent six months in Bologna researching audience reactions to Futurist theatre per-formances for her Master’s thesis. A few months later, she attended an Erasmus evaluation meeting in Ghent, where discussion turned to how to solve the practical problems that a number of students had experienced. The result was the creation of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN). ‘We thought the easiest way would be for students to help students. That’s where the “buddy” system network grew up. I lived relatively close to Brussels so I drafted the proposal.’
She set up an ESN section in Utrecht while others from the meeting did the same in their cities. A year later, the 22 sections held the network’s first AGM and she became its first president. ‘It was quite idealistic; it was never a job. We did it as volunteers.’ In 2010 ESN celebrated its 20th anniversary in Utrecht. Today it has 370 sections in 35 countries.
‘Erasmus was the kick-off for my career,’ she says. She went travelling after her studies, and came back keen to work for an international organisation. ‘Because of my Erasmus experience, I got a job in the Nuffic, the Dutch organi-sation for internationalisation of higher education. That’s what brought me to higher education management.’ Now faculty dean of communication and journalism at the HU University of Applied Sciences Utrecht, she makes sure her own students make the most of the exchange opportunity. ‘It’s a terrific personal experience. There’s so much you can learn.’
Utrecht University, the Netherlands (Universiteit Utrecht, Nederland)
University of Bologna, Italy (Università di Bologna, Italia)
6 months (1987)