Enlargement, 3 years after
European Commission - Enlargement, 3 years after - Getting to know you
Getting to know you: students from the new Member States.
The EU-funded programs that promote mobility and people-to-people contacts in the area of education have been one of the great successes of European integration. The best-known of them, Erasmus, celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. Its success has been unquestionable: in June 1987, 3244 European students benefited from a grant to spend a semester in another country; today, there are over 150,000 every year!
Most of the new Member States have participated in these programs since the late 1990's, with increasing success. While in the academic year 1998/1999 just over 4,500 students from these countries benefited from the Erasmus program, in 2004/2005 there were 24,235 of them.
The new Member States have not only been able to send a growing number of students to other countries every year, but they have also become more and more popular as a destination for students from the "old" Member States: while in 1998/1999 Poland had attracted just 200 students, in 2004/2005 it welcomed more than 2,300 exchange students in its universities. The Czech Republic increased the number of students it hosted from 200 to almost 1950 in the same period.
With just over 1,9 million inhabitants, Slovenia is one of the smaller countries that joined the EU in May 2004. But it has been very active in this area. In 2000/2001, 230 students from Slovenia participated in the Erasmus program. In 2005/2006, there were almost 900 of them. As has been the case in other countries, student mobility has become one of the most notable benefits of EU membership.
Mirna (22) studies cultural studies at the University in Ljubljana. She has always been interested in going abroad and decided to take part in an Erasmus exchange in Berlin, Germany, in the winter semester 2005/2006.
As she puts it, she profited most academically, learned new ways of analysing and got a much more independent approach towards her studies. But the social component of the exchange experience, she says, is something that brings Europe closer together. The way she sees it, borders are insignificant; the young people brought together at one point can continue this interaction for life, through virtual and actual contacts.
Mirna can speak from experience. She met Wojcech (23) from Poland during her Erasmus term: friendship turned into a real-life, cross-border cooperation. The master-student from Poznan University has spent a term in Slovenia with the help of a bilateral agreement on student exchange between both countries. Now Mirna will "return the research favour" and finish her thesis in Poland with the support of financing through CEEPUS (Central European Exchange Programme for University Studies).
The two students plan to continue their studies in one of the post-graduate programs in a British university. Thanks to EU support, every year tens of thousands of students like Mirna and Wojcech can experience first-hand what European integration is all about: bringing people closer, getting to know each other for the benefit of all.