Diogo Piçarra – 26 – Portugal

Diogo Piçarra – 26 – Portugal

Singer and song writer, winner of the TV singing competition ĺdolos in 2012

Czech Republic, 2010-11

‘When I’m asked what was the turning point of my career or when I started thinking of pursuing a musical career… I say it was during my Erasmus, I recommend Erasmus 100%’.

Before his Erasmus experience, Diogo was in a band while studying at the University of Algarve. It wasn’t until he spent a semester abroad at the Palacký University in Olomouc, Czech Republic where he left everything behind and found the courage to start a solo career.

When he returned to Portugal Diogo was crowned the winner of the TV singing competition ‘Idol’ (ĺdolos) in 2012. The experience had a direct impact on his career, and now he is an accomplished musician, having released his debut album in 2015.

He appreciates the possibility to learn about new cultures and places: '70 years ago we didn’t have free movement. The fact that we can travel to another country - and often use the same currency, makes us feel we are, indeed, united.'

The Erasmus+ programme gave him first-hand experience of life in another country that he may have only otherwise seen on the television. Moreover, it gave Diogo an opportunity to appreciate the things he has in his own country. He believes that the Erasmus+ generation can help fight discrimination, prejudice and social exclusion through mixing cultures.

Ignas Survila – 25 – Lithuania

Ignas Survila – 25 – Lithuania

Product designer, Art director and founder of Citybirds

Finland, 2014

‘The Erasmus+ experience really enabled me to see my life in the big picture. It was just me and my own ideas, and I think if you have that experience even just once in your life, it is amazing.’                                                                                                      

Inspiration struck Ignas during an Erasmus+ exchange at the University of Lapland in Rovaneimi, Finland. The passionate and inventive designer came up with the idea of reinventing the kick-scooter to fit with urban life better and meet the growing demand for sustainable and eco-friendly mobility solutions. Ignas then returned to Lithuania to design and patent his lightweight foldable kick-scooter. His company, Citybirds, which launched four unique designs, now has offices in Geneva and Vilnius.

Ignas says that his experience in Finland gave him the freedom to pursue his own ideas. It opened his eyes to the possibility of cross-cultural business models through meeting people from all over the world. It also underlined the value of forming global networks when everyone is just a click away. Ignas values a connected, borderless world, where new ideas can be forged through cross-cultural connections. He urges young people to peruse their ideas and dreams: 'don’t be afraid to make mistakes. You just need an idea and believe that everything is possible.’

Luka Jezeršek – 35 – Slovenia

Luka Jezeršek – 35 – Slovenia

Chef de Cuisine and co-owner of Jezeršek Catering

Spain, 2007

Each experience abroad marks me, I always fully observe small details… I note that in Europe we are not so different. We like good food and we like to drink, laugh, dance and sing.’

Luka is from a family of chefs. Together they run Jezeršek Catering, a family-owned company with 35 years of tradition and experience in the field of Horeca. Known for his culinary talent on the TV show, MasterChef Slovenia - as one of the judges, Luka exchanged gastronomic culture and skills with other chefs during a European adventure 10 years ago in Spain.

During the programme, Luka took part in an ‘unforgettable experience’ of culinary delights; visiting the family-run cooking school of Michelin-star chef Luis Irizar, sipping wines from the ‘La Rioja’ region and meeting a student of the eminent Martin Berasategui at the Guggenheim Museum restaurant. Luka also passed on some of his own knowledge by giving a lecture at Eescuelas internacionales para la educacion y el desarrollo - EIDE.

In the hopes of inspiring a future generation, Luka now welcomes Erasmus+ trainees to expand their palate and share their national cuisine at his family’s business, the Jezeršek Academy.

Alexandra Pascalidou – 46 – Sweden

Alexandra Pascalidou – 46 – Sweden

Award-winning writer, television and radio presenter, actor and human rights advocate

Greece, 1991-92

‘Erasmus+ gave me the possibility to unite my Greek and Swedish backgrounds, which enhanced my European identity.’

Born in Romania, Alexandra lived in Greece until her family moved to Sweden, when she was 6 years old. Growing up in one of the poorest areas of Stockholm, she was the first person in her family to go to university and an early participant of the Erasmus programme. Alexandra chose to study at one of the smallest universities in Europe - the University of Crete, Rethymnon.

Alexandra’s Erasmus experience enhanced her European identity by uniting her two cultural backgrounds and since then she has forged a highly successful television career in both Sweden and Greece. She says 'Erasmus was really the springboard in my career'. Alexandra represented Sweden in the Council of Europe’s ‘All different – all equal’ campaign. She is also nominated for the 2017 Swedish Grand Prize for Journalism in the ‘Storyteller of the Year’ category. She is currently starring in Alexandra’s Odyssey, in Stockholm - a play she wrote about current events in Europe.

Einar Nilsson – 52 – Norway

Einar Nilsson – 52 – Norway

Restorative craftsman, designer and media personality

Italy, 1997

'Cultural exchange is very important, to see how things are done in other parts of the world. My restoration business is now full of different flavours and facets. It’s about variety, and I think variety is great!'

Creativity, a spirit of adventure and a desire to learn and share new skills have made Einar a household name in his native Norway. As a participant on the popular TV home makeover show ‘Tid for hjem’, Einar is part of a team that renovates and redesigns houses, and he is known to be a keen advocate of traditional handicrafts. He also runs his own design company.

Einar believes that variety is the spice of life. Some of this joie de vivre comes from his experience in Venice, where he spent three months studying the conservation of wall paintings as part of a Leonardo Da Vinci exchange programme (former Erasmus+ programme in the field of vocational and education training). This experience not only enabled him to learn traditional Italian restorative techniques, completely new to him but to also meet inspiring crafts people from all over Europe who had come to Venice to study.

The experience of living and working in an ancient city that is itself undergoing constant restoration was motivating, and feeds into Einar’s work today. Sometimes when he is working on a stucco lustro, or a piece of restoration, he says, memories of Venice come flooding back. One thing Einar believes is ‘we definitely need to learn more from each other'. This is one of the reasons he likes variation in his life and career. He believes that 'there is always something that can be exchanged in the cultural sphere.’

Grete Paia – 21 – Estonia

Grete Paia – 21 – Estonia

Singer

Italy, 2015-16

'I wasn’t scared anymore and I think this newfound confidence was a direct result of my Erasmus+ experience.'

Grete is an Estonian successful singer and songwriter. She is best known for performing in the country’s national Eurovision competition Eesti Laul in both 2013 and 2016. Grete spent a semester at Milan’s Bocconi University, where she studied marketing and finance. Her Erasmus+ experience enhanced her personal development; she became stronger, more independent and confident. She also became calmer, which has been key to conquering her stage fright. Grete says that she gained a 'completely new mindset' which helped her to develop her creativity, as she wrote many songs during her stay in Italy.

According to Grete the Erasmus+ generation is more open-minded than previous generations. Being born in a time of free movement, she doesn’t understand the idea of boundaries stopping her from going anywhere. ‘If I have a performance in another country, I never think of being stopped from going there. You should be able to go wherever you want.’ This natural freedom Grete feels will likely mean doing a second Erasmus+ stint in the future - perhaps a communication course in the University of Amsterdam.

Esther Berrozpe Galindo – 47 – Spain

Esther Berrozpe Galindo – 47 – Spain

President of Whirlpool EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Executive Vice President Whirlpool Corporation

Italy, 1993

'Having an international experience and speaking different languages are key factors to join a big global company.'

Esther's international career started with an Erasmus programme at the Universita degli studi di Bergamo, in Italy. Since 2013, she has been the President of Whirlpool EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa) and Executive Vice President Whirlpool Corporation. According to Esther, the Erasmus experience goes beyond travelling, 'It helps open your mind and also opens you up to more opportunities and possibilities'. After her Erasmus experience, she stayed in Italy for an internship that 'opened her international career'. Esther says that if she had never participated in Erasmus, her career could have been completely different.

Today, after living in various countries, Esther considers herself a citizen of the world. Living and working abroad had both a personal impact on her life and helped her better understand how international companies can act global by thinking locally.

Eva Sakalova – 31 – Slovakia

Eva Sakalova – 31 – Slovakia

Actress

Germany, 2005-06

'It’s important to connect with other people and communities, to play together and not against each other.'

Eva is a theatre and film actress who recently starred in a film which premiered in Vienna in 2016. Her Erasmus experience at the Hannover University of Drama, in Germany, made her more independent and open. She improved her German language and made contacts which led her to more acting roles.

Eva learnt a new way of singing while in Germany which she took back and applied on the home stage. The experience also made her more confident when cast in international roles and to work internationally. She uses techniques from both schools and can ‘work with other actors, directors, theatres and companies that are doing a great job, great art.

In addition to taking people out of their comfort zone, Eva believes that taking advantage of the freedom to study, work and travel leads people to grow personally and better understand situations other people are living in. Her parents told her stories of living in a time where free movement was limited, so she values the freedom to choose where to live and work today, and to meet great people abroad. She believes people can grow personally through Erasmus+ and ‘better understand differences, connect and support each other much more’. An impact Erasmus+ has on people today is that ‘those in a good situation can support those in a less favourable situation.’

Thora Arnorsdottir – 42 – Iceland

Thora Arnorsdottir – 42 – Iceland

Media personality and a candidate for the presidential election in June 2012

Italy, 1997-98

‘If you get to know people of different nationalities with different cultures, different traditions, it’s so obvious that you will not think of them as your enemies. It reduces xenophobia, ignorance; it just opens your mind to the diversity of the world.’

For Thora the Erasmus+ programme is one of the European Union’s best inventions because it ‘changes everything’. She is the editor of an Icelandic TV news magazine and the founder of a documentary production company. She was also the runner-up in the 2012 Iceland presidential elections.

Thora’s Erasmus experience in Genoa, Italy had a profound impact on her life: it made her stronger and more confident; it helped her learn Italian and develop an interest for Italy’s culture and politics. She credits her Erasmus experience with helping her get a job in the media a few months after her return. Even today she will cover breaking news from Italy.

Good friendships and gaining a second family with whom she still has strong connections was another plus of Thora’s experience. She encourages young people to be active and ‘open to all the diversity that is right around you and let your voice be heard’.

Heikki Aittokoski – 46 – Finland

Heikki Aittokoski – 46 – Finland

Journalist

Germany, 1993-94

‘Erasmus+ is an excellent investment in your future. It is one of the most concrete and positive things to come out of the EU.’

Heikki is a journalist at Finnish national newspaper Helsingin Sanomat and has published four non-fiction books. Heikki spent a year on Erasmus in Frankfurt, Germany, where he mastered the German language while studying political history. A few years later, he was appointed Berlin Correspondent at Helsingin Sanomat. He is thankful for his Erasmus experience that shaped his career as a journalist. It has widened his horizons and, as a result, the issues he covers in his writing.

As a foreign affairs journalist, Heikki regularly travels across the EU and beyond. He recalls that during his Erasmus experience, prior to the Schengen agreement, you would waste time in passport checks and queues. In fact, he hopes that free movement will continue in the future.

Heikki encourages today’s young people to be active; to take part in NGO work or study abroad. He considers Erasmus+ an excellent investment in someone’s, as well as the society's, future.

Ilias Agathangelidis – 50 – Sweden

Ilias Agathangelidis – 50 – Sweden

Since 2005, Ilias has been coordinating various eTwinning, and Erasmus+ school education projects, giving his students the opportunity to learn about sport, culture, the environment, democracy, human rights and entrepreneurship. 70 staff, 500 students and 3 school classes have taken part in various international exchanges in several EU countries, including Belgium, Italy, Poland, Portugal, Finland, Germany and Greece. The experience has inspired students to become involved in similar projects, both within and outside school. Some have gone on to high schools where they could continue working on similar projects, while others are active members in youth organisations. Most of these students have vastly improved both their language and social skills due to their continual interaction with different nationalities and cultures. The Swedish teachers have also learned a great deal from these exchanges, such improving Information Communication Technology (ICT) teaching methods. Different languages are now being spoken freely across the school, adding a truly international element.

Bridging Europe and Africa: A Social Initiative - Romania

Bridging Europe and Africa: A Social Initiative - Romania

So far, 24 individuals from both the EU and Africa have taken part in the 'Bridging Europe and Africa: A Social Initiative' project, working on a number of health and education projects, which have reached some 900 beneficiaries, including children, teenagers and parents. Romanian volunteers working in Benin are developing their skills as youth workers, social workers and midwives. Meanwhile, Portuguese volunteers in Cape Verde are learning a great deal about the environment and wildlife protection, while also developing their entrepreneurship skills. Similarly, locals in Cape Verde and Benin have gained valuable insight into how their counterparts in Romania and Portugal plan, prepare, and run youth and health projects. For example, staff working at a health clinic in Benin are now providing better quality patient care, while local schoolteachers in Cape Verde have mastered non-formal education approaches like team building and brainstorming. Crucially, children in both Benin and Cape Verde are taking part in various leisure activities, shielding them from drug and alcohol dependency.

Hubert Skrzyński – 41 – Poland

Hubert Skrzyński – 41 – Poland

Hubert is currently Head of a prison school in central Poland where he teaches English and Polish. He has successfully created, managed an implemented a number of Adult Education (formerly Grundtvig) projects, applying learning experiences from other prison education systems in Europe to his home institution in order to better encourage social inclusion through education. Taking part in these projects has permitted Hubert to develop a network of contacts through which innovative exchanges take place and new ideas and techniques are shared. Hubert's experience of adult education through Erasmus+ has reaffirmed his belief in the importance of education, and allows him to feel that he is making a positive and active contribution to his society.

Hubert's experience has opened many doors to him: he founded an association for socially excluded people; he has written several articles on prison education; and he sits on the steering committee of the European Prison Education Association (EPEA). 

CARMA Project – Palermo, Italy

CARMA Project – Palermo, Italy

The main aim of the CARMA project is to develop new non-formal learning techniques which will transform school practices. The strategies are being developed as part of an overall EU strategy to reduce early school leaving to below 10%. With pilot schemes already launched in Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, Portugal, Spain and Turkey, positive results already indicate changes in the attitudes of pupils, with many actively looking forward to their next non-formal lessons. Staff have also benefitted from specialised training and open dialogue with experts in the field of non-formal education in an international setting. CARMA will use the findings from the pilot phase of the project to provide recommendations at the national level for how to best combat early school leaving with non-formal education.

Kieran Brosnan – 51 – Ireland

Kieran Brosnan – 51 – Ireland

In 2014, St. Paul’s Primary School undertook a year-long Erasmus+ project which fostered mobility amongst school pupils. The theme of the project was Inclusive Education; it aimed to educate staff and pupils, and develop an increased awareness of cultural diversity in the classroom to ensure equal opportunities for all. By working alongside schools in Latvia, Slovenia, Spain and Turkey with a similar profile to their own, Kieran Brosnan, the project coordinator, was able to share experiences and ideas with colleagues throughout Europe and introduce new teaching and learning methods to his school. Concepts such as 'team teaching' are now used by Kieran and his colleagues in Ireland, and their pupils are really benefiting from more diverse teaching styles and cooperative learning activities. St. Paul's Primary school now offers a more inclusive learning environment, and staff and pupils have recently received a national award for their participation in the campaign 'Show Racism the Red Card'.

 

EMMIR – Germany

EMMIR – Germany

The European Master in Migration and Intercultural Relations (EMMIR) is the first African-European Erasmus Mundus Master Course in Migration Studies. Through an intercultural approach, the course provides theoretical skills in migration studies combined with field work in Europe and Africa. For students, EMMIR offers a diverse teaching and learning environment which introduces innovative contributions to the field. A growing global network of partners provides unique opportunities for both internships and employment. Almost a hundred students from around 70 different countries have graduated from the programme since 2012, and this young, dynamic network of migration experts is now making a difference in the field. Most graduates have found jobs in international organisations such as the Red Cross or with migration-related NGOs, while others have gone into research and education. One graduate, for example, currently provides intercultural training for nurses.  

Guillaume Vandeberg – 25 – Belgium

Guillaume Vandeberg – 25 – Belgium

Guillaume is a freelance mason. Through a Vocational and Educational Training  programme (formerly Leonardo) he worked as a trainee mason in Florence, Italy, where he worked to renovate old stone buildings. He was a shy and reserved teenager who never felt like he fit in, and had left the traditional school pathway. Masonry was a skill he could pursue and the training in Italy a revelation. He learned to fend for himself, opened up to others and regained self-confidence. The skills and experience that Guillaume gained as a team leader in Florence have enabled him to set up his own company in Belgium, where he is responsible for his own workers. At his company, Guillaume often hosts trainee masons; he encourages these individuals to explore the same techniques that he learned in Italy.

SPIN – Austria

SPIN  – Austria

Launched in 2011, the Sport Inclusion Network (SPIN) project brought together seven like-minded organisations to increase the number of people volunteering in sport from minority groups. The partners shared examples of good practice by holding workshops on the social inclusion of migrants in each of the seven countries. The project also published various studies on the role that sport plays in social inclusion. For example, the ‘Good Practices Guide’ compiled 45 examples of positive sport initiatives in 8 European countries. Furthermore, the Football Refugee Day - part of the World Refugee Day - saw several partners mobilising local refugee and asylum-seeking communities to participate in tournaments. The 1,952 participants who took part in the project gained from their involvement. For example, migrant football teams were empowered by the experience, with their skills improving. SPIN has been vital in raising awareness and provoking debate of issues which often go overlooked. By building links between refugees and migrants and civil society, SPIN has been able to build strong networks and engage more vulnerable people in sport. 

Carina Autengruber – 26 – Austria

Carina Autengruber – 26 – Austria

Carina is passionate about social inclusion, and has actively participated in this cause since childhood. However, Carina's European Voluntary Service (EVS) placement in Luxembourg gave her a whole new perspective. During her EVS mobility, Carina worked with young people with disabilities. She became aware of new ways to engage with and contribute to society, and felt she was really making a difference. The experience also broadened Carina's understanding of what it means to be European – 'Europe' transformed from being a concept into a tangible reality. The opportunities offered to Carina by the EVS programme have also helped her develop many key skills; she is more self-confident, better able to face challenges, and has more intercultural awareness. Carina has further built on these skills as a European Youth Delegate of the Austrian National Youth Council, where she has focused on topics such as youth participation, migration, and gender equality, and in her new role as vice president of the European Youth Forum.  

Tania Habimana – 27 – United Kingdom

Tania Habimana – 27 – United Kingdom

Erasmus – Higher Education

Germany, 2009

Tania grew up in the UK and Belgium. With Erasmus, she studied international business and German. The experience presented Tania with the opportunity to build an international network of contacts, and prompted new, entrepreneurial ideas. Today, Tania runs her own enterprise Tailored Business, a TV show which documents experiences of designing suits for individuals in Africa, and interviewing them about their own careers. Tania is an advocate for women entrepreneurs, and hopes that her TV show will inspire others to explore their own business talents. Tania also contributes to Elle magazine South Africa as a careers specialist.

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