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Erasmus turns 25
The Erasmus programme celebrated 25 years of promoting student mobility this year. We take a look back at the programme, its successes, and hear from some of those who have benefitted from Erasmus participation over the years.
The Erasmus programme began in 1987 as a stand-alone project among 11 EU Member States. In its first year 3 244 students were sent abroad to benefit from the experience of studying and living in another EU country or Iceland, Croatia, Lichtenstein, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey. Since those humble beginnings much has changed. Over the course of 25 years, more than 2 700 000 students have taken advantage of the Erasmus programme and currently 4 % of all students in the 33 participating countries take advantage of an Erasmus grant in order to spend part of their study programme at a foreign university.
“The cultural value of an exchange cannot be gained by reading about it, you have
to experience it [..] It was a great opportunity to meet new friends from all over Europe and I feel more European today than I did before leaving,” says Nina Siig Simonsen who was a Danish Erasmus student in Lithuania in 2009.
Erasmus represents a chance not only for students interested in European mobility, but also for some professionals such as university lecturers. Rumyana Todorova teaches at the University of Shumen in Bulgaria and has taught at universities across Europe thanks to Erasmus. “Although you may think that you’re familiar with the culture you’re going to, when you’re immersed it turns out there’s always something new to learn,” she asserts.
For all participants, the chance to spend a period abroad offers priceless experiences that can help them in their personal and professional lives. Milada Hlavácková is Lecturer and Erasmus Coordinator at the Technical University of Ostrava in the Czech Republic. She notes that students, for example, return from stints abroad with “better linguistic skills and with something different to include in their curriculum vitae that distinguishes them from other graduates.”
The value of a period of study or work abroad under the auspices of the Erasmus programme cannot be underestimated, and in fact, the potential future career benefits are often one of the primary motivating factors for participation. José Antonio Acerete, a EURES Adviser in Spain who has worked with jobseekers who participated in Erasmus, agrees that the programme opens the door to Europe, “complementing EURES’s activities in the pursuit of personal and professional development.”
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