Gary Diderich – 37 – Luxembourg

Gary Diderich – 37 – Luxembourg

Youth – Spain, 2008-09

‘The Erasmus+ experience has deepened my understanding of all kinds of people from different backgrounds. This has continued to help me in my work, as I deal with lots of people every day.’

For Gary, the Erasmus+ experience was transformative on both a personal and professional level, helping him develop as an educational and social actor for change.

After co-founding a social enterprise in 2002, Gary was working and studying part-time in Luxembourg. This meant he wasn’t advancing as fast as he would have liked in his undergraduate studies. To accelerate his progress, Gary decided to take advantage of Erasmus+ and enrol for 2 semesters at the University of Barcelona, Spain, where he studied Philosophy while improving his Spanish.

Initially, he was moved by the sub-standard living conditions of the young people in Barcelona. Troubled by the lack of affordable housing for locals, Gary ended up becoming active in various student movements. ‘It was inspiring to see students refuse to accept what was happening and become politically engaged in society,’ he says.

Upon his return to Luxembourg, Gary resumed his work at 4motion with a renewed vision on training citizens to take part in their communities. Under the slogan ‘Education for social change’, the non-profit organisation encourages inclusion, active civic participation and employment assistance. Through tailored training sessions and forums, 4motion ‘train[s] all kinds of teachers, childcare agents, youngsters, and public servants to raise awareness about these issues.’

Since 2009, he has continued to innovate education through his role as an elected city councillor in his town

‘Holy Spirit’ project – Ireland

‘Holy Spirit’ project – Ireland

School Education – Ireland, 2016-18

‘Our teachers are now better trained and engaged, and it is noticeable that last year’s results from our first-year class were the best ever.’

Erasmus+ has enabled teachers at an Irish primary school to expand their horizons, connect with colleagues abroad and bring new ideas back to the classroom. Sending staff on training courses to the UK ‘has had a very positive effect on what we’re doing’, says Holy Spirit Boys National School teacher Alex O'Mahony, noting that ‘the feedback we received was that this was the best professional development many had ever had’.

The fact that some training courses were not readily available in Ireland ‘really shows how Erasmus+ can help to fill in the gaps in national systems’, adds Alex. As a result, new methods for improving literacy are being implemented, and the school is currently rewriting its English teaching policy. The impact has been felt beyond Alex's school: ‘if you take into account the networking that our principal does when she talks to the heads of other schools, then the reach of our Erasmus+ funding has been huge’.

Erasmus+ also enabled Alex to travel to Berlin to see how German schools are integrating migrant kids into the school system. ‘It was fascinating to see how this is being achieved through intensive language courses,’ he says. ‘We could think about applying this method for kids who are struggling in school.’ Alex is also thinking about a training course in Scotland, where new ideas for teaching Scots Gaelic could be applied to the teaching of Irish Gaelic. ‘This is the beauty of Erasmus+,’ he says, ‘you can take it where you want to.’

Maja Makovec Brenčič – 47 – Slovenia

Maja Makovec Brenčič – 47 – Slovenia

Higher Education – Cooperation among universities from 30 countries, 2009-12

I am a staunch advocate for teachers as a key factor in quality education that responds to the needs of students and our changing society.’

As an academic, a higher education administrator and a government official, Maja Makovec Brenčič, the Slovenian Minister of Education, Science and Sport, continues to champion international, multi-sectoral cooperation and openness as a key driver of quality education.

She witnessed this first-hand through the Consumer Behaviour Erasmus Network (COBEREN), which provided a platform to meet and share with higher education representatives from 30 participating countries. ‘For me, cooperation in an active international Erasmus network was a great experience from both a personal and professional point of view.’

For Maja, the Erasmus+ programme is about widening the scope of the teacher’s experience and cross-cultural understanding and, in turn, promoting transnational pedagogical innovation. ‘Higher Education must not be isolated within national borders. I am convinced that such high expectations and goals can only be achieved with national and transnational solutions’, she says. Her own participation in the Erasmus programme ‘only strengthened my belief that the international openness of education is a significant driver of quality’.

As a minister, she continues to promote excellence in teaching, encouraging young educators to take advantage of Erasmus+ opportunities in different academic and professional sectors. Whereas she previously viewed Erasmus+ from a higher education perspective, as a minister ‘every day I have the opportunity to get to know the programme, its activities and long-term impacts on all levels of education, on youth policy and grassroots sports development.’

‘European Astrobiology Campus’ project – Estonia

‘European Astrobiology Campus’ project – Estonia

Strategic Partnership in Higher Education – Estonia, Finland, France, United Kingdom, Iceland, Lithuania, Netherlands, Portugal, Sweden, 2014-17

‘Today, science knows that the Big Questions like “is there life on Mars” or “what is the origin of life on Earth” cannot be answered by one discipline alone. That’s why our project focuses on fostering interdisciplinary cooperation in the field of astrobiology.’

Established in 2014 by 10 higher education institutions and 2 non-academic entities, the European Astrobiology Campus (EAC) has created extraordinary opportunities for scientists, researchers and educators. With partners from 9 European countries, the project is able to provide comprehensive, high-level training; build bridges between scientists from different disciplines and at different stages of their careers; and increase the quality of education in the field of astrobiology.

During the last 3 years, project partners have assembled a strong team of trainers providing high-level courses and summer schools on various topics such as ‘Biosignatures and the search for life on Mars’, ‘Impacts and their role in the evolution of life’ or ‘Formation of complex molecules in space and on planets’ – just to name a few.

We have managed to bring together true science enthusiasts capable of working beyond the boundaries of their discipline. Some have already become leaders of important scientific projects’, says Professor Wolf Geppert, the deputy coordinator from Stockholm University. Drawing from teachers and former students involved in the summer schools, 4 interdisciplinary research teams have been established to investigate the colonisation of volcanic environments. Their research contributes to the search for life on Mars, and one of the teams has been awarded significant financial support from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Framing the above achievements, the project has set a foundation for international training and exposure, with a view to future generations of scientists and researchers. ‘For young scientists, these are absolutely extraordinary opportunities’, says Prof. Geppert, ‘because it increases their employability and thus stirs up their scientific engagement.’

The impact of the Erasmus + strategic partnership already goes beyond funded initiatives to serve the wider public. With this in mind, some of the partners plan to establish a European Astrobiology Institute, with EAC as its training entity.

PEOPLE project – Slovenia

PEOPLE project – Slovenia

Knowledge Alliance in Higher Education – Slovenia, United Kingdom, The Netherlands, Czech Republic, 2016-19

You have to engage with people and meet them where they are: instead of telling them, you show them.’  

To improve the employability of social sciences and humanities graduates in the European Union, the PEOPLE project (People-centred Development Approaches in Practical and Learning Environments) engages students, educators, business professionals and consumers. Through this interdisciplinary collaboration, the project’s underlying premise is to identify and solve real-life business challenges and collectively develop and test various products and services in the energy efficiency and sustainable living sectors. As Anna Kirah, a member of the PEOPLE Advisory Board, notes, ‘You have to engage with people and meet them where they are: instead of telling them, you show them.’

According to PEOPLE project coordinator Gregor Cerinsek, ‘We think that meaningful products and services in the sustainable living and energy sectors can only be developed with the people who use them.’  In line with this view, Gregor and his colleagues recognise the need for People-centred Learning Cycles so ‘students, teachers and researchers are directly exposed to the needs and requirements of the industry.’ In the Netherlands, for example, 4 students are helping the energy company Alliander map customer behaviour as part of its ‘natural gas transition programme’, which is working towards a smooth and people-friendly transition to a natural gas-free future.

Thus far, the PEOPLE framework has proven to be a win-win situation for all concerned, and a testament to the added value of the Erasmus+ experience. Students, teachers and researchers acquire new knowledge and entrepreneurial skills working with companies which, in turn, are training future employees.

Looking ahead, Gregor and his colleagues are confident that this cooperative inter-sectoral project approach will give European economies a competitive advantage, while ensuring humanities graduates have real employment prospects.

Borderline Boardgames – Norway

Borderline Boardgames – Norway

Erasmus+ Youth Project – 10 countries (Norway, Hungary, United Kingdom, Lithuania, Portugal, Belgium, France, Italy, Spain, Greece), 2014-16

‘We came up with the idea of developing an interactive and attractive learning tool to address financial literacy among young people.’

In the aftermath of the credit crunch, a group of youth workers spanning across 10 countries came together to address the lack of financial literacy and conflict management among poorer young EU citizens.

And so the Borderline Boardgames project was born. The project comprises two ‘high-quality game-based learning exercises’: Mission Z, an interactive board game which simulates a conflict management scenario, and Real Ideal, which is designed to train young people to think seriously about their finances as well as their futures.

In its early stages, a 5-person team from a small Portuguese village was engaged to craft each board game. Project coordinator Joakim Arnøy describes the 5-month production process: ‘They produced, sandpapered and painted thousands of the game pieces by hand’. Both prototypes were tested on youth groups, school classes and in international training courses across 8 countries, reaching over 800 people.

Today, the board games have been employed in a variety of learning and training environments: helping teachers make their lessons more interactive and engaging, in addition to providing a unique training tool to improve staff performance in not-for-profit organisations as well as corporations. In Lithuania, even banks have expressed an interest in using Real Ideal in their Corporate Social Responsibility Programmes. 

In addition to project outputs across the 10 countries, Joakim has benefited personally from the Erasmus+ experience: ‘To be project coordinator was a steep learning curve for me. It challenged me to step up to the plate and has made a big difference in my career.’

Jose Tomas Pastor Perez – 43 – Spain

Jose Tomas Pastor Perez – 43 – Spain

Adult Education – Slovenia, 2016-18

 ‘Students need to learn to effectively communicate, to express themselves, to process information, to be active citizens, so that their education transfers into their employability.’

Jose Tomas Pastor Perez is head of the Science and Technology Department at CFPA Mercè Rodoreda, a public learning centre for adults located in the small city of Elche, Spain. In this role, he has positioned himself as an innovative educator and a teaching enthusiast. Through participation in different Erasmus initiatives, Jose has come to view the model of adult education in a new light, one based on asking students ‘How can I assist you in reaching your goals?’  

Reflecting on his experiences, Jose sees his work as complementing and helping innovate school curricula, with courses that stress practical skills for the new knowledge society such as online job-searching techniques, creating online portfolios and social media recruitment. He has also introduced non-formal teaching methods into the learning process. For instance, at his centre students learn about science and technology by creating and overseeing their own science museum.

Preparing objects for the museum not only helps students learn about aerodynamics or optics but also organise events, conduct guided tours, and interact with the local community. That is much more beneficial than just sitting with a book’, he says.

His efforts have translated into tangible benefits for the students, securing their entry into the job market, their future employability and career development. While Jose’s contribution to quality adult education has been recognised by numerous awards, such as the ‘Miguel Hernández award’ from the Spanish Ministry of Education, this is merely a positive ‘side-effect’ of his efforts. ‘My main goal is to introduce new innovative teaching methods into the training process in order to offer better services for society. The Erasmus + programme helps with this significantly.’

QUAL4T2 – The Netherlands

QUAL4T2 – The Netherlands

Vocational Education and Training – Denmark, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands and Spain, 2016-19

‘Improving quality culture ultimately means giving students a better education and better job options for the future.’

The QUAL4T2 project, which brings together 5 European countries, aims to improve the quality of teaching by sharing best practices, holding workshops and developing online guidance tools. While the first QUAL4T project, which ran until 2015, focused on supporting individual teachers, this follow-up phase is committed to improving the quality of teaching by supporting team culture. ‘Even if everything looks satisfactory on paper, negative team culture can make classrooms and staffrooms miserable, says project coordinator Margrieta Kroese.

Launched less than a year ago, the project has already delivered some 17 guidance tools, all of which are available online. The two most popular tools so far focus on raising teachers’ awareness of quality culture and strategic planning. ‘A lot of feedback from the first project was about activity planning, with many teachers asking for more help at the team level’, notes Margrieta. ‘Teachers are under too much pressure, partly because they are not always sure whether or not they are doing the right thing for certain tasks.’

By providing guidance on the professional development of individual teachers in a team setting, the QUAL4T2 project aims to instil a culture of quality in schools. ‘Invest in teams and ultimately the students will gain’, says Margrieta. ‘For educational staff, the real benefit is being able to identify an objective and feel satisfaction from achieving it.’

‘Puppets mission: childhood without borders’ project – Lithuania

‘Puppets mission: childhood without borders’ project – Lithuania

Strategic Partnership in School Education – Lithuania, FYRM, Italy, Bulgaria, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Romania, 2014-16

‘Art is an amazing educational tool. It engages children intellectually, emotionally, physically and socially. It makes the whole educational process more fun and enriching.’

Travelling puppets, cultural activities, education through drama, dance, computer games and other artistic media – all of these components contributed to the Puppets mission: childhood without borders project. Involving 8 kindergarten facilities from different European countries, the project aimed to encourage preschool teachers to integrate new, under-utilised teaching strategies (e.g. play, drama, experiments, music) into the educational programmes for school children ages 3-7 years old.

We often see that teachers tend to avoid crossing the “safe circle” of traditional teaching, which views preschool education as less important than basic school education. We wanted to challenge that attitude and improve the quality of our teaching’, says Jolanta Varanavičienė, project coordinator from Žilvitis, a Lithuanian kindergarten.

Project activities revolved around using traditional puppets to promote cultural and pedagogical exchanges among the partner countries. These puppets were sent from one partner to another, with tasks related to the culture of each country. Children performed the tasks: from drama and dance exercises, to computer games and other activities. Complementing student engagement, teachers took part in transnational training sessions dedicated to studying new educational approaches and best practices.

Overall, the project championed the arts in driving pedagogical innovation, and as a result, new teaching strategies have been implemented in the everyday operations of the participating facilities. ‘The creative arts give children an opportunity to cooperate, to create together and to find a way to effectively represent ideas, events or feelings. It stimulates their overall development.’

Stasele Riškienė – 42 – Lithuania

Stasele Riškienė – 42 – Lithuania

School Education – Finland, Austria, Greece, Italy and Spain, 2013–15

Each project pushed me forward, giving me tools, ideas, inspirations and new contacts so that I could become a better teacher and work to improve the quality of education in my school.’

Interactive learning materials, online quizzes and exams, secure school social networks – ICT tools have shaped the way we think about and promote education in the 21st century. Thanks to Stasele Riškienė, an English language teacher from the Kuršėnų Pavenčiai School, mobile learning has become a reality for pupils in Lithuania.

After becoming familiar with different applications through Erasmus+ educational projects, Stasele was one of the first in the country to introduce smart devices into her teaching. She saw the potential of different applications for tracking and improving the performance of both teachers and students. ‘E-books, interactive exercises, assisting kids with disabilities – these are just a few examples of how ICT technologies may be used in education’, she says.

Today, as an Apple education trainer and eTwinning ambassador, she provides teachers from all around the country with training and assistance in introducing ICT tools into their teaching plans. She also runs a blog to reach out to teachers and promote smart learning and encourage participation in international exchanges. In her own words, ‘international exchanges have also helped us to give our teaching a European dimension’, adding that ‘This is very important as we are part of a united Europe.’ Her hard work has earned her the Teacher of the Year award from the Lithuanian Ministry of Education and Science.  

For Stasele, the Erasmus+ experience has informed her view of education more generally. ‘School should be more about helping kids get to know the world instead of locking them in four walls. The more engaging the educational process is, the better outcomes we get.’ In her particular profession, the added value of Erasmus+ for teachers is wide-reaching: ‘Improving the language skills of educational staff and pupils, gaining intercultural competences and broadening the scope of teaching techniques and methodologies are just some of the benefits.’ 

Luis Morais – 37 – Portugal

Luis Morais – 37 – Portugal

Vocational Education and Training – Paris, France, 2001

‘Sharing the love of sports or doing sports together is yet another platform for people to identify with each other and to be united.’

At 37, Luis is still making the most of his Erasmus+ experience in Paris. After selling his successful business, he moved to the United States to work for a top sporting club.

Educated as a marketing specialist, Luis worked in the car industry, wine distribution and tourism. But at 27, he wanted more from his career: ‘I already felt like I want to do something on my own: start my own business. When you are capable of doing something it’s not a question of age.’ So he started a football academy for children. After 3 years, Luis was running 3 academies that trained 1,000 children and employed 50 coaches.

While growing his business, Luis also became a coach and completed a physical education training. He decided to sell the company: ‘Erasmus has taught me to be open minded and mobile. I wasn’t afraid to change industries and places.’

In the US, Luis has trained young players from several age groups, but he says sports has a unique effect on all players: ‘You have to become a team player. You have to think collectively to work in sports and that naturally creates unity.’

Luis’ next move? We’ll have to wait and see, because: ‘doing sports professionally is definitely an international career, you always have to be prepared, to have your bags ready.’

Rosemarie Albrecht – 29 – Germany

Rosemarie Albrecht – 29 – Germany

School Education – Portugal, 2012-13

‘Speaking languages makes me feel European because it enables me to communicate with people, to create bonds with them. We deal with similar problems, we dream about similar things, even if our daily realities are very different.’

Rosemarie loves learning languages because it enables her to better understand how others think and see the world. She believes, ‘languages are not only communication tools; they are also a way how we shape reality. If you really want to get to know someone, learn his or her language’.

She already speaks four – German, English, Spanish and Portuguese. After time abroad in Spain, Rosemarie used an Erasmus+ opportunity to teach German as a foreign language in a Portuguese vocational education and training school. This was the first time she taught German as a foreign language and the experience deepened her interest to work with pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds.

She fell in love with Portugal and decided to stay. Rosemarie recalls it was ‘much easier to find a job since I already had work experience in Portugal. Erasmus+ was a starting point for my professional development here.’ It is possible her pupils – who were excited to ‘find out about another country, its culture [and] language’ – taught her just as much as she’s taught them. They made her realise, ‘if I open up to people, open up for cooperation, we can do much more than what we could do separately’.

Becoming involved in Erasmus+ broadened Rosemarie’s understanding of the opportunities Europe has to offer. In her own words, ‘knowing languages enables us to exercise our rights as EU citizens to freely move across the EU and choose a place to live and work.’

Contracteranto - Belgium

Contracteranto - Belgium

Vocational Education and Training in 5 countries, 2011-13

‘When you don’t understand one another, accidents happen.’

On 27 March 2001, 8 people lost their lives and scores more were injured in a train crash near the Belgian city of Pécrot. The language barrier between the station signalmen at Wavre and Leuven was one of the causes. This is just one example of a work-related accident that can occur when workers speak different languages. 

Contracteranto is an online tool of work-related terminology that helps prevent such accidents from happening. Funded by Erasmus+, the online database in 7 languages covers 4 high-risk safety sectors: care, chemical, construction and steel.  It contains a voiceover feature and offers also a printable Word version.

‘The main aim was to improve safety communication among foreign contractors working in Belgium,’ says Contracteranto project coordinator Kristien De Ro. Partner organisations came from Bulgaria, Spain, Portugal and Turkey, in addition to several in Belgium.

And today, the system is needed more than ever before. The ever-increasing geographical mobility within Europe means that there are higher safety risks at work due to the language gap between workers from different nationalities. Contracteranto is therefore well placed to help protect these workers.

Kirstien notes that unlike online translation apps, Contracteranto’s content was selected and revised by experts in each sector, ensuring all of its terminology is accurate and ready to use.

Even though the project finished, the service is still available online and ‘a lot of people still use it’ - including many different stakeholders such as risk prevention departments. More investment is required to add new languages and sectors that would help the many foreign workers starting work in Belgium – and in other countries.

Kristien also thinks the model could expand globally: ‘With an ever increasing number of immigrants arriving [ ] looking for work from all corners of the world, I think that Contracterento could play a crucial role in helping them adjust to work life.’

Arkadiusz Mierkowski – 32 – Poland

Arkadiusz Mierkowski – 32 – Poland

Youth projects in several European countries – 2016-18

‘Sport can be used as an amazing tool for social inclusion and integration, especially if the values of fair play and respect are emphasised more than just sporting prowess.’

Arkadiusz learnt that ‘sport is not only about competition’ during his first Erasmus experience. A sports enthusiast, he volunteered at an organisation aimed at social integration and inclusion through athletics.

As a project assistant, he helped organise big events like ‘Football for Tolerance’ which uses street football as a non-formal education tool. The most important part of the game is the dialogue in which teams need to ‘communicate effectively and work out consensus,’ to agree on the rules of the game. Fair play, inclusion and respect all earn a team points, in addition to actual goals.

Inspired by this method and full of enthusiasm, Arkadiusz wrote a letter to the mayor of his hometown, Mragowo, saying that he’d love to run similar projects there. It worked, and he took up a sports animator position at a local football pitch. He led award-winning volunteer projects for young people that promote active citizenship.

From 2008 onwards, he took part in more Erasmus+ volunteer exchanges to Slovakia and Iceland and cooperation projects with many countries. Then in 2013, he joined the foundation for physical culture development under Poland’s Ministry of Sports and Tourism for 3 years. He credits Erasmus+ as being ‘a springboard to my further career. All other exchanges and [volunteer] training helped me to deepen my professional skills and improve intercultural competence.’

Today he works at the City Hall in Mrągowo and, along with his friends, runs his own NGO – MSIS - Youth Association for Sport Initiatives. They are currently taking part in two big Erasmus+ funded projects, all aimed at encouraging people to take action to make their city a better place. ‘Sport is a perfect tool for that’ – he sums up.

Beyond Signs in the City – Bulgaria

Beyond Signs in the City – Bulgaria

Multilingualism project – 9 countries, 2008-10

‘Protecting languages – and learning new ones – is very important for any part of life. National and regional/minority languages play a key role in maintaining the character of the place and [its] culture. This diversity has to be kept.’

The Beyond Signs in the City project pioneered an immersive and fun method of learning new languages and understanding local cultures. ‘Visual representations of the urban environment provide excellent ready-made material for language learning in “real life” situations,’ explains project coordinator Reneta Palova. ‘We collected photos of symbols, signs and landscapes in 10 cities, and turned these into phrase books, short video clips and teaching tools.’

These tools give visitors and language learners a true flavour of the city. Involving local citizens throughout the project ‘also helped foster a sense of identity and pride in the community’. The legacy of the project lives on; tools are still being used in local schools, and potential new users are continually being identified. ‘The social impact has been very diverse, with benefits for newcomers, language learners and local citizens.’

‘This project is adaptable,’ emphasises Reneta. ‘For example, materials are now being used to promote the social inclusion of migrants and refugees. Knowledge of the language and culture you see on the street provides excellent orientation for new arrivals.’ A new project entitled ‘Signs goes north’, which adapts the SIGNS methodology to the needs of refugees and newly arrived migrants in Northern European countries, is due to begin shortly in Sweden, Netherlands, Denmark and Iceland.

Rosita Herreros Ossorio – 24 – Spain

Rosita Herreros Ossorio – 24 – Spain

School Education – Finland, 2014

When you play, you see how everyone can help you in different ways. It’s about respect. You realise that differences are just different ways of doing things. This is why I think sport helps so much to open minds.’

A semester studying and playing in a female first division football team in northern Finland provided Rosita with some life-changing inspiration both on and off the pitch. She learnt English and Finnish, met people from all over the world and today she remains as passionate as ever about the benefits of sport to society. ‘[Sport] teaches you that you need others; you cannot do everything alone, just as in business or any other aspect of life,’ Rosita explains.

Sport is also about taking responsibility, says Rosita. ‘It teaches you how to perform within a group of people, and how to look after your teammates. It’s more than just kicking a ball.’

After having played with an Italian team for 6 months, Rosita is back in Kokkola to perfect her English, take further university courses, and – of course – play football. ‘Long term, my aim is to go back to Majorca and work in tourism,’ she says. ‘My Erasmus+ experience has put me in contact with so many different cultures, and I think this will be really useful in the future.’

Svetlana Rashkov-Ninova – 59 – the Netherlands

Svetlana Rashkov-Ninova – 59 – the Netherlands

School Education – the Netherlands, 2014

Learning a language is not just theoretical; it enables you to understand the culture of a country.’

Svetlana fully understands that learning languages transforms lives. ‘Without language, you simply cannot function in society. It starts with communication with your neighbour and goes to cover your ability to perform tasks like shopping, going to the doctor and finding a job. Everything is connected to language.’

A project manager for a graphic design firm in Rotterdam, Svetlana came to the Netherlands from Bulgaria 30 years ago and now feels fully integrated.

This philosophy is also at the centre of the Erasmus+ Welcomm project, which developed a multimedia learning kit to help migrant children get ready for school and an interactive brochure for parents with basic information about the host country, its traditions and culture.

Produced in 6 languages (Dutch, Bulgarian, Italian, Spanish, Portuguese and Greek), the kit was issued to more than 88 migrant organisations and language providers. They currently use it to benefit hundreds of migrant children and parents. ‘This is really important as there are so many migrant children in Europe right now,’ she says. ‘It is vital that they learn the local language so that they can go to school. That is the real impact of this project.’

Thanks to Erasmus+, working at the European level with partners coming from different countries added another dimension to the project. It enabled the team to identify common interests and adapt learning tools to each situation. The project website is still running, and the success of Welcomm has led to new ideas. ‘We are currently finishing off a suite of learning tools focused on employment,’ says Svetlana. ‘This is in many ways a continuation of our language learning work for migrants.’

Fidel Corcuera Manso – 66 – Spain

Fidel Corcuera Manso – 66 – Spain

Higher Education – Spain, active in Erasmus+ since 1987

'Through communication, Erasmus+ increases tolerance and an understanding of others.'

Fidel’s whole university career has been connected to Erasmus, and now to Erasmus+, so he understands better than most people the contribution Erasmus+ has in strengthening language learning and building a common European identity. Currently the Director of French Studies at the University of Zaragoza in Spain, he has been involved in Erasmus since the very beginning in 1987. He notes that ‘the benefits to language learning and international relations have been huge’.

‘Erasmus+ has allowed a large number of young people to leave their daily lives in order to study abroad and realise another reality, in another language.’ He believes the programme ‘has helped to internalise the concept of freedom.’ 

Erasmus+ has also enriched Fidel’s professional life, enabling him to bring researchers from abroad and improve the knowledge, linguistic skills and cultural competences of the academic staff he works with.

Fidel believes that participating in Erasmus+ not only increases tolerance and understanding of others, it also equips students for life. ‘Students who went abroad and learned a language have more possibilities,’ he says. ‘They can communicate in another language and deal with new situations, which are vital skills in all sectors.’

María Soledad Moreno – 62 – Spain

María Soledad Moreno – 62 – Spain

Secondary Education – disability, special needs & inclusion projects - Wales, Latvia, Norway, Poland, Italy, Netherlands – 2014-present

'[Developing language skills] is important for all students (deaf and hearing)… to really understand, participate in and enjoy all situations.’

Deaf and hearing-impaired people have often been perceived as absent-minded or indifferent. Going against the grain, in 1991, La Rosaleda secondary school in Malaga began offering English courses to deaf students for the first time. Many students have gone on to participate in Erasmus+ Vocational Education and Training programmes with hearing students. Some even participate in a regular baccalaureate programme, in which they study subjects like English, French, philosophy and chemistry.

The first time the school received EU funding for educational programmes, 15 deaf students and 3 teachers were given the chance to go on a 2-week trip to Wales. Not long after, more students participated in EU funded Vocational Education and Training mobility programmes in Latvia, Norway, Poland, Italy and the Netherlands.

Currently, an EU-funded research project is looking at how deaf and hearing-impaired people can better prepare for life after leaving secondary school. Involving both deaf and hearing students, the results, when ready, will be sent to schools across Europe, helping a multitude cope with obstacles they may face.

A second capacity building project is teaching hearing care to special education teachers. Topics include diagnosing deafness, hearing aids, cochlear implant usage and cleaning as well as aural rehabilitation. Project outputs will be disseminated across Europe, enhancing the level of special needs care.

The projects have to-date helped around 50 hearing-impaired students become more independent. ‘Some of our past students now work in hardware maintenance for internet companies.  Others are working in administration, at kindergartens, and one is an expert in developing websites,’ says local teacher María Soledad Moreno.

Christian Goethals – 57 – Belgium

Christian Goethals – 57 – Belgium

Vocational Education and Training – Belgium – 2010-13

‘[Developing a language-learning website] has changed my view on teaching languages. I now think that it should be more practical rather than theoretical. … I have noticed that students [who] take our course are afterwards more open to that language and more secure in it.’

During a training seminar, language teacher Christian and some colleagues realised that catering trainees were unprepared for work abroad because they didn’t possess the necessary basic linguistic skills. The group soon secured funding from the Erasmus+ programme to develop Eurocatering, a free web-based language course for catering staff. Available in 12 languages, the website is considered a vital tool for training staff working in foreign kitchens, restaurants and receptions.

‘After using our website, trainees go abroad and feel more confident. They start speaking with the chef in the foreign language when they arrive. Before, they used to wait 2 weeks before saying a word,’ says Christian.

The experience has also helped Christian in his career. He now feels ‘more motivated’ and wants to ‘help the students get something more out of the language, not just teach them the rules.’

And it’s not just the students who are benefiting from the experience. ‘Many chefs have told us that it’s now so much easier to have trainees that have some confidence in the foreign language.’

The project has won 7 European Language Label Awards. Future plans include developing a tailor-made app together with exchange students from the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology in Ireland.