Matthieu Saglio – 40 – France

Matthieu Saglio – 40 – France

Erasmus+ Higher Education – Spain, 2000-01

The Erasmus+ programme is a cornerstone of the construction of the EU. Every time someone goes on an Erasmus to discover another culture, integrate into another culture, learn a language – they form new relationships with the people around them directly, and also indirectly.’

Matthieu found love thanks to Erasmus. He met his wife when she went on a year abroad to his university in Nancy, and the next year he followed her back to Spain as part of the Erasmus exchange programme that existed between their universities. Now they are raising their 3 Franco-Spanish boys together.

‘Erasmus+ changed my life. You could say that I became Spanish in a way. I really feel that Spain adopted me.’ In Valencia, Matthieu immersed himself in the Spanish culture, learnt to cook paellas and discovered flamenco. Erasmus+ also changed his professional choice. Without this experience, meeting the musicians in Valencia, he would never have made the decision to begin an international career as a cello player.

For him Erasmus+ leads to more openness and tolerance towards other cultures. He believes people discover intercultural exchanges ‘with passion, and at the same time with a certain distance as you come from somewhere else’. Matthieu tries to integrate this into his work and believes ‘this openness is something which is passed on through our concerts.’

Irene Goméz Arnáiz – 23 – Spain

Irene Goméz Arnáiz – 23 – Spain

Higher Education – Finland, 2016

Erasmus+ has not only opened my mind but allowed me to take responsibility of my capacity and build trusting relationships across nations with my hard work and dedication.’

Through Erasmus+, Irene learnt first-hand at an interior design architecture firm in Helsinki, Finland. In the office as well as the classroom, this eye-opening experience exposed her to a different culture and new ideas, ultimately giving her a stronger voice and personal direction.

From the cold to the cuisine, Irene recalls the transition to her Finnish routine. One of the main differences was the Finnish culture of respect, which translated into an enriching and encouraging atmosphere working on different design projects with the studio. This sense of respect was evident in her position in the group:  ‘I was not just an intern/apprentice or an Erasmus+ student, I was a part of the group and my opinion was important.’

This experience was not only inspiring for her own design style and skills but also had an impact on Irene’s perception of herself as a Spanish citizen, a European, a student, a designer, and so on. In her own words: ‘Through different encounters, I got to learn about various cultures, places and people,’ all of which contributed to ‘an increased feeling of belonging to the exceptional European community.

Irene recently started a one-year master’s programme in Interior Architecture.

Félix González Ardanaz – 28 – Spain

Félix González Ardanaz – 28 – Spain

Higher Education – Poland, 2008-09

‘The Erasmus experience made me feel like a global citizen. I’m at home in any place in the world.’

At the age of 28, Spanish classical pianist Félix has already performed on many of the world’s most prestigious stages. Forming part of the alumni of several music schools, including those in Warsaw, Paris, London and Vienna, Félix’s musical training opened his eyes to different European cultures and customs.

His journey began when he became an Erasmus student, travelling to study at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw. ‘I was only 17 and living alone in a foreign country was a big change for me,’ he says. ‘Especially since there are many cultural differences between Poland and Spain.’

He was surprised to see his fellow students queue for hours to practice their instruments at school, and was moved at the popularity of classical music concerts. ‘I noticed that music is a large part of the Polish national identity.’

Félix’s Erasmus+ experience taught him to be brave and to trust himself.  Through an appreciation of other cultures, he began to understand music differently and applied this to the music he played. ‘Music is a dialogue between the performer and the audience. The more the musician is open to other cultures, the more this dialogue is feasible, rich and moving.’

The time he spent in Poland propelled Félix’s career: ‘I had the chance to be inspired by highly accomplished Polish pianists and conductors,’ he says.

Looking to the future, Félix believes that European education systems should teach more about diversity to foster openness to other cultures. ‘Europe is a marvellous mixture of cultures and we need to know how to deal with that.’

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

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.’

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.’

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.

Boris Kuzmanov – 26 – Bulgaria

Boris Kuzmanov – 26 – Bulgaria

Higher Education - Erasmus+ Master Loan – Spain, 2016-17

‘The Erasmus+ Master loan had a huge positive impact on my life’ says Boris Kuzmanov from Bulgaria. ‘Without this loan, I would have simply been unable to start my Master studies in nuclear energy’, he explains.

Boris developed an interest in nuclear energy from a young age, growing up in Kozloduy, home to Bulgaria’s only nuclear power plant. After studying nuclear engineering in Sofia at undergraduate level, Boris identified the 2-year European Master in Nuclear Energy as an ideal next step.

The programme entails studying in Spain and France, combined with a 6-month internship in an energy company - a perfect fit. While Boris managed to secure a scholarship to cover his tuition fees, accommodation and living expenses were proving particularly costly. Boris was able to secure a loan from Microbank to pursue his studies, backed by an EU guarantee under the Erasmus+ programme.

So far, Boris' experience has been particularly rewarding: ‘The programme is very intense and I really feel I’m learning a lot. But I’ve also had the chance to meet lots of international students and share experiences. This has definitely broadened my vision of the world and enriched my personality.’

Maryia Vidzevich – 24 – Belarus

Maryia Vidzevich – 24 – Belarus

Erasmus Mundus – Spain, 2013-14

‘Only by participation and engagement a true change may occur. Thanks to EU funded projects our young people learn about democracy, get to know their neighbours, become more tolerant and open minded.’

Maryia was studying tourism, but everything changed in 2013 when she received an Erasmus Mundus scholarship to go to the University of Deusto in Bilbao. 

Amazed by the opportunities her European peers had, Maryia became a true Erasmus+ enthusiast. Once she returned to Belarus, she changed her focus from tourism and started an internship at the Office for Initiatives Promotion, an NGO running some of the Erasmus+ funded programs relating to education, culture and social development.

Soon she became a full-time EVS project manager. She now works with youngsters aged 11 to 17 and adults by organising forums, conferences and training courses 'to promote democratic values of active citizenship, tolerance [and] diversity'. She’s also behind the Minsk International Model of United Nations - a simulation of United Nations where students can discuss world problems, get to know the international decision making process and feel part of the global community.

Maryia says: ‘Programmes such as Erasmus+ really bring a change to our country by spreading democratic values, business know how and creating new development opportunities.’ After all, 'being European is not about the country you live in, it's about the values, your beliefs [and] your actions'.

Lia Vania Dewi and Maximilian Hertanto – both 29 – Indonesia

Lia Vania Dewi and Maximilian Hertanto  – both 29 – Indonesia

Lia: Erasmus Mundus Masters – Spain, Portugal, United Kingdom, 2011-13
Maximilian: Erasmus Mundus Masters – Sweden, Belgium, 2012-14

‘Erasmus+ is a perfect solution to facilitate international cooperation between Europe and other regions. Through personal contacts, unforgettable experiences and skills sharing it changes the way how Europe is seen.’ – Maximilian

‘Erasmus Mundus is the best way to improve international cooperation between Europe and the rest of the world. [The experience] really stays with you and impacts the way to perceive Europe… It empowers young people and bonds us together above the borders.’ - Lia

Who would think that a Master’s in forensic science or aeromechanics opens doors to a career in diplomacy and international business? Yet that’s what happened to Lia and Maximilian, from Indonesia, who undertook Erasmus Mundus programmes in Europe and received internationally recognised diplomas. They have since used their acquired skills in a very creative manner.

The knowledge I gained during the program is very useful in my every day work – I can have deeper discussions with my clients, I have learnt to appreciate diversity and live harmoniously with people from other countries,’ said Lia who is now a business advisor at the Danish embassy in Jakarta.
 
Maximilian works as an enterprise resource planning consultant in a global technological company and says Erasmus+ changed the way he ‘approaches difficulties and solves problems’ and he learnt how to ‘adapt to a fast changing business environment’.

They both believe that the program contributes to improving Europe’s relations with other parts of the world and empowers young people by creating opportunities. Maximilian explained: ‘Erasmus Mundus was an amazing career booster. We want to share it with others to encourage them to try. It’s worth it.

This is the reason why they’ve recorded a song together about their experience called 'Build our Dreams'.

Tateh Lehbib Braica – 28 – Algeria

Tateh Lehbib Braica – 28 – Algeria

Higher Education Mobility – Spain, 2014-15

‘Before getting the grant to improve the situation in which we live in, it was a dream that seemed hard to reach. But when I got the grant, I discovered that nothing is impossible.’

Growing up in a Saharawi refugee camp with harsh weather conditions in southwest Algeria, Tateh dreamt of finding a way to improve living conditions for refugees. Tateh’s dream came true when he received an Erasmus Mundus grant to study energy efficiency in Spain and devised a weather-resistant shelter using sand-filled plastic bottles. His project was praised by the UNHCR who contributed funds for 25 more shelters.

Tateh has also launched green initiatives in several refugee camps, schools and youth and cultural centres to raise awareness about the benefits of recycling plastic bottles. Associations involved in the yearly Sahara Marathon have agreed to collect the plastic bottles used in the competition and to donate money for the cause.
 
Tateh has big plans for the future: ‘My dream is to build a house for every refugee family. I want to build schools and hospitals as well.

ESSENCE – The Netherlands

ESSENCE – The Netherlands

Higher Education project – The Netherlands, Spain and Finland, 2014-17

Erasmus+ – The Netherlands, Spain and Finland, 2014 - 2017

‘Sustainable Europe is not something that is just going to happen. It’s a goal that we have an obligation to follow. It requires finding creative solutions to problems and a strong will to implement them.’

Providing ‘creative solutions’ is exactly what students of an innovative, interdisciplinary course - run through Erasmus+ project ESSENCE - are taught to do. 

ESSENCE is an international, cross-sectorial project designed by 5 higher education institutions, to promote and support the development of sustainable cities. The project provides current and future professionals with practical skills and the best available knowledge necessary to design the transformation of modern European cities

In a cooperation with 3 municipalities: Turku in Finland, Alcoy in Spain and Utrecht in the Netherlands, students find viable solutions for real-life issues such as reducing CO2 emissions, improving transportation, social inclusion or the circular economy.

Around 600 people participated in project ESSENCE:  students, university teachers, researchers, experts, professionals from municipalities, SMEs and decision makers.

Project director from the University of Applied Sciences in Utrecht, Professor Ivo Opstelten admits that there are often challenges to tackling these tasks but with ‘common will and determination’ the project thrives.

As more people are living in cities, this project is increasingly important for Europe. To encourage sustainability, parts of the programme are open for use in other regions.

Agata Babina – 35 – Latvia

Agata Babina – 35 – Latvia

European Voluntary Service – Spain, 2004

‘Life should be about sharing, volunteering, hosting and travelling.’

Eager to improve her Spanish, Agata came across a leaflet on European Voluntary Service (EVS) at her university in Latvia. Agata not only improved her language skills, she also met her future husband in an EVS preparatory meeting and ‘quickly became addicted to the project experience and wanted more.’

Agata's volunteering experience transformed her into an active citizen: 'You learn to think, to criticise and to empower others to change', in fact, after her EVS she was involved in setting up an environmental NGO Radi Vidi Pats (Make the Environment Yourself) with 9 other young volunteers, and soon became its leader. As Agata explains: 'none of us are scientists. The environment is a tool for our activities, while our NGO focuses on youth and is community-based.'

Radi Vidi Pats hosts volunteers from abroad, who learn how to think, to be critical, and empower others to change. They make videos, talk to local politicians, and run some media campaigns raising awareness of environmental issues. Many of Radi Vidi Pats participants have gone on to become youth workers or work in municipalities.

Agata encourages young people to play more of an active role in society. She is hopeful for the future of sustainability, at least in Europe: 'being Eco and green is trendy and has become fancy, this is how it should be. It is just normal to be friends with the environment - we depend on it anyway'.

Sustainable Islands (SusI) project – Spain

Sustainable Islands (SusI) project – Spain

School Education – 6 countries (Spain, Cyprus, France, Portugal, Iceland and Italy), 2013-15

‘Residents became more aware of where they live and were filled with a new-found pride in their homelands.’

Living on an island can make a community feel isolated, and problems associated with sustainability become magnified. The Sustainable Islands, or SusI project, aimed to counter this by looking at society, the economy and the environment on islands through sustainable eyes.

Project coordinator, Guillermo Raúl Navarro Montesdeoca, lives on Las Palmas de Gran Canaria in Spain and explained that the project offered practical advice to islanders such as how to produce high quality food locally and how to protect wildlife.

Trees were planted on all of the 6 islands involved in the project, while residents were encouraged to rely less on expensive low-grade imports and protect sea life by releasing turtles into the water. The project also aims to educate the younger generation to be more ecologically aware, 'we also brought students to sustainable places, such as a geothermal energy plant in Iceland, which made them reflect on their everyday energy consumption and its implied links to food production, transports, waste management and, generally speaking, a sustainable way of living'.

Thanks to the project, residents from the different islands began cooperating closely and as a result, realised that they suffer the same problems and learned how to find common solutions. As Guillermo explains: 'there was a realisation that each island has a lot in common and this brought the islands together. People became more aware of their islands and took pride in them.'

 

Jens Schmitz – 24 – Germany

Jens Schmitz – 24 – Germany

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

Spain, 2016

Jens participated in a VET apprenticeship at CASPA’s modern dairy factory in Oviedo. During his stay in Spain, he mastered not only the theory and technical skills from his mechanical engineering studies but he also got hands-on practice. He built up his confidence in Spanish and his own independence. As a football fan, Jens always believed that sport can bring people closer together so he made new friends at work and on the football field. In addition, thanks to techniques he acquired during his Erasmus+ experience, RWE, one of Germany's top Energy firms has offered him a permanent position as an electro-technician.

Nazaret Bonal Rodríguez – 27 – Spain

Nazaret Bonal Rodríguez – 27 – Spain

Vocational Education and Training (VET)

France, 2015

Nazaret studied bakery, patisserie and confectionery at the Andrés de Vandelvira VET School in Albacete. Thanks to the Erasmus+ Programme, she enjoyed the unique experience of following an on-the-job training in Potel et Chabot, one of the most famous catering companies in the world. She was mentored by 2009 Patisserie World Champion, Marc Rivière, and met Michelin-stat chefs Anne Sophie Pic and Guy Savoy. She also had the extraordinary opportunity to take part in the preparation of the catering for Roland Garros and the Orient Express. This outstanding experience changed her life forever. She currently works at the exclusive nouvelle cuisine Don Gil restaurant in Albacete, where she was offered the post before finishing her Erasmus+ experience.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues – 40 – Portugal

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues – 40 – Portugal

Erasmus – Higher Education and Marie Curie fellowship

Spain, 1999-2000

‘There’s no other programme or initiative that can beat this one: because Erasmus+ allows people to leave their homes, to feel uneasy and to try and feel at home in a place that they don’t know at first. That’s the greatest and most rewarding experience.’

The Portuguese Minister for Education has had over 15 years’ experience living and working abroad. It all began in 1999, when Tiago undertook a one-year academic internship at the Spanish National Research Council in Madrid. He continued this research throughout his PhD in Biochemistry, in Portugal, Spain and the USA. Later he worked as a scientific researcher at the Cancer Research UK in the University of Cambridge, with funding from the European Commission through the Marie Curie Programme and the European Molecular Biology Organization. Tiago thanks Erasmus+ for giving him the confidence to pursue an international career. He recommends young people to take advantage of this opportunity and get to know a different Europe to what they are used to.

Caroline Gillet – 33 – Belgium/France

Caroline Gillet – 33 – Belgium/France

Erasmus+ Higher Education – Spain, 2005

'It’s important for a society to listen to its young people and to let them express themselves, to listen to them, which was our objective with the radio project'.

For 2 years, Caroline interviewed young Europeans reflecting on ‘new ways they could be active’ in Europe. These video portraits were published on France Inter every week under the names ‘I like Europe’ and ‘Tous les européens’. The project provided young European an opportunity to reflect upon their 'hopes, aspirations and regrets, what they know about their history, what their relationship with their elders is, what relationship they have with their culture'

For Caroline, Erasmus+ is a mini-version of ‘a European utopia where we succeed in living together’.Though she had already lived in several countries before her Erasmus+ journey, Caroline's  experience reinforced her belief that making Erasmus+ and other experiences abroad are life changing: 'having Erasmus+ more accessible to people of all backgrounds will encourage openness to other cultures across and beyond Europe'.

Voluntarios Solidarios en el Municipio de Elche – Spain

Voluntarios Solidarios en el Municipio de Elche – Spain

European Voluntary Service (EVS) – Germany, Poland, Estonia, Italy, Cyprus, Turkey, Croatia, Slovenia, 2015-16

‘For all of us, from the volunteers who come here to our partners abroad, projects like this change lives.’

Young volunteers from across Europe participate every year in social projects organised by the Municipality of Elche. During 9 months the volunteers lead and participate in a range of projects that focus on youth, education, the environment and above all European citizenship. Volunteers who work in education would lead activities for children aged between 1 and 5 years, while environmental activities have included replanting schemes involving handicap people.  All volunteers come from different countries, this brings cultural richness to the Spanish town and provides volunteers, with experiences that they would not otherwise have, placing ‘cultural exchanges at the core of the programmes’.

After 9 months, volunteers return home with renewed self-confidence and a range of sharpened social skills which, according to technical support officer, Jose Manuel Garcia Sempere, is ‘the strongest proof that projects like this make a huge difference.’ Jose believes that being able to talk in front of a room full of people, learn Spanish and be able to live in a foreign country ‘is a huge deal for an 18-year-old who might not have had many opportunities to do so before.’ The project shows them that their lives are in fact ‘full of possibilities’.

The impact on the local community is also significant, and Jose says this demonstrates that ‘everything we do for our community affects us directly’. The project has also brought Europe closer to home; Spanish youngsters who might never have thought of travelling abroad before are often inspired through meeting other young Europeans.

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