EU programme for education, training, youth and sport

Erasmus+ 30 anniversary logo

Spotlight: Bringing Europe Together

Thanks to the Treaty of Rome, we now experience a Europe without borders; a Europe which allows for the free movement of people, and facilitates work and study abroad. Even since the launch of Erasmus student exchanges in 1987, we have witnessed more openness in Europe, enabling an increasing number of young Europeans to take advantage of all that Europe has to offer. Indeed, for the 9 million people who have gone abroad supported by Erasmus+ and its predecessor programmes over the last 30 years, life in a Europe with closed borders is almost unimaginable. This Erasmus+ generation identifies not only with a given city or country, but also with Europe.

Not only do the current Erasmus+ programme and its participants benefit from the principle of free movement in Europe, all of those who have benefited from Erasmus+ provide us with an excellent example of why the ability to move freely in Europe is so important. Millions of lives have been enriched by the opportunities offered by Erasmus+ and its predecessor programmes and the skills which can be gained from an international experience. All this is possible thanks to the decision made in 1957 to promote free movement in Europe.

Europe is not the same as 30 or 60 years ago, but there is always more that can be done in bringing Europe closer together. That’s why we’re turning to you – the Erasmus+ generation – so that we can build the Europe of the future together. Share your ideas with us – what could Europe do to find innovative solutions to address your concerns? How can Erasmus+ build stronger bridges between countries and cultures to allow European citizens to connect further?

We know the Erasmus+ generation has big dreams - it is time to bring them together and work to build the Europe of tomorrow.

Read our spotlight stories from Erasmus+ participants

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.

Xavier Bettel – 44 – Luxembourg

Xavier Bettel – 44 – Luxembourg

Higher Education – Thessaloniki (Greece) - 1997

‘I think that Erasmus is the best way to educate people about what Europe is all about - that’s what happened to me. I used to think I know Europe, but my Erasmus made me discover more about what Europe has to offer for everyday life.’

Luxembourg’s Prime Minister is no stranger to getting involved in his community - Xavier has been active in politics for almost three decades.

Joining the Democratic Party when he was 15, by the time Xavier went on his Erasmus programme he was president of the youth association. When he was 38 years old, Xavier became the youngest mayor ever of a European capital city.

Moving to a country that shares borders with non-EU countries during his Erasmus exchange opened his eyes to life without freedom of movement. Xavier believes that this ‘extraordinary’ experience should be available to anyone regardless of financial standing or geography.

He says his Erasmus experience in Greece taught him the importance of breaking down barriers and this theme has influenced his policy making. ‘It made me become more open in every way and it is one thing that I can only recommend to everyone.

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


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


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


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.

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