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Em foco: Unificar a Europa

O Erasmus+ permite-lhe envolver-se ativamente na vida da sociedade de muitas formas diferentes, seja fazendo voluntariado, participando em formações ou em intercâmbios ou desenvolvendo novas ideias brilhantes.

Graças ao Tratado de Roma, conhecemos hoje uma Europa sem fronteiras onde as pessoas circulam livremente e onde é fácil trabalhar e estudar no estrangeiro. Desde o início do intercâmbio de estudantes Erasmus em 1987, assistimos a uma abertura cada vez maior na Europa, permitindo a um número cada vez maior de jovens europeus aproveitar tudo o que esta tem para oferecer. Com efeito, para os nove milhões de pessoas que nos últimos 30 anos passaram um período no estrangeiro graças ao Erasmus+ e aos programas que o antecederam, viver numa Europa com fronteiras fechadas é praticamente inimaginável. Para além de se identificarem com a sua cidade ou país, os membros da geração Erasmus+ também se identificam com a Europa.

Não só os atuais participantes do programa Erasmus+ beneficiam do princípio da livre circulação na Europa, como todos aqueles que beneficiaram do Erasmus+ são um excelente exemplo da importância da possibilidade de circular livremente na Europa. A vida de milhões de europeus foi para sempre transformada pelas oportunidades oferecidas pelo Erasmus+ e os programas que o precederam, bem como pelas competências adquiridas durante uma experiência internacional. Tudo isto só é possível graças à decisão tomada em 1957 de promover a liberdade de circulação na Europa.

Embora a Europa tenha mudado muito nos últimos 30 a 60 anos, é sempre possível fazer mais para aproximar os cidadãos europeus. É por esta razão que nos dirigimos a si, que faz parte da geração Erasmus+, para juntos construirmos a Europa do futuro. Partilhe as suas ideias connosco: o que pode fazer a Europa para encontrar soluções inovadoras para as preocupações da sua geração? Como pode o programa Erasmus+ construir mais pontes entre os países e as culturas para que os cidadãos europeus possam estar mais ligados uns aos outros?

Sabemos que a geração Erasmus+ tem grandes sonhos. Chegou a altura de os pôr em comum e de trabalhar para construir a Europa de amanhã.

Read our spotlight stories from Erasmus+ participants

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues – 40 – Portugal

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues – 40 – Portugal

Ensino Superior, Espanha, 1999

«Nenhum outro programa ou iniciativa é capaz de superar o Erasmus+. Este permite que as pessoas saiam dos seus países, abandonem a sua zona de conforto e tentem sentir-se em casa num lugar que não conhecem. Não existe outra experiência tão gratificante quanto esta

Na opinião do Ministro da Educação português, promover a excelência e tornar a educação acessível a todos são passos fundamentais para construir uma economia europeia sustentável. Segundo Tiago Brandão Rodrigues, «não basta ensinar sobre a sustentabilidade», é preciso que o ensino de boa qualidade esteja disponível para todos para, que seja possível «enfrentar os desafios sociais e alcançar a sustentabilidade económica».

Tendo vivido e trabalhado no estrangeiro durante mais de 15 anos, Tiago Brandão Rodrigues fala por experiência própria. Para si tudo começou em 1999, quando realizou um estágio académico no Conselho Superior de Investigações Científicas, em Madrid. Posteriormente, continuou a sua investigação com um Doutoramento em Portugal e, mais tarde, trabalhou como investigador científico no Cancer Research UK da Universidade de Cambridge, no Reino Unido.

Tiago Brandão Rodrigues está grato ao programa Erasmus+ por lhe dar a confiança para seguir uma carreira internacional. Aconselha os jovens a tirarem partido desta oportunidade e conhecerem uma «Europa diferente» daquela a que estão acostumados. Nas suas palavras, «a Europa só conseguirá ser economicamente sustentável se tiver uma identidade» e apenas os cidadãos europeus criam a nossa identidade.

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

Cantor e compositor, vencedor do programa de TV Ídolos em 2012

República Checa, 2010-11

«Quando me perguntam qual foi o momento decisivo da minha carreira ou quando é que comecei a pensar em seguir uma carreira na música, respondo que foi durante a minha experiência no programa Erasmus. Recomendo o Erasmus a 100%.»

Antes da sua experiência Erasmus, Diogo tocava numa banda enquanto estudava na Universidade do Algarve. Só depois de ter passado um semestre na Universidade de Palacký, em Olomouc, na República Checa, é que decidiu deixar tudo para trás e encontrou a coragem necessária para começar uma carreira a solo.

Quando regressou a Portugal, em 2012, Diogo sagrou-se vencedor da competição televisiva de talentos musicais «Ídolos». A experiência teve um impacto direto na sua carreira e, atualmente, é um músico experiente, tendo lançado o seu álbum de estreia em 2015.

Valoriza a possibilidade de conhecer novas culturas e locais: «Há 70 anos, não nos podíamos movimentar livremente. O facto de podermos viajar para outro país e, muitas vezes, utilizarmos a mesma moeda, faz-nos sentir que estamos verdadeiramente unidos.»

O programa Erasmus+ proporcionou-lhe experiência de vida na primeira pessoa e num país diferente que, de outra forma, só teria conhecido através da televisão. Além disso, proporcionou-lhe a oportunidade de dar valor às coisas que tem no seu próprio país. O Diogo considera que a geração Erasmus+, através da mistura de culturas, pode ajudar na luta contra a discriminação, preconceito e exclusão social.

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.