Klaudjo Kavaja gives us an insight into the Erasmus programme, remembers recent passing of its founding heroes, and explains the advantages of taking part in the academic exchange.

This past December, 30 years after the establishment of Erasmus programme, the man behind possibly the greatest EU education initiative, Spanish Commissioner Manuel Marin passed away at the age of 68. His nickname, Father Erasmus, signifies him not only as the father of the programme, but also of mobility and connectivity between European youth. Another important person behind Erasmus was Irish Commissioner Peter Sutherland who also passed away a few days ago. Mr. Sutherland is said to have first proposed the programme back in 1985 when he was responsible for education affairs and competition policies.

The programme initially aimed to bring the benefits of education and mobility to students from EU countries fostering integration. Naming the programme Erasmus was not a coincidence. As an education programme for young Europeans it was a tribute to Desiderius Erasmus of Rotterdam, the Dutch humanist and esteemed Renaissance scholar who studied, worked, and lived in many different European cities.

Coming together

In 2014 the EU merged its then different programmes into the Erasmus+ Programme. The latter brought under the same roof all the different education, training, youth, and sports actions that had already existed, like, among others, the Erasmus mobility, Erasmus Mundus Masters and PhDs programme. In this piece, I have decided to devote the following paragraphs to the mobility component and the accumulated experience that it carries for students.

The mobility component opens the door of vast opportunities for young people, both from EU, but also from partner and third countries. Undergraduate and graduate students from different countries, and of different age, are given the opportunity to study in another European university through the partnerships that their alma maters have established. In master and doctorate levels various EU financed consortia offer the possibility to follow studies in 2 or 3 (or in some cases more) different universities.

Seize the moment!

Prospective Erasmus beneficiaries should not hesitate when this opportunity arises. Instead they should seize it and prepare themselves for a life changing experience. The time they are about to spend abroad will be an immense cultural enrichment where they will be living in a new country, making new friends from all over the world, learning new languages, and enjoying travelling and social events. Academic wise, the host university will offer new lecturing experiences, new curricula and teaching methods, and the opportunity to learn and exchange views and ideas with a diverse group of students, removing oneself from his academic comfort zone.

As for sending countries, Spain, Germany, France, Italy, Poland top the list with Northern Europe and Eastern Europe following. This ranking is based on the numbers of students who benefit from the mobility scheme. Percentage wise, EU members with smaller population participate in Erasmus mobility schemes at the same rate, and in some cases surpassing some of the most established countries as sending and receiving destinations.

Erasmus destinations

Spain is one of the most popular destinations, boasting cities such as Barcelona, Valencia, Madrid, Seville, and Granada, among others. Other popular destinations include the UK, with vibrant cities with Erasmus communities such as London, Manchester, and Newcastle. France has Paris as its most attractive destination, a city full of culture, history, and style. Italy has a number of cities that are appealing destinations. These include Bologna, Florence, and Rome, the eternal city. Portugal is another destination favoured by students with places like Lisbon, Porto, and Braga, while Germany offers a plethora of options with Berlin, vibrant start-up capital of Europe, as its most important representative.

All the aforementioned destinations offer rich and life-changing experiences.

Potential students should also consider other equally rich, and intriguing alternatives, such as Eastern Europe with Warsaw, Budapest, and Prague among its many options; the Scandinavian countries with their beautiful winters and top notch European universities; the diverse Baltic countries with destinations that await to be explored, great nature, and fast rising universities; and last but not least the Netherlands and Belgium with cities such as Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Maastricht, Leuven, Brussels, Bruges at the heart of Europe, offering great connectivity. Moreover, they boast incredible architecture with historical cities and universities, great academic quality, and are so central that you can hop on a train or a bus and be in France, Germany, or elsewhere within just a few hours.

Klaudjo Kavaja
Klaudjo Kavaja has an academic background in International Relations, Development Work and Education Policy with experience working in the field of education, international development, and human rights with professional experience in international organizations, INGOs, and research institutes. Interests include writing and academic research in issues such as EU affairs, Education, Public Policy, Migration, Conflict and Peace-building, and Western Balkans. Klaudjo Kavaja considers the European integration of Western Balkans as a whole, as the only viable sociopolitical and economic alternative for the region. An avid language lover speaking Albanian, English, Greek, and Spanish.

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