Open your eyes – Erasmus Edition

What to do after finishing school? You feel it, huh? I was asking myself this question hundreds of times. There isn’t one solution. But, as I am older, I will give you guys some free advice.

Duy Pham | Unsplash

I was trying to suit the pattern that I HAD TO go to university after finishing high school. No gap year, no work, nothing. University. Prestige. But how to choose a university? I had no idea who I was, what I liked, and what would be the best for me. So I made possibly the worst mistake and chose randomly. No joke. And now, a few years after graduation, I am still trying to figure things out. This is why I am on Erasmus. I wish I had known about Erasmus programs earlier. It could completely change my life. It’s changing right now.

In one of my favorite Polish movies, there is a quote: “what a gloomy absurdity to decide about life when you are a young moron.” I partially agree. Mainly because we are not aware of possibilities. But what are the options? Non-formal education is the best, and Erasmus has a lot of different programs for everybody. If I had known earlier, I would start to go to Youth Exchanges to meet people from all around Europe and practice languages. I cannot turn back time, but you can start now. 

Youth Exchanges are meetings for youth (mainly from 16-30 years old, the group leader has to be 18+ with no upper age limit) from European Union and partner countries. Usually, one youth exchange takes up to two weeks. This project aims to empower you to be a more active citizen and develop skills that can help you in the future. Social skills are also necessary for life, am I right? At Youth Exchanges, you will have the opportunity to learn a lot about different cultures. You’ll have a chance to break the prejudices and stereotypes. Through various activities (workshops, debates, simulations, or outdoor activities), you can learn new things and have a great time with other participants. Psst! Remember that it is not a boring school education, there’s a lot of fun – often in lovely places all around Europe. Where can you go on Erasmus? All EU member countries, plus partner countries: Norway, Iceland, Lichtenstein, Macedonia, Turkey, and Serbia. So in your free time, you can go sightseeing, chill in nature or spend quality time with other participants. 

You can try European Solidarity Corps volunteering when you are more than 18 but less than 30 years old. You can go to a different country and help the local community. The topics and the length of the projects are various. You can find yourself assisting tiny turtles to go to the sea in Turkey for a few months or taking care of children with disabilities in Estonia for a year. You have to be open-minded, prepare a cover letter, and start applying for projects the most suitable for you. European Solidarity Corps will cover the cost of your travel to the destination place and accommodation costs. You will also receive pocket and food money. 

If you know which field of study you want to choose and are sure you want to go to the university, you can still attend many programs. You have to choose a partner university that has a similar program to the field of your study, fill out the papers and go. Live your best life and study abroad. You’ll thank yourself later when you start working. Erasmus programs and studying in the English language will raise your chance of being visible in the labor market. Remember that you can also use Erasmus to find an internship abroad after graduation. 

But what if you already missed that part? You are already working, but still, you can find a lot of exciting Training Courses to develop your skills. Yup, training courses are more for professionals, but not only. Training courses are opportunities for adults (18+), mainly youth workers or activists. It supports their professional development.

How to apply to Erasmus projects? In case when you want to study abroad – contact your university and ask about possible options. Only higher education institutions with Erasmus cards (ECHE) can send and host students. The same with sending students and alumni abroad traineeships. OK, but what about other Erasmus possibilities? If you want to start going on short-term projects like Youth Exchanges or Training Courses – find a sending organization from your country or city. Most of the big European cities have NGOs sending people on projects funded by Erasmus Plus. Suppose you are not able to find a local NGO. In that case, you can add yourself to Facebook groups about Erasmus projects (f.e. Youth Opportunities, European Solidarity Corps Opportunities, or Erasmus Plus Projects) and search for a suitable opportunity. 

And just for fun, statistics about finding a long-term partner on Erasmus. Since 1987 over one million babies have been born, and above 33% of former Erasmus people found their long-time partner on the Erasmus. Do you want me to convince you more?

How Erasmus changed your life?

Student exchange within the Erasmus + Programme was not only about learning for me, although there was a lot to learn. During my exchange, I met fantastic people and made friendships for life. I traveled in the country and abroad and discovered new cultures and traditions. I learned more about myself and realized that the sky is the limit, and I have the appetite for more.

— Jolanta, volunteer from Poland

Going alone on an Erasmus was the best decision I could make, even if it were tricky initially. I needed to step out of my comfort zone and start talking with strangers- that was the only way to make friends. Erasmus changed me as a person and the way I see others. I learned how to respect other cultures. Some things in my culture are expected, for others can be rude and offensive. Right now, I feel like a world citizen and want to explore more and more.

— José, volunteer from Portugal

Aleksandra Kanasiuk

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