MY ERASMUS…

Erasmus students in Poland. Photo Erasmus Network

When the government’s plans to cease the UK’s involvement with Erasmus+ attracted immediate criticism, a number of Conservative MPs began attacking the current scheme and claiming that its replacement (Turing) would be far better.

One of these was David Johnston, the Wantage MP, who claimed in his Spectator article that Erasmus+ was only beneficial for better-off students and so worked against the interests of those from lower-income families.

Dr Alice Prochaska, the former Principal of Somerville College, penned a response to refute this claim (here), highlighting in the process a number of cases to show why this wasn’t so.

Since then, many people have contacted us and it is clear that, in contrast to the MPs’ assertions, students from all levels of income have taken advantage of Erasmus.

However, the MPs were right in one way – all those who wrote felt they were better-off for having been allowed the chance to enjoy the benefits Erasmus brought.

That got us to think whether we could help those politicians who want to see the end of Erasmus, by having people tell us how it affected (and hopefully helped) their lives.

So, if you have taken part during the last 33 years, drop us a note of your experiences in the comments section below. It doesn’t have to be long – just a few sentences outlining what you did, how you benefited and maybe what impact it had on your future.

Please spread the word. Have any of your relatives taken part? If you are a teacher, maybe you had pupils who did. Even if you have no direct experience yourself, you can post a link to this page on your favourite social media site using the hashtag #myerasmus.

We look forward to hearing from you.

12 thoughts on “MY ERASMUS…

  1. I was an Erasmus student in the University of Leicester in 1994-95. Without Erasmus I wouldn’t have had means to study abroad. The opportunity to study in Leicester was a great experience and it changed my life, positively. Erasmus year in the UK was extremely inpiring. I dare to say that without this opportunity to study in Leicester with support of Erasmus my life would have been different and I wouldn’t have achieved things what I have achieved later in my life. Jyrki Katainen, Honorary Doctor of the University of Leicester, President of Sitra, former Vice-President of the EU Commission, former Prime Minister of Finland.

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    1. Dear Mr Katainen,

      Greetings to a fellow holder of a Leicester doctorate! Your Erasmus year coincided with my final year of research in the School of History. We probably passed on the stairs of the Attenborough Tower!

      As Erasmus opened doors in your life, European cooperation has enriched mine. I had the honour of welcoming Prof. Jukka Korpela of Joensuu University to a pan-European team of medievalists resulting in ground-breaking research and publication. In my political life, as a member of the UK delegation to the congress of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe I had the privilege of visiting Helsinki for the first time in 2010. And I can’t help adding that my first date with my wife was a performance of Sibelius’ fifth symphony.

      Let’s hope the UK and Finland will keep open the warm relationship, academic and personal, that European cooperation has made possible.

      Graham Jones, Chair, European Movement UK, Oxford Region

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  2. I was a participant on the Erasmus Scheme around 1995 for a year in Regensburg, Germany. It fundamentally changed me as person. It gave me so much confidence in myself, my abilities and it opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities. I arrived in Regensburg lacking confidence and self esteem and left with bags of self worth and not afraid to show the world a bit more of who I am. Without the ERASMUS year I would never have had the confidence to stand in front of a class and teach. Without the ERASMUS year, I wouldn’t have considered applying to the JET Scheme and living in Japan for 2 years. It has enriched my life in so many ways, it is something which every student should have the opportunity to do as the effects of it are so far reaching. The friends I made and the experiences gained will stay with me forever.

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  3. I thought that the Erasmus scheme – does it not predate Britain’s full membership of the EC?- was thoroughly enlightened and was certainly of benefit to the British university system. Though not an Erasmus student myself, my research in Italy was greatly facilitated by our membership of the EC. Is the UK still supporting the European University Institute in Florence?

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  4. I spent some time teaching on the Erasmus programme in another European country. I felt this was constructive for my own career and helpful to the student from my university who were studying there for a time. I was coincidentally also able to meet again after many years students from that country whom I had taught at a summer school years before. Educational exchanges between countries are always beneficial both to students and teachers. Why consider scrapping something so good?

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    1. Dear Arthur,

      We meet again.

      I’m involved in many Zoom play-readings at present including when, as Falstaff, I was rejected. The fate of elder suitors in literature! I did it movingly, really crying.

      It’s a crime to stop Erasmus. My studies on “le Continent” are some of my happiest days, for the culture, working with people of different nationalities, learning etc.. & they are mainly before Erasmus.

      Richard Duployen, Abingdon-Thames.

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  5. Gareth Todd Jones
    Can I say something about the work that we did in Comenius. The idea that by implication this Initiative was for children of wealthier families is complete nonsense. The Primary schools where I was Headteacher were both situated in one of the most deprived areas of the country, Over a period of 15 years we linked with schools in Denmark, Estonia, Sicily and Hungary. We established an annual exchange of pupils with Givskud in Denmark and even exchanged children with Biancavilla in Sicily. Our children were 10 and 11. The positive benefits of these links are truly incalculable. Suffice to say that they left an indelible mark on the children and community that continues reverberate.

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  6. I have been involved in Erasmus as a teacher for nearly 6 years now. Before that my daughters and I hosted a Comenius student who inspired them to take part in Erasmus projects when they were old enough. My daughters participated in a number of mobilities and benefited greatly from the broadening of their horizons.
    I volunteered to take part, as a primary teacher, to get in on the action too. My experience at a transnational planning meeting showed me that primary pupils could also benefit from the experiences of the older pupils and make connections with children their own age. My Erasmus Club was born and the first members are now of an age to travel themselves – what a pity the schools element to Erasmus (ie. eTwinning) has been cut from the programme! Current projects are frozen and we have no access to any of the wonderful materials that the children collaborated on with their partner schools and classrooms. It has left a huge hole in our learning environment.
    Please tell us that all is not lost and that access to our partners, materials and projects could soon be restored to us?

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  7. Without Erasmus I would not have the wonderful professional development opportunities that have had huge a impact upon my teaching & therefore on the lives of the pupils I teach. Because I was able to visit preschools in Norway, Iceland, Sweden, Italy, France, Poland, Croatia, Finland & Turkey my practice is more informed & reflective of a more European approach to how young children learn. My preschool classes have had the chance to exchange information & videos with their peers across Europe & this has made the world & other countries real for these young children. I am devastated that future staff & pupils will lose these wonderful opportunities to learn from peers across the world.

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  8. I ‘ve been involved with the Erasmus + program for over 15 years using the eTwinning scheme to promote international cooperation and develop ICT skills of my students aged 4 to 18. This didn’t involved much funding as all work was on done through a safe online platform connecting us with EU and none EU countries such Turkey, Tunisia, Moldova etc… I I have seen such improvement in terms of literacy, numaracy, digital knowledge that I would have never been able to achieve without working with colleagues across Europe. As a teacher it also gave me access to an incredible Network of colleagues and I truly believe that I and my students would have never been able to cope as well as we are with the current online teaching. I truly fail to understand how we think 3rd level students if they haven’t seen the benefits before will all of Duden embrace this aspect of their education, rather than benefiting students for lower economical backgrounds it will increase the gap. I’m also baffled with the fact that such opportunities will not be available to those who won’t go to university, which to my mind will also create a much bigger educational gap than thIs current epidemic .

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  9. My Erasmus – Our Erasmus

    Erasmus is not only for university students, it provides wonderful opportunities for school children and their teachers, too. This is the ‘plus’ in Erasmus+ and almost all of this was lost to UK participants at the end of 2019.
    eTwinning is the hidden gem in the Erasmus+ programme. It provides a safe and secure online platform where children and their teachers can collaborate with their peers in Europe and beyond. There are now 43 member countries, including eight eTwinning Plus countries which are not full members of the Erasmus programme. Only registered teachers and approved school staff have access to eTwinning and they can set up projects for children from 3-18. Pupils from all kinds of schools can take part and, as this is an online platform, projects are high impact and low cost. UK schools no longer have access to this platform and its database of 900,000 motivated and engaged teachers. In fact, when the UK left Erasmus on 31 December 2020, UK teacher accounts were frozen and, in the middle of the school year, access to work in progress was lost.
    For me, the impact of eTwinning was highlighted during Lockdown 1. As projects are carried out online, it was possible to continue with much of our collaborative project work by adapting activities to the situation. Indeed, during the evaluation stages, pupils commented on how important this contact had been with the ‘outside world’ where their friends in other countries were experiencing similar changes to their daily routines. They especially enjoyed working with young people in countries that they would not normally have contact with and would have liked to have had the opportunity to collaborate with more countries.
    eTwinning also provides free in-service training for teachers. High quality, fifteen-hour online learning events which take place over ten days allow teachers to develop skills and knowledge and to collaborate with their peers across Europe. In 2020, I took part in seven of these and also in several webinars on specific topics.
    Since 2009, I have coordinated seven Comenius/Erasmus+ projects for children in my school. Over the years, scores have visited our partner schools in nine countries and thousands have taken part in project activities at home, including hosting visiting pupils. At the time of writing, there has been no mention of replacement scheme for this. The impact of these projects has been truly life-changing for our pupils and projects have broadened horizons, built resilience and, in some cases, have changed career paths. Funded projects open up travel to all, not just to those who come from families which can afford to send their children abroad.
    Through Erasmus+, teachers can apply to attend training courses across Europe which are related to their work in schools. In 2003 I spent three weeks in France on a digital learning course held in French. This gave me the chance to develop a greater understanding of using digital tools in the classroom as well as learning French ICT vocabulary. In 2012, I spent a fortnight at the University of Ljubljana where I studied basic Slovenian. As a teacher of Modern Foreign Languages, being back in the classroom as a beginner was an enlightening experience. The choice of Slovenian was not as random as it might, at first, appear. We have a long-standing partnership with a school in Ljubljana and a basic knowledge of Slovenian has proved useful in recent years.
    Erasmus+ is a rich programme which offers so much to school children and their teachers. I am so sad that our young people have lost access to opportunities which will continue to be enjoyed by their peers in programme countries.

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  10. Here in Spain I tutor children of families I know in English. In two cases this was to get them up to speed for their unuversity courses, Martina in biotechnology (Barcelona), Eva in social sciences (Salamanca). Both have taken advantage of Erasmus.
    Martina completed her course in Vienna. She now has a double Masters from Lisbon and Stockholm, presently living and working in Berlin. She liked to tell me about the Erasus community. The lingua franca was English. She knew more than you ever get from text books.
    Eva is now in Bucharest. I asked her why did you choose Romania? ‘I thought it would be different’ she replied. You can’t say fairer than that.
    Such is the spirit of Erasmus. Opening doors. And it costs nothing compared to nuclear warheads.

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