Forging the European Spirit: Is the Erasmus+ Programme a Suitable Tool for Forging the EU Family?

The Erasmus+ programme: Here we are back with another interesting topic about your opportunities within the European Union, which will be divided in two parts! In this first part of the article, I will tell you something about the history of the programme, how it works, its scopes and how to participate. In the second part we will tackle the financial support for participating in the Erasmus+ programme and find out if this EU project is whether contributing or not to widespread and create a common European adhesion.

Therefore, in these two parts, I will describe shortly the history of the Erasmus+ programme and, subsequently, its aims. After that, we will have a deeper look to the more substantial aspects of the programme: how to obtain the funding, where to apply, and the support which you are entitled to have. In the end we will see if the Erasmus+ programme has a positive impact or not in forging the EU spirit.

The Beginning of the Erasmus Programme

The original idea of a programme which could give the opportunity of mobility to the European students came into light in 1967, thanks to the intuition of the Italian pedagogist Sofia Corradi. An idea that was later fostered by the student’s association EGEE (today AEGEE – Association des Etats Généraux des Etudiants de l’Europe). The latter was able to convince, in 1986, then-President François Mitterand to support the establishment of the Erasmus programme. Which brought to an intensive collaboration between EGEE and the European Commission in shaping and approving the initiative in 1987.

Since then, the Erasmus programme has been improved along its 30-years life, evolving and becoming one of the most important youth projects of the European Union. Indeed, before the labeling of the project with the term “Erasmus+”, the project was just called Erasmus and it was mainly conceived for students’ exchange. But, starting from 2007, when the programme began to expand more and more itself, it absorbed the previous projects: like Erasmus Mundus, Youth in Action, Edulink and so forth. Becoming the main actor in the field of European exchanges initiative!

In this sense, in 2017 the European Commission published an Annual Report about the programme pointing out how the Erasmus+ project was able to involve more than 9-milion people giving them the chance to study, train, volunteer, or work abroad. Further, the programme was able to involve more than 4000 university institutions of 31 countries, which today take part to the Erasmus initiative!

In addition, given the success of the programme, the EU decided to nearly double its funding: passing from the previous 14.6 billion euros to the current 26.2 billion! Therefore, the exchange project has become more accessible for a wider range of aspiring participants.

Opportunities and Aims of the Programme

Having seen this brief historic process of Erasmus+, it happens that you are now wondering which are both the concrete opportunities and aims of this programme! The Erasmus+ gives to a European student the chance to study or to do an internship in a member state for a period of three (3) months up to twelve (12). But is also possible to move the students in some countries which are not EU’ states: Liechtenstein, Island, Norway, North Macedonia, and Turkey.

Erasmus+ has also grown to become much more than mobility: within the programme you have cooperation projects which are addressed to the field of education, training, youth, and sports. Promoting, therefore, the partnership with both public authorities and companies. These partnerships have the aim to enhance the quality and drive innovation, which are essential to increase economic growth and job creation within the EU’ borders.

In addition, the European Commission — through different events, both live and online — is fostering the attention of citizens on the Erasmus+ programme to promote a constructive dialogue on how to strengthen the programme and enhance the European society. It is clear, at this point, that Erasmus+ has as main aim to give the European youngsters opportunities to construct a strong and lasting European family.

How To Apply for the Erasmus+ Programme: Students

As an individual student applicant, it is likely that you will need to apply through your university or, if you are not a student, through training centers, companies and so on. If you are interested to find out if these latter are part or not of the Erasmus+’ network, you can gather the necessary information downloading the Erasmus+ app, or you can directly consult the institution in which you are interested for advice and inspiration.

As clearly deduced from the first part of this article, studying abroad is a central part of the Erasmus+ project. Indeed, it has been shown that this aspect has positive effects on job prospective, since the moment that the student is likely to improve its language skills, self-confidence, and independence.  In addition, studying abroad the student can improve intercultural skills and soft skills, which are highly requested and appreciated by future employers. It is also possible to combine the studying period abroad with a traineeship to gain also work experience.

Opportunities for studying abroad are available for students from bachelor’s and master’s degrees, and to doctoral candidates. For master students it is possible to take part in a full degree (up to two years) abroad and may be eligible for an EU-guaranteed Erasmus+ master loan.

The long-term study period abroad can last two (2) months up to a maximum of twelve (12) months. In addition, due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the EU has introduced the blended mobility: which consists in a combination of virtual and physical mobility. However, keep in mind that the abroad exchange experience may not exceed twelve (12) months within a cycle of study. An exception is for the students which are enrolled in “one-cycle” courses (like medicine) which can go abroad for twenty-four (24) months.

Erasmus+: The Application Process

The Erasmus+’ applications are made available throughout a public call, usually in the month of January of each year, which is brought to the attention of the students on the websites of their university.

For what meters the application processes the student should apply to the international or Erasmus+ office of its own institution; keep in mind that the selection process is up to the sending institution which forms a specific commission for the evaluation of the applications send. In addition, the first thing to be done when applying for the Erasmus+ is to find out and chose the abroad universities in which is wished to spend the abroad period.

The conditions for been eligible for the Erasmus+ programme are the following: the aspirant candidates must be enrolled in a higher education institution which has studies compatible with the Erasmus+ framework. It means that both the sending institution (your university) and the receiving one (the chosen foreign university) have an inter-institutional agreement related to the Erasmus+ programme.

For candidates who are enrolled in a bachelor’s degree, it is required to be at least in the second year of the studies.  It is paramount for the candidates that their period abroad is relevant for their degrees and personal development needs. In addition, the chosen foreign university should have a major which is consistent with the study programme which they are following in their home university.

If the selection process has been successful — do not worry, most of times the selection process is smooth and your sending institution facilitates, in a transparent way of course, your chances to be selected! — the winner must sign a learning agreement, with its tutor from the sending institution, which lists its activities and exams to sustain during the exchange period.

What Will I Do During My Erasmus+ Project?

It is good to know, also, that is the student to propose to its tutor the exams to be sustained abroad, and to find out with the tutor if those exams are sufficient or if it is necessary to find another agreement. Keep in mind that the exams to be done abroad must be related to your exams of your sending university and therefore fit the requested credits by the sending institution – using the ECTS credit system or equivalent system.

In addition, students will also receive the Erasmus+ Student Charter which explains in a deeper way its rights and obligations.

Anyways, should you not be accepted by the institution that you have indicated in your application, do not worry! For the excluded students it is however possible to be drawn for other destinations that they have not indicate in their application which have still free places.

Once finished the abroad period, both the student and the sending institution must get from receiving institution the transcript of records: this document is a substantial prove of what the student has done in the abroad period; therefore, if it has successfully accomplished or not both its exams and activities! Do not forget that the receiving institution must appoint a tutor for every exchange student which will prepare, at the end, the transcript of records.

Conclusion of Part 1

At this point, you have found out how the Erasmus project has been developed, what are its main characteristics, and how to apply to the study exchange programme. In the next article, which you will find always here on Amazonas’ Solidarity Blog, we will discover the funding of the project, other interesting opportunities, and the outcomes of the Erasmus+ programme!

So, stay tuned and remember: Play. Learn. Evolve.