Introduction

Erasmus4Ever, Erasmus4Future was my first TCA event, and therefore a somewhat new experience. Having said that, it is fair to say that it held many similarities with a typical Erasmus+ YE event. By this I mean to say that we were welcomed and introduced (in somewhat grand style inside one of Florence’s wonderful museums), given an outline of the plans for the next days and then immediately we went in to light hearted group-building activities before moving on to the discussion of more serious topics which occurred a little later. Of course, being only three days long it was rather compact and relied on us ‘participants’, made up from a wide range of ages and occupations within the formal and non-formal education systems of many countries from across Europe, to come ready and able to be focused and actively engaged.

Overview

Taking place during the Festival D’Europa 2019 event in May, E4E was a well timed event which incorporated into its programme the visitation of around 14 formal education venues within the proximity of Florence. This was arguably the ‘main show’ of the whole event, in that it required the most from us as ‘participants’. However, that is not to say that the remainder of our time in Florence was ill spent – we were treated with many wonderful experiences in the evenings ranging from dinner in a medieval monastery to live orchestral performances, to guided gallery tours to visit original paintings by Michelangelo, Da Vinci and Botticelli. It was quite extraordinary.

During the initial activities, we separated into groups and discussed some elements of what the next generation of Erasmus+ should look like, focusing primarily on the development of Erasmus+ alumni. It was generally agreed that the alumni network needed development because it has great untapped potential. The next major event would be the school visitations, where we again separated into groups (chosen, not randomly) to visit educational institutions across the city. I personally went to visit a primary school. The last major event was the conference on the morning of the final day, where invited guests from the Italian NA and indeed government addressed an audience.

The Workshops – ‘Erasmus Alumni’

It was agreed upon that the current alumni network has relatively little value in comparison to its potential. Whereas now, with Momentum World it seems at least, our network acts as a pool from which for us to recruit chosen individuals for future projects, the next generation of the alumni network would be a living and breathing web of communication between not only alumni and facilitation organisations, but also alumni to alumni as a peer learning platform, and perhaps most interestingly to allow individuals to contact alumni prior to embarking on an Erasmus/Erasmus+ project. Our group discussion gravitated toward what we could do to give the title of alumni weight, value and desirability. Alongside membership to the communication network, there was mention of developing the title of ‘Erasmus Ambassador’ for individuals who have thrived within their projects or exchanges, and who represent the ideals we wish to uphold and promote. Interestingly, Europeers was not mentioned once! I suppose this reflects that Italy is only just beginning to develop its Europeers programme this year, 2019.

The School Visitations

As aforementioned, my group visited a primary school. Initially I must say I was disappointed by this, because I feared it had curtailed our ability to communicate powerful ideas to the appropriate age group, which I deemed to be a little older. However, having been at the school for 5 minutes and then spending the next hours with the children, whose enthusiasm and curiosity was so refreshing, and the school itself quite inspirational, I would completely retract my preconception. They were utterly inspired by our stories of adventure and what’s more, spoke English to an impressive level.

The Conference

On the final morning was the conference to which were invited many eminent people within the formal and non-formal education field, from both Italy and across Europe. Guest speakers were highly knowledgeable, mostly Italians, who delivered speeches to the audience on a range of subjects related to the value of education and what the future holds for the Erasmus program. The increase in funding was much promoted.

We had translation headsets to comprehend the Italian, which was obviously essential, and a few speakers in particular were highly inspirational, but the conference dragged on (around 3 hours) and many people, myself included, found it difficult to maintain interest. It was highly formal and I think there’s only so much a person can take.

Conclusion

Erasmus4Ever, Erasmus4Future was a pretty unique experience and I am very thankful for having it. As the very first official ‘Erasmus Alumni’ gathering there were some promising ideas being discussed and I’d personally relish the opportunity to further involved in developing the network. I find the idea of alumni sharing their experiences with pre-participants to be a highly logical step, and equally for alumni to be able to communicate easily with one another.

The hospitality we experienced in Florence was quite extraordinary and if further meetings of its type are going to occur (I understood it to be an annual meeting) then they will surely struggle to maintain the same standard. The dissemination activities were varied and, from what I understand, of varied effectiveness. Personally I had a very positive experience and left the school confident that we had spent the time well and certainly succeeded in inspiring young people to engage with Erasmus in the future.

As always, I am thankful for the opportunity, and appreciate any situation in which I can grow and develop myself and those around me.

By Joseph