Melih Özkardes

I am Melih from Germany and Turkey. I was born in Turkey and came to Germany on European Voluntary Service in 2005 when I was 18. That’s why I see both countries as my home. Currently I am living and working in Maastricht (the Netherlands). 

When my sport teacher at the University of Antalya (Turkey) asked me one day in 2004 if I would be interested to meet an organisation which sends EVS volunteers to Germany I would never have guessed that it was a beginning of a new life for me. It was actually a coincidence that my teacher met me that specific day and suggester I go there. After that day in 2004, I went to the sending organisation which would send me to Germany for 12 months of EVS between 2005 and 2006. I was there just couple of days before the official application deadline for the placement. This year on EVS gave me the chance to stay in Germany for my study and to join the freshly established EuroPeers project which was only a German initiative back then. Now look at the EuroPeers network: there are more than 10 countries involved in the project, with EuroPeers inspiring other young people to explore Europe and beyond.

 

I became part of EuroPeers at the very beginning of this long journey in 2006. Being a EuroPeer opened hundreds of doors for me. All these local EuroPeers projects, youth exchanges, youth initiatives, SALTO training courses, lots of conferences and bigger events in Europe supported by EuroPeers were unbelievable experiences which gave me the chance to meet great people, build up a European wide network of engaged professionals, and gain lots of competences. Thanks to my EuroPeers engagement I even found my first full-time job and started my working carrier.

Without being so active within EuroPeers network it would not have been that easy to start a full-time job.

Would you like to discover more about my EuroPeers journey?

You can have a look on my EuroPeers profile on the page of the German network. No worries my profile is mostly in English: 

https://www.europeers.de/europeers-gesichter/4934/

By Melih

Viviana Vergone

 

I’m Viviana, from Turin, Italy. I’m an EVS volunteer in one of the most amazing places in England, the Lake district. I’m working as a volunteer at The Lakes District Calvert Trust Stables, a center specializing in outdoor activities for people with disabilities. At the Calvert Trust everything is possible!

My adventure started on 21st June, when I arrived I participated in EuroPeers UK training, there I listened to a lot of stories about international experience and I couldn’t wait to live mine!

Before starting this experience I attended university to become a primary school teacher, but I also wanted to find out what other possibilities the world offered and after discovering the opportunity of this project, I knew it would be the right choice for me since it involves my love for animals and the desire to help others.

When I arrived in Keswick it was sunset time and the light made the town even more beautiful, I remember smiling afterwards thinking that I would spend one of the best experiences of my life there.

After one week I started my volunteer work and it was a nice surprise to find out that the Calvert Stables staff was made up of women only!

I quickly discovered how important it was for people with disabilities to be able to do those activities and the importance of interacting with horses, their contagious joy excited me and continues to do so after six months! This is what happens when you see someone achieve their goals and break down barriers.

Believe in yourself and you can achieve anything!

It is important to have someone to share this fantastic experience with and fortunately I have found many friends here, the other volunteers and my colleagues have become a second family, I feel at home!!

By Viviana

Nurjahan Ema

MYSELF/CULTURE

When we move to a different country there are few things that happen when we try to relate to the culture. We often choose to challenge it, oppose it, go along with it, and adapt to it. 

I have been living in the UK for three years now, believing in myself and going along with society by adapting to it. I can now see the true benefits of diversity, I have been observing, learning, understanding the behaviors of others and modifying my own.  All so that, I fit in with the society that I am in.

Back in 2018, I went to beautiful Slovenia. As soon I landed in the country my biggest fear was the language barrier, on top of that I was panicking about catching the right transport. I will never ever forget what happened next! Halfway through the journey, I discovered my backpack was not with me, YES! I left it on the bench outside the airport, where I was waiting for the bus!!! My backpack contained all my documents including my passport…

I went completely numb for a minute, as did not know what to do. The bus driver did not speak English, I stood up and went beside him, told the driver to stop the bus with sign language and got off the bus in the middle of nowhere. I could see a road sign for a petrol station, crossed slowly to the other side, luckily noticed a bus stop with the next bus expected to arrive in an hour. In hindsight, I feel proud of myself that I was very calm at that very moment. I called one of my friends and explained my situation. At that exact moment, I was not thinking about my passport or backpack but I was thinking about my family members, my head was buzzing with thoughts of how they would react if I could not get back to the UK. That would be a disaster. I had not told any of my family members that I was coming for a youth exchange in another country, as they expressed their concerns previously with a course I went on to in Germany.

At the bus stop, I noticed a poster for a taxi company and their phone number. I dialed the number, someone picked up from the opposite side saying “Hello … taxi speaking” yay!!! The person on the other side spoke English, it saved my life. But the problems started when he asked me “Can you tell me where you are at the moment?” Oh, dear! I ran to a car in a petrol station, and a beautiful lady came out. I asked her for help, unfortunately, she could not understand what I was saying. I passed the phone to her and the driver spoke with her. Then the driver told me he was coming to pick me up in 15 minutes.

The kind driver took me to the airport in 10 minutes, my bag was not where I had left it. Seeing this the driver told me: “take my card with you, if you need me, I will come and help you, now you should go inside the airport, it must be somewhere” Meantime I called the organization to let them know about the situation, searched the whole airport. The backpack is nowhere to be found, I ended up sitting in the same place where I lost my bag. Suddenly I saw a police officer walking towards me, I stood up and explain everything to him. He smiled at me and said oh! So, you are the one, we were about to report, come with me to the office. Your backpack is there. Ufff! I was finally breathing normally then.

I had to face some question though, they asked me I am Bangladeshi citizen then what I am doing in Slovenia. I had to show them my BRP card and written documents of EuroPeers UK. Same time my organization from Slovenia called and spoke with the police officers too.

The reason behind telling this horrible story is that some of us see the world through cultural glasses, the lens through which our brain sees the world shapes the reality. If we can change the lens, not only we can change the way our brain perceives behaviors, but we can change the people relate to cultural differences. Facing this incident and overcoming it by MYSELF made me feel how independent and self-sufficient I became. No matter how different we are in terms of race/culture or rituals, at the end of the day we are all human with a bunch of positive emotions and kindness.

Getting out from my comfort zone does not mean “TROUBLE” IT IS ABOUT TAKING CHALLENGES. CHANGING CULTURAL GLASSES FROM BLACK AND WHITE INTO THE ONES SEEING IN COLOUR!

By Nurjahan Ema

Jenny Brisbourne

Despite having an Erasmus experience under my belt, and also taking part in an IVS workcamp, my first Erasmus+ experience was a whole new education in international opportunities. After stumbling across the first EuroPeersUK training course back in the summer of 2017, just a matter of weeks later I found myself on a flight to Hungary, a country I’d never imagined visiting, to meet up with a group of total strangers and board a bus to a village in an area that I’d never heard about. To say I was a little apprehensive was an understatement, but by the end of that week, I was in floods of tears having to say goodbye to my new-found, 5-nation family. 

At some points, it was confusing, awkward, hilarious and by the end of the week diverging into delirious. Some of my highlights included about 100 games of table tennis, lots of Hungarian beer, an evening screening of Game of Thrones, star-gazing, and a rain-dance and karaoke session when it finally rained on the last night. But somewhere under the intense Hungarian summer sun, (or maybe all that water from late-night swimming in the Danube river), I was hooked on the idea of non-formal learning experiences, exchanging my culture with all these people from different countries, and getting a lot of this funded by the EU. It allowed me to make friends with people across the continent, boosted my self-confidence, and opened my eyes to a whole host of new opportunities. 

By Jenny

Erika Čirikaitė

Let’s go back to 2017.

My 11th year in school was nearly finished and I did not have any plans for the summer…

But… I knew one thing- I – wanted to experience something different, new and inspiring! And at that moment I arrived at an idea to go abroad alone (I mean without my family and friends). I decided to write to different companies who could help me find opportunities. I did my research, and then I found out about SALTO-Youth. I consulted with them, but they said that it would be tough to find any projects for me to volunteer at aged 17! They promised to hold on to my details and if they had any projects available for me, they would let me know.

After 2-3 months had gone, I found a 10-day Erasmus Plus project in Romania and I paid the deposit! And one day after that, SALTO sent me a letter with another project for me! They said that if I wanted to participate, I needed to fill all the documents in within ONE day! and.. I did that! After 2-3 days, when I had a 1:1 tutorial with my Lithuanian language teacher, I heard back – I was going to go to Malaga, Spain!

When another volunteer arrived at Malaga airport, we were met by a taxi driver and after we arrived at our new home for two months. The next day two new neighbours from Estonia came as well. During our stay in Malaga all of us worked in different places, which was nice because we had different experiences, met new people and could share our own experience. All of us worked with children; most of them were Spanish. Whilst working at a summer camp, I taught children the basics of English through songs and games, created a camp flash mob, supported the workshops developed by the hosting organisation; (TRANS), I taught campers basic Lithuanian and improved my English skills. On top of that, we had 10 hours of Spanish lessons and learned basic words and expressions in Spanish.

During this time, I have learnt how to monitor my expenses and how to manage my budget, my schedule, using different web sites and applications for the first time, found different ways to learn besides the traditional ones, developed my skills working in a team and learned how to resolve conflicts when necessary, learned more about how to be an environmentally friendly person.

During my stay in Spain, my travelling took me to Malaga, Gibraltar, Sevilla, El Chorro, Ronda, Caminito del Rey, Granada…

During my stay in Malaga, I enhanced my personal, professional and intercultural competences. At the end of my volunteering, I got a Youthpass which certified that I spent my EVS project in Malaga, Spain with the Asociacion Iniciativa Internacional Joven.

This experience changed me. I became more self-confident, bold, experienced, grown-up and had a good rest and a lot of emotions afterwards and had the inspiration to start my new and last school year!

Because of these experiences, I wasn’t afraid to study abroad after finishing school, I wasn’t afraid of exams, and especially studying in English!

Here is a link to a video I created about my experience: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xlAPKGKqWnM

By Erika

Gianluca Rossino

A European perspective #EuroPeers

My name is Gianluca and I’m 21, currently based in the north of Italy.
Europe for me means opportunities. Huge opportunities to travel, explore, learn, grow up and mature. I am most proud of the idea of becoming young multipliers of our precious experiences once back from international events and intercultural projects. 

I discovered the Erasmus+ program in 2016 and since my first youth exchange in Croatia, my life completely changed. The choices I made, the studies I started, the work I have done. Everything is feeling different and I could witness incredible transformations in the young man I wanted to become. Sure, nothing happened in a night. Multiple opportunities in different contexts, as a participant, youth leader, organiser and international volunteer, each one of them shaped my behaviour, my attitude towards myself and the people around me.

I improved my language skills, I became more independent, I searched for and obtained vital freedom, I discovered how beautiful and emotional coming back home can be. I traveled around the old continent and, while so much is left to see, I gained crucial experience for my personal and professional development.

My biggest and most complicated challenge has been the EVS project I joined for 5 months in Cascais, the 2018 European Youth Capital.
A new home and a new family were waiting (or probably that was what I expected to find once arrived to start my volunteering with other 3 young Europeans). I soon felt that my expectations were a little far from reality.
I had tough times, I struggled with different spheres of that daily life. Day by day I waited for the end of my project to come home as fast as possible. 

Months later, I realised how powerfully that time spent in Portugal impacted the person I wanted to become and the goals I could achieve.
In the end, it is true: If you never try, you’ll never know what you are capable of.

This is why EuroPeers are needed so desperately; in this modern world, our principle is to have a spread and deep impact among new generations. Europe can progress but without a European identity, each step will be tougher and scarier.

So, what can I suggest to you?

Take a challenge, participate in a European mobility project and bring home your knowledge, improved skills and a revived attitude to become a changemaker at the local and international levels. Whether you inspire to be an engineer, a doctor, a manager, a teacher or an athlete let the opportunities Europe offers support your life path.


I am thankful for everything I received and I hope to never forget that.
Together, United in diversity, we must keep sharing these chances.

By Gianluca

Daniel Mapatac

A week in the Madonie Mountains

Here I was, singing Buddhist chants in the mountains of Sicily, alongside strangers from all over the world.

My third project of the summer. I had just come back from projects in Poland and Romania, both of which were so meaningful to me and after less than 48 hours at home, I was off again – this time to a project in Italy!

If I’m completely honest with myself, I don’t think I was quite ready to go. I was physically drained from the travelling and lack of sleep & I was
emotionally exhausted.

Something which I completely neglected to account for when applying for so many projects this summer was how tiring it would be to meet new people, introduce them into your life, only to say goodbye. And whilst I had done projects before and knew what it would involve, I had quite long breaks in between and never back-to-back projects.

So, despite how enthusiastic I was about this project. I was honestly so tired – which in fairness, played to my advantage during my journey to Porto Di Terra.

I must have slept the entirejourney-except for the several zombie-like moments I was awake to change transportation – but to say I slept like a baby would be an understatement. I never thought an overheated, crowded bus with a crying baby would ever be so comfortable but at the time it felt like I was sleeping on a cloud, so much so that I almost missed my stop.

I was picked up by one of the hosts – we spoke briefly about why I decided to join this project & how excited I was for the food whilst his small car hobbled down steep hills and beaten paths.

Whilst it was a brief journey from the bus stop to Porto Di Terra, it was the first time I had been conscious enough to appreciate the view & damn, it was beautiful. He told me stories of its’ history and culture. I wished the car ride could have been l o n g e r, as before I knew it we had arrived.

Porto Di Terra. My first impression was home, as cheesy as it sounds, and whilst Madonie National Park, where Porto Di Terra is located and Snowdonia National Park are worlds apart, I couldn’t help but feel a feeling of home being surrounded by all these mountains.

The project itself consisted of 16 participants from Portugal, the UK, Czech Republic & Italy. The company of these 16 participants made this already amazing project even more amazing.

16 people, from a variety of backgrounds and experiences – from university students to travellers, to sisters & mothers. This variety was refreshing. I especially valued the conversations I had with some of the older participants – as someone who is quite lost about the direction of their future, it was super motivating, inspiring and made me much calmer to hear the ups-and-downs and the journeys they had taken to get to the life they’re currently on.

So whilst I may not have been 100% prepared for this project, it came at a rather perfect time. Despite the full schedule, we had every day, I don’t think I’ve ever felt quite so relaxed in such a long time. As a person who is always on the move, it had been such a long time that I had time to rest- both mentally and physically.

Throughout the project, there was an emphasis on awareness and our place on the planet. We had workshops on bread making & food fermentation. We baked cookies and learnt about natural cosmetics. We learnt about permaculture, naturopathy & agro-ecology.

“What I learned in those days is that I’m walking along a path that I will never get to know completely, but that is full of magic that shakes you up” – Carmela

It’s easy to get tired on projects and lose enthusiasm but despite each day being filled with learning, I was engaged the entire week and the conversations and debates that resulted from each topic were thought-provoking and made me question my own thinking and beliefs.

One evening, we were invited to by neighbours to their home as there was a visiting Shaman. This was quite probably one of the most unique and surreal experiences of my life, to date.

I never would have imagined myself to be in this situation.Here I was, with 16 once-strangers, accompanied by a handful of other people from around the world who were there for a yoga retreat, chanting songs with an Indian Shaman, in the middle of the Madonie Mountains in Italy. 

It’s crazy to think about all the individual circumstances which brought us allhere, together, but here we were and it felt absolutely surreal. 

We spent the evening laughing, reflecting our experience with the Shaman and how surreal the entire evening felt, singing around the fire & eventually, cramming ourselves into a 3-person truck cruising under the stars. 

Waking up in nature, afternoon naps in the hammock, singing songs, playing the ukulele and guitar, swimming in the stream pool, laying in the grass watching the stars, “Bella Mama” around the fire & the best vegetarian/vegan food I’ve ever eaten.

Porto Di Terra helped me remember my “why’s” and reevaluate my priorities. The memories and lessons I learnt at Porto Di Terra are definitely ones which will be in my mind for a long time. 

By Dan

Kat Long

If I could go back to August the 19th 2018, the day before I boarded a plane to study in Stockholm for a year I would tell my past self to relax. To swap the chaotic butterflies in her stomach for excitement because everything is going to work out. She is about to embark on the most amazing adventure of her life so far and come out of it a stronger person with a plethora of happy memories. 

Not that the nerves were not valid. Despite being an incredibly fulfilling experience, there were difficult times. In a completely unfamiliar environment, with few hours daylight and a foreign language, homesickness became a frequent emotion. I could see the beauty of the city and observe the amazing culture but I felt excluded. It wasn’t home. I longed for the familiarity of the UK from Cadbury’s chocolate to a good cup of tea. 

This resulted in a few difficult weeks. But in time and with the help of the some of the amazing people I met out there it soon passed. I fell in love with the Stockholm and all Sweden had to offer. All that was unfamiliar became exciting and I was filled with a new desire to explore and learn all I could. I saw how the Swedes were reserved yet friendly and maintained an air of optimism despite the freezing temperatures and short days. I experienced traditional Swedish practises such as Fika and partook in Valborg which celebrated the beginning of spring. This provided me with a deep understanding of Swedish culture, making Stockholm feel like a second home.  

I also embarked on multiple trips around Scandinavia and its neighbouring countries including Oslo, Copenhagen, Inari in the Finnish Lapland and Tallinn. These were places I would have been unlikely to have visited otherwise. The trips created life long memories, from karaoke on a cruise ship, to attempting to build a snowman in -20 degrees and searching the streets of Oslo for the perfect pancake. 

My year abroad has ensured I have grown in confidence, independence, resilience and have a newfound enthusiasm for travel. Stepping on a plane back to the UK with the knowledge that my time in Stockholm was over, and the belief I would not get an opportunity like it again, filled me with sadness. However, after attending a weekend organised by the network EuroPeers, I became informed of volunteering opportunities around Europe open to all young people, ones I would love to be a part of. For anyone considering volunteering or working abroad, I view the experience as invaluable and highly recommend it. 

By Kat


Jamie-Lee McGurk

I am Jamie-Lee McGurk, I’m 22, and I’m a business student from Glasgow who is interested in environmental protection, climate change, physical and mental health. At the beginning of 2019 I was presented with an incredible opportunity to take part in my first Erasmus+ funded project called Explore the Wild Side. This project was created with the hopes of bringing together people from all over Europe and educating them about a healthy lifestyle through non-formal education. The project took place over two stages, the first being in the glamorous mountains of Greece and the second stage taking place in the Glorious mountains of Racha, Georgia. 

Explore the Wild Side brought together 28 different participants from 8 different countries including: Scotland, Romania, Greece, Georgia, Macedonia, Bulgaria, Ukraine and Spain.  The first stage of the project which was held in the beautiful mountains of Thessaloniki, Greece was for all participants on the project to bond as a group and get to know each other. During this stage participants enhanced their knowledge of the outdoors, learned basic survival skills and practiced safe hiking procedures in preparation for our second stage where we would hike the Caucasus Mountains in Racha, Georgia. By time the second stage came everyone on the project was like a little family, no matter how hard the hikes became at times we all persevered as a group and got to have the experience of a lifetime. 

Both stages of Explore the Wild Side allowed me to network with truly amazing people, learn about different cultures and learn more about nature. Taking part on this project opened my eyes to just how big and beautifully diverse the world really is. It really gave me the chance to develop myself as a person. I cannot wait for my next Erasmus+ project (now that I have travelling bug) I just hope it’s as good as Explore the Wild Side. 

Tyrone Stewart

Prior to learning about Euorpeers and the Eramus+ programme, I thought the international opportunities open to teenagers and young adults were only available through college and university. After speaking to a local volunteer working, I was educated on the Erasmus+ scheme, and I was recommended to participate in a EuroPeers training course in the local Merthyr area.

Participating in the course was lifechanging. Not only was I exposed to the countless training programmes and workshops available with our European partners, but EuroPeers also taught me a different form of education that is largely absent from in traditional teaching institutions. This is the education of sharing my international experience with my European peers and, as a result, being more aware of cultural diversities, and developing an understanding of the similarities and differences with my cultural make-up.

I then attended the 3rd EuroPeers International Network meeting in the European Youth Capital of 2017 Varna, Bulgaria. This was a fantastic opportunity for British and our international partners to gain an insight into the vision of a future EuroPeers and how each EuroPeer could enhance the programme within our local community.

I am a graduate in International Relations and have always had a passion for understanding the geopolitics that drives our world. I now reflect on Europeers as the first, vital step in expanding my global footprint as it granted me the confidence and the social skills to travel anywhere on earth. I recently returned to Cardiff after accepting a year-long internship in Zhuhai, China. Here, I worked at a liberal-arts college as a teaching assistant of humanities. I relied on openness, critical thinking, and my listening skills – these were all enhanced by experiences I faced through the workshops and training programmes I participated in thanks to EuroPeers.

I would honestly say it was because of my experience with EuroPeers that made this possible.

Emilija Vaickute

Hi. I am Emilija, I am from Lithuania. Currently I am living and working in London. Today I would like to share my Erasmus story with everyone who has ever considered to take an opportunity in Erasmus+. 

Back in 2014, I had started my Erasmus+ journey to Italy. My best friend and I went there for 5-month long studies in Milan. We were super excited to leave our home for the first time and for such a long period too. We could experience independence, the taste of being on your own, which was enjoyable but a little scary at the beginning. The first step in our journey was “TO STEP OUTSIDE OF OUR COMFORT ZONE” – we had to fill in documents and prepare for our journey. This step was the hardest one because we did not know what was waiting for us there. 

Our adventures started when we arrived in Milan. We were attending Italian lectures without speaking or understanding the Italian language☺, we were joining many Erasmus Student Network events, travelling across Italy, learning Italian, enjoying culture and hospitality of amazing people who surrounded us. Living in international surroundings gave us priceless opportunities: growing and improving various skills and knowledge related to our study domain, culture, improving our English and Italian speaking skills, increasing self-confidence, tolerance towards other people and cultures, and many many more…

When our first Erasmus studies experience was done, we were very sad to leave Italy and the international life that we have created for ourselves. We were experiencing post-Erasmus depression for a month after coming back because we were missing people and lifestyle that we had back in Italy. We were very grateful for getting this opportunity to study abroad! 

Have you ever heard this phrase: “Once on an Erasmus – always an Erasmus!”? This is exactly how I was feeling 4 years ago and I am still feeling today. My best friend and I could not stop travelling and using other Erasmus+ opportunities that were open for us! Thus, in our 3rd year of university, we chose to go for Eramsus+ studies abroad again! This time I went to Belgium. Once again I had an unforgettable time and experience in Antwerp. I had amazing teachers, practices and very well organized study program for 5 months in Thomas More College. Moreover, this time I have travelled not just inside Belgium, but outside too: in Paris, Amsterdam, the Hague, Germany. 

After 10 months (in total) of Erasmus+ studies, my best friend and I were even more eager to continue discovering the world and collecting more great memories, adventures, experiences… Therefore, we decided to go to Aveiro (Portugal) for a 2-month Erasmus+ internship. We worked in an inclusive school with children with learning disabilities. We were lucky to have a very positive and experienced mentor who was teaching us a lot of practical things about our work in special education. Apart from a great internship experience, we were discovering Portuguese foods, traditions, music, language, amazing beaches and beautiful cities! I would like to mention that during all my Erasmus+ experiences I have been travelling a lot and I did not spend a lot of my own money, all scholarships are given by Erasmus+ were more than enough to live in another country (and I could travel around). 

When I graduated from university, I realized that I do not want to start working right after my graduation and start living “a calm work-life”. Back in Portugal, I have learned about another Erasmus+ opportunity – European Voluntary Service (EVS). Therefore, I have applied for a 10-month project in Turkey. I was teaching English, learning Turkish, horse riding, writing projects, organizing cultural workshops for students, volunteering at a kindergarten, traveling, exploring Turkish foods, music, culture… I made so many new friends in there for life! 

At the end of my EVS project I have started applying for teaching jobs in various schools in Turkey and other countries. I added much value to my CV during all Erasmus+ experiences that I have been participating in. Thus, I found a nice job here in London in Lithuanian kindergarten where I am working right now. 

When I started to work, I thought that I will not be able to attend any Erasmus+ opportunity soon. However, I found a weekend project that EuroPeers UK organized for motivated young people who had something to share about their Erasmus+ experiences. I was so glad to feel the Erasmus+ Spirit again in the EuroPeers UK project! I have learned how important it is to share our stories with others, because we can inspire, encourage young people to take action in their lives.

I am very grateful for Erasmus+ and all the opportunities that it gave me! Without Eramsus+ I would not be where I am today, and I would not become a person that I am today. Erasmus+ is a great treasure chest that is open to everyone, but not everyone is brave enough to take something from it. So, I would like to encourage YOU and each and every young person in the world to take the gifts that Erasmus+ is offering!

Thank You Erasmus+!

Emilija

Richard Stone

My international experience really took off with my year studying abroad in Lausanne, Switzerland. During this time I travelled around Europe, learnt to ski, and made friends for life from all around the world. The scenery was absolutely breath-taking, as hopefully some of the photos have captured.

The Erasmus Student Network in Lausanne facilitated an easy transition into life in Switzerland, and helped me to meet other international students through events and trips they regularly organised, such as city tours and weekends away. Upon returning to my home university in Southampton, I volunteered at my own local ESN section to try and similarly help international students new to my own university. This has led to a multitude of opportunities for travel as I’ve attended international events in Greece and Italy, representing ESN UK within the much wider network of forty countries.

It is also through ESN that I heard about the opportunity to attend the Europeers training weekend in St Albans. It was so inspiring to meet so many internationally minded people from such a range of backgrounds, as until this point most similarly minded people I met would be through ESN, thus all students like me! Europeers opened my eyes to the vast array of opportunities available to me through the Erasmus+ program, that hitherto I had been oblivious to – assuming that after my year abroad, my time abroad was at an end for the next few years at least. I really admire and support there mission to promote Erasmus opportunities, as such things are rarely made known to younger people, especially those not in higher education. Now, I am proud to call myself a Europeer, and look forward to spreading awareness of the opportunities available through Erasmus+!

Freya Green

My Erasmus+ experience started with a teaching placement in Le Mans, France. While I was there, I had the pleasure of meeting some truly inspiring members of the younger generation, as well as unforgettable teachers and other individuals whom I hold very close to my heart even now. There, my French really flourished, and I was even able to take that with me to my second Year Abroad placement, which was studying in China.

Whilst living in Ningbo, China I travelled a lot and also had the opportunity to write in French for the Language Centre magazine. I met some lovely people who also spoke French there, as well as some during my work placement module which allowed me to help domestic students with their French.

As a French and Contemporary Chinese Studies student, I am often greeted with shock when I tell them I speak three languages. Some even tell me that they couldn’t do such a thing themselves. If my Erasmus+ experience has taught me anything, it’s that nothing should hold you back from learning a language – not age, not background, and certainly not yourself. If you immerse yourself in a culture, there really is no limit to how much you can learn. All it takes to have a truly wonderful experience is to be willing to throw yourself into things, and have the openness that it takes to succeed.

Edyta Biardzka

My first experience with the Erasmus Programme was taking part in the exchange to Greece in March 2011, which was a part of the Comenius Socrates programme. The theme of the project was “Help yourself – find happiness by helping others” and there were five countries participating in it: Poland, Spain, Sweden, Greece and Bulgaria.

I remember when I heard about the project for the first time, it was my senior year of junior school in Poland, but I immediately knew that I want to be involved in this adventure. Not only did I see it as an opportunity to improve my English, but also to travel abroad and make new friends from different countries.  

After a few months of volunteering and different tasks, my teacher told me that, along with nine other students, I was chosen to go for an exchange to Chalkida in Greece.  I remember how happy and excited I was. I knew that the best is yet to come. 

Taking part in the project and going to Greece changed my life. I have met so many inspiring people and made friends for a lifetime. Sharing stories, experiences and cultures, made me realise how amazing the world is and how much it has to offer. I have improved my English by practising it with my new friends and decided to embrace my perspectives on an international level. During these few days, I have realised my new dream – one day I want to study abroad. Today I am a third-year student at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh, so I can reassure everyone, that dreams do come true if you are determined to achieve them