Four Erasmus+ lessons

Hello, my name is Mihai Degeratu and I would like to take you through four lessons I learnt from my Erasmus+ journey. I should mention that I have been through a number of projects first as a participant then as a youth worker, part of a youth organisation in London. I count myself lucky to say these words and I hope by sharing the following thoughts I will motivate you to consider getting involved with this program called Erasmus+. Here I selected some of the ideas and thoughts I formed from my time doing Erasmus+.

Get out of your comfort zone. Most of the Erasmus+ projects I coordinated or participated in were in Europe: the UK, Poland, Greece, Slovakia and Romania. Each of these was unique in its own way and the fact that it was in Europe brought a sense of familiarity and reliability. Leaving the continent takes it to another level. This is why my time in Morocco, North West Africa, was certainly special. Different climate, different culture, different food. Problem? I think not. It was a delight to sink into such a rich culture. In terms of activities however (and this is where the highlight resides), we were hosting a Youth Exchange which was brought to closure with a show at a local Youth Center. We had presentations, singing, dancing and games. It is difficult to paint a picture with words, which is why the picture below is from that final event in Morocco. Every Erasmus+ project requires strategy, management and collaboration. It is a challenge and as with every challenge, it is up to the individual to transform it into an exciting learning opportunity. 

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Become part of a network/community. EuroPeers are young people who participated in youth projects abroad and promote Erasmus+. I remember attending my first EuroPeers UK event in London (picture below). It was great to see how welcoming and thoughtful they were. Becoming an official member of their network represented a milestone and since then it has been an important section in my CV. Besides taking part in their brilliant Training Courses, I am proud to say that I represented them in some international events. I find it hard to summarise in a single paragraph the number of activities I was involved with as a result of entering the network.  Notably, in December 2018 I organised my first EuroPeers UK event at the University campus where I was studying. The task was simple: talk to students about Erasmus+. But it was easier said than done. It was a rather busy University day and trying to engage a bunch of students into an active conversation was challenging. Ultimately, looking back at the opportunity itself I realise how much I gained! The event set up, having an elevator pitch, conducting clear communication with a person, dealing with trickier questions; all of these stuck with me and helped me grow.

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People around you matter. I can’t stress this enough but it was the fantastic people around me who made these opportunities possible and special. Each project meant new participants and implicitly, new friends. I am glad that today I can communicate with people from various countries, friends who have a wealth of knowledge and experience to share. Yet, the participants and people I met in the countries I visited were only half of the equation. I am deeply grateful to my fellow colleagues who devoted time and effort in making this a memorable time in my life. I hope that at my turn I made a positive contribution in their life as they made one in mine.

Essential skills. I couldn’t finish without mentioning the number of skills I acquired in my journey. Once I heard this influences talking about the difference between soft skills and hard skills. He explains that it is a shame that skills like confidence, time management, resilience, team work, problem solving, critical thinking and active communication are granted as soft skills, secondary to the hard skills which we normally acquire from school/University. I couldn’t agree more. The word ‘soft’ is perhaps misplaced as these are essential skills that we need in our day to day lives, in interpersonal interactions and are especially important in a professional context. These are the skills that in a lot of cases will make the difference between a successful job application and a rejection. Erasmus+ gave me the opportunity to develop and nourish my essential skills and I am grateful to this. I strongly recommend Erasmus+ to everyone in search for a better self. 

By Mihai