Wednesday

18th Jan 2017

Letter

Erasmus isn't about studying; it's about learning

  • There's more to life than studying... (Photo: Helena Spongenberg)

We have read Viktor Gronne and Dalia Miklaseviciute's column about the flaws of the Erasmus programme with great interest. We are all former Erasmus students, from different countries and different backgrounds, and we feel it is a civic obligation to answer you on the specific points you make. In fact, in our opinion, the message conveyed in your article is both wrong and dangerous.

Your indictment revolves around three points: The lack of academic requirements for Erasmus students; the absence of direct ties with local culture; and the party culture attached to the programme. All of this leading to the conclusion that Erasmus has fallen short.

Dear EUobserver reader

Subscribe now for unrestricted access to EUobserver.

Sign up for 30 days' free trial, no obligation. Full subscription only 15 € / month or 150 € / year.

  1. Unlimited access on desktop and mobile
  2. All premium articles, analysis, commentary and investigations
  3. EUobserver archives

EUobserver is the only independent news media covering EU affairs in Brussels and all 28 member states.

♡ We value your support.

If you already have an account click here to login.

First of all, let's agree to disagree on the academic dimension. In our experience, there is nothing in the Erasmus programme that prevents anyone from studying anything. If you wish to take extra classes on top of the credits you are expected to bring back home, it is fully possible pretty much everywhere we've been, and this includes advanced language courses.

You claim that Erasmus students are isolated and treated differently. On the other hand anyone would agree that it would be a little unfair if they were treated on an equal footing with native speakers. It is absolutely normal that there is an adapted curriculum for foreign students. In this context there can't be equal terms of academic evaluation – unless all courses are dispensed in Esperanto.

Another thing that seemed to have bothered you a lot is the absence of ties with local culture. You seem disappointed at the ESN network for not showing you where the local national history museum is located.

Our answer to this is: couldn't you find it yourselves?

We are talking about twenty somethings with a university education here. If they want to find out about the history of the country where they're going to spend at least the next six months, we sincerely believe they are clever enough to buy a couple of books about it, download a documentary, and google the main cultural spots before departure. Indeed, this is an essential part of the learning experience the Erasmus programme provides for.

But your main problem seems to be this dire 'Erasmus party culture', a thing of such an 'unhealthy' nature that you use this very expression no less than four times in your column. Be afraid, be very afraid of the mighty Erasmus party culture! You don't exactly sound like a couple of night owls; and that's fine, partying isn't an obligation when you are a student. But it doesn't mean you have to spoil the fun for everybody.

You will probably admit that you are the voice of a tiny minority of Erasmus students. Well, there is a very good reason why things are this way.

Erasmus isn't about studying; it is about learning, and sadly you haven't understood the difference between these concepts. There are indeed many ways to learn new things, and studying is just one of them.

During our Erasmus experience, we all learned far more outside the university than during the courses. We discovered new landscapes, new cities, new countries, new languages. We made new friends, from new countries, speaking a whole variety of different languages, and while struggling to understand each other we created languages of our own.

We loved new people; we had sex with new people. We learned how to make cultural compromises living under the same roof as people from all around Europe. We opened our personal borders.

We learned how to open our minds to new experiences. We went out, as often as possible. We explored, we wandered, we travelled and we partied. We partied hard, because for the first time in our life and probably the last, we were absolutely free to do so.

You don't seem to think that nightlife is part of the local culture; you have a very narrow vision of what culture is. We danced to new sounds, we tasted new drinks, we met people everywhere, sometimes making friends for life. We embraced every chance we were given to do so. We gathered a lifetime of beautiful memories of these parties. And these unforgettable moments wouldn't have been possible if it hadn't been for the so called 'flaws' you seem to see in the Erasmus programme.

All in all it seems you have completely missed the point of the experience. You were given a unique opportunity to broaden your horizons, but all you have to talk about after you come home is the lack of an efficient sanction mechanism in the Charter. In all fairness it is this kind of mentality that we would call 'unhealthy'.

The success of Erasmus can't be reduced to academic achievement figures. It should be measured through the enthusiasm it generates and how generations of young people identify with it. In this context, you are trying to discredit one of the only true successes of the European Union's recent heritage. It is not surprising that young people are not going to vote on Sunday if the one EU policy they actually identify with is described with such contempt.

In fact your column is a good synthesis of everything that is wrong with the EU discourse today.

Our message to all future Erasmus students: do not listen to Viktor and Dalia. Be young, be free, and don't worry too much about your grades. Make the most out of your time there, be curious, be foolish, and don't forget you'll only have one such opportunity in your lifetime. Now go and enjoy the party.

Carla Chiaretti, Italian, Erasmus student in the UK, Fabien Miclet, Irish-French, Erasmus student in Turkey, Maj Lervad Grasten, Danish, Erasmus student in France

Opinion

The 89ers and the battle against populism

It falls to the Europeans who were born around 1989 and grew up in a peaceful Europe to build a fresh new vision for the EU that transcends the ideological, educational and national cleavages of the past.

News in Brief

  1. Europe has no vision, says Italian minister
  2. Juncker has 'slight doubts' on his group's convention idea
  3. EU parliament spat changes nothing, says Juncker
  4. German elections likely on 24 September
  5. Maltese PM announces plan for Brexit summit
  6. EU needs more Turkey-style migrant deals, Malta PM says
  7. Dutch minister: Don't underestimate risk of hacking
  8. European court rules against Russia adoption ban on US

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Caritas EuropaEU States to Join Pope Francis’s Appeal to Care for Migrant Children
  2. UNICEFNumber of Unaccompanied Children Arriving by sea to Italy Doubles in 2016
  3. Nordic Council of Ministers"Nordic Matters" Help Forge Closer Bonds Between the UK and the Nordic Region
  4. Computers, Privacy & Data ProtectionThe age of Intelligent Machines: join the Conference on 25-27 January 2017
  5. Martens CentreNo Better way to Lift Your Monday Blues Than to Gloss Over our Political Cartoons
  6. Dialogue PlatformThe Gulen Movement: An Islamic Response to Terror as a Global Challenge
  7. European Free AllianceMinority Rights and Autonomy are a European Normality
  8. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Create EU Competitiveness Post-Brexit? Seminar on January 24th
  9. European Jewish CongressSchulz to be Awarded the European Medal for Tolerance for his Stand Against Populism
  10. Nordic Council of Ministers"Adventures in Moominland" Kick Off Nordic Matters Festival in London
  11. PLATO15 Fully-Funded PhDs Across Europe on the Post-Crisis Legitimacy of the EU - Apply Now!
  12. Dialogue PlatformInterview: Fethullah Gulen Condemns Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Zero Waste EuropePublic Support Needed to Promote Zero Waste in More Municipalities
  2. Belgrade Security ForumEU Cannot Afford to Ignore the Western Balkans as Populism Surges
  3. Dialogue PlatformFethullah Gulen Calls for an Investigation on the Assassination of Russian Ambassador to Turkey
  4. World VisionAmid EU Talks on Migration, Children on the Move Remain Forgotten and Unprotected
  5. Centre Maurits CoppietersAlex Salmond Receives Coppieters Award for His Service to Scotland and Europe
  6. International Partnership for Human RightsStrong Support for Hamburg Declaration on Human Rights Defenders
  7. Swedish EnterprisesHow to Use Bioenergy Coming From Forests in a Sustainable Way?
  8. Counter BalanceReport Reveals Corrupt but Legal Practices in Development Finance
  9. Swedish EnterprisesMEPs and Business Representatives Debate on the Future of the EU at Winter Mingle
  10. ACCAFifty Key Factors in the Public Sector Accountants Need to Prepare for
  11. UNICEFSchool “as Vital as Food and Medicine” for Children Caught up in Conflict
  12. European Jewish CongressEJC President Breathes Sigh of Relief Over Result of Austrian Presidential Election