“ESN aims to mobilise thousands of international students across Europe to have an active role in their host community. During these two weeks, our network across 41 countries will join forces with universities and other civil society organisations to develop volunteering activities which will give the opportunity to international students to interact with their local communities meaningfully. ESN believes that the study abroad experience should be complemented with non–formal components in order to promote civic engagement and global citizenship, two important elements to tackle everyday societal challenges.” - Kostis Giannidis, President of ESN

In this video, you can see a short overview of the Final Conference of SocialErasmus+, titled: "Social Dimension of Erasmus+" that took place on the 14 & 15th of October 2019.

The 'Social Dimension of Erasmus+' conference addressed how the Erasmus+ programme encourages a more connected and inclusive society through initiatives that promote social engagement and volunteering on exchange. The conference was organised within the SocialErasmus+, an Erasmus+ KA3 Forward-Looking Cooperation project, coordinated by the Erasmus Student Network, that aims at building bridges between international students and local communities by bringing the students to local schools. The project consortium includes the European University Foundation (EUF), Youth for Exchange and Understanding (YEU), Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), Universität Wien, Universidad de Vigo, Scholengroep Vlaamse Ardennen and ESN Besançon.

Let’s meet Maggy, an English teacher at a professional high school in Besançon specialised in training future restaurant cooks and caregivers.

She has been working with the local Erasmus Student Network section in Besançon for a few years, welcoming international students in her classes to exchange with her students about mobility, international cultures and discovering new countries beyond the prejudices they might have. 

Here is a sneak peek of how they meet.

“We decided to participate so that our pupils can get to know something outside of their school and countryside village. It is important for them to open their views and get to know other cultures. It influences them when making choices. Knowing that the Erasmus programme exists in order to go abroad and open their view on life.” - Ciska Filips

Ciska Filips, the principle of the GO! Atheneum in Avelgem explains why they welcomed six international students into their school to join their classes and give an explanation about the Erasmus programme and their home cultures.

Six international students of Vrije Universiteit Brussel took part in this school visit to the GO! Atheneum.  

"Erasmus in Schools experience was an amazing opportunity to meet local students, to learn a lot about their culture and to be able to share with them about my own country. It gave us the chance to explain in plain and simple words how great is to go abroad for studying or for an internship and to motivate young people to keep on moving around Europe (and the world). We shared curiosity and laughs, and I personally think that's the key to promoting mobility as a lifestyle. Becoming a volunteer in another country made me feel like I was contributing to that country, that population, that culture. It's the best way of learning more and adapting more when you are abroad." - Sira

Several students from the Vrije Universiteit Brussel brought a visit to GO! Avelgem for an Erasmus in Schools. Check out what the international students and local students thought of their experiences.

“The main purpose is to have international students interact with local schools. It is in the DNA of our University to connect our students to society.”

Vice-Rector Prof. Romain Meeusen for International Relations at Vrije Universiteit Brussel explains the Universities policies to encourage the Universities students to reach out outside of the university campus and reach out to the rest of the country, not only the city of Brussels but also the Belgian countryside. 

“Through Univer.City we run different pilots where students have a concrete societal impact. Community-based and engaged learning has been proven as a high impact practice, because students apply theoretical knowledge gained throughout their academic career in concrete situations, and by reflecting on these experience, they gain a deeper understanding of their course content and a broader vision on their discipline. “ - Linde Moriau

Linde Moriau is the project manager of Univer.City at the Department of Education and Student Policies of Vrije Universiteit Brussel. VUB aims at tailoring the educational offer to the opportunities and needs of the Universities hometown, Brussels by introducing local partnerships, cases and dynamics.

Educational psychologist Christiane Spiel from the University of Vienna explains that SocialErasmus+ can be a way for Universities to get more engaged in their so-called Third Mission, which is the mission of knowledge transfer to society.

Besides, she thinks that SocialErasmus+ is a great example of competence-oriented learning: students acquire not only factual knowledge but also competences and know-how as they get to try out their learnings in real-life situations.

For Ms Spiel, it is time universities gave more importance to courses like this in their curricula.

Eva Vetter is professor for Language Teaching and Learning at the University of Vienna and when she heard about SocialErasmus+ for the first time, she thought this might be an excellent opportunity to strengthen the cooperation between the Center for Teacher Education and its partner schools.

In this video, Ms Vetter outlines the benefits of participating in SocialErasmus+ both for universities and for schools.

As for the Erasmus students that participate in the program, she is convinced that this experience will have a positive impact on their autonomy, their learning motivation, and their capacity to take initiative.

“I gave a lecture on my field of study: energy and sustainability. I presented what we do in Cabo Verde for environmental sustainability. I had the opportunity to transmit my knowledge and experience about energy and environment to students here in Spain” - Leliane

Leliane and Mª Carmen Mokuy met many local students, and practised their teaching skills, exchange ideas about the topic on the environment with local University students.

Follow the story of Leliane and Mª Carmen Mokuy at the Universidad de Vigo, two students who visited local schools while doing their Erasmus in Vigo. They talked with the students about the environmental challenges in their country and connected this to the Sustainable Development Goals, helping the local high school students understand the importance of these global challenges.

“I think it’s very important to motivate Erasmus students to participate in volunteer activities during their exchange, because it is a very positive experience, for both the students and for the local high schools.” - Beatriz Figueroa

Professor Beatriz Figueroa from the University of Vigo, campus in Orense, explains the process of supporting three German students to present their experience about going on Erasmus and make a country comparison between Spain and Germany, highlighting the impact an Erasmus+ mobility can have on Erasmus students. Beatriz expresses that this is especially important for students to visit more rural areas to engage with people that do not get in touch with people from different countries as frequently.

“This experience will help me in my future career. It helps your public speaking skills, and you learn how to deal with a group of people with a culture different than your own. This is something you cannot learn in a language class” - Anna

It was Anna’s first time teaching. Anna learned a lot about Spanish culture talking to teachers and students, she also learned how to present a topic in front of the students and how to handle group discussions.

Follow the personal story of Anna during her Erasmus in Vigo (Spain) where she volunteers during Sciences classes in a rural high school close to Vigo where she practices Spanish and teaches the local students environmental issues and culture.

“This project is about connecting people and institutions. Connecting Non-Formal education and Formal Education. Connecting International Students and Local students. Following a service-learning approach, we are trying to instil a sense of belonging to the students” - Maria Isabel

Maria Isabel Doval, the Vice-Rector of Social Responsibility, Internationalization and Cooperation shares why it is important to do local outreach activities such as Erasmus in Schools in order to be closer to your educational ecosystem. Eva Garea, senior staff member expresses why it is important to reach out to youth at schools to help of a better understanding of European countries. Igor and Beatriz explain why for schools it is interesting to participate.

"Taking part in the SocialErasmus project and visit schools as an Erasmus student was a perfect experience to be able to do something more than studying at the university. It allowed me to practice my teaching background in a different country. It added to my knowledge about Austria, as it allowed me to leave the international community and experience more of normal life in Austria. Students were very interested and welcoming, so I had a very positive and fun experience to teach." - Sanna

Follow the personal story of Sanna from Finland during her Erasmus in Vienna where she volunteers during English and History classes in a local high school where she practices English and teaches the local students history and geography. The visits allowed her to put her teacher education into practice and feel more integrated into the local culture.

"My main motivation was to learn german in a different context than the classroom. In Belgium, I play basketball and rugby. By joining the sports classes in the school in Vienna, I am able to continue activities and learn more about the people here."

Follow the personal experience of Celine from Belgium during her Erasmus in Vienna where she volunteers during sports classes in a local school.

"Erasmus in Schools was an unforgettable experience. The kids made a big impression on me by welcoming us even from our first steps at the gate. The kids in the two classes I had the chance to take part in were very curious and excited in exploring different countries. In the end, I got a lot of "loving letters" from the kids which made this experience so touchy. Coming to Thessaloniki would be just an experience of travelling. But through volunteering, I felt like I become a part of the city, with the local community. Volunteering definitely has become more meaningful to me since I saw myself in a different place, with different volunteers but we were doing the same thing: bringing happiness to others." - Hana

"With volunteering, the wonder is right behind the corner. The pupils in Thessaloniki and their teachers supported us to make the activities lovely engaging because those kids made the difference: they were the embodiment of curiosity! Even after years of volunteering, you understand why you're still in love with it, and reaffirms what you always knew, but thanks to ESN is everyday clearer: Europe is our continent which cultivates hopes and peace, and there is much more room for cultural understanding than hate and division." - Alberto

“The volunteering was the most exciting part of my exchange year, because it gave me the chance to meet and interact with interesting people from different generations and cultures. I felt that I was easily integrated into the community. It offered me many new impressions on the cultural and social system in France, and I was able to improve my social skills. All of these experiences will help me in my future career as a teacher.” - Robin

“We always talk about the importance of volunteering and I am happy to have taken a step forward and actually tried it on my own! It was fun and surprisingly easy to spend some time with locals, especially seeing there was a team of people involved and everyone believed in the importance of what we were trying to do. I felt more present, volunteering reminds me of the immediate issues I can address and shifts my focus from the big, daring dreams to the small, daily steps I can take to make the dream come true.” - Timka