The Causes of ESN
ESN’s mission is to represent international students, but it can be done in many ways. Would you like to better understand ESN’s scope of work? Then this article is just for you!
From organising integrating activities for exchange students to contributing to the increase of employability of local youth, ESN’s scope of work is very wide. ESN gathers young people from various cultural and educational backgrounds who contribute to the diversity of the organisation’s work while creating opportunities for personal and professional development of their peers.
The variety of activity can be divided into six causes ESN members advocate for on all levels of the organisation: culture, education & youth, environmental sustainability, health & well-being, skills & employability and social inclusion.
Culture; customs, values and social behavior of a particular group of people at a particular time. Experiencing the way of life in diverse and unknown cultures is a strong motivator for young people to move abroad in order to participate in mobility programmes. One of ESN’s values is unity in diversity, diversity in unity and our members work hard to provide opportunities for cultural understanding to both international and local members of their community, as well as open an intercultural dialogue between them. Our members organise city tours, visits to various cultural institutions, trips to National Parks and other places of importance in the country in order to showcase their cultural and natural heritage, therefore actively contributing to the country’s tourism efforts. However, they also organise events such as international dinners, language and cooking tandems and speed friendings to introduce the international dimension of life to the members of their local community. By introducing international and exchange students to the legacy of their country, the pride our members feel towards their own heritage increases and they learn how to embrace the differences that make them special. Together, they create an environment of acceptance and appreciation based on respect and tolerance. On top of that, thanks to the good cooperation and healthy communication with various stakeholders and partners in the field, ESN is able to join Europe-wide opportunities, like the European Year of Cultural Heritage, and make a broader contribution to the cause.
EDUCATION & YOUTH
As a key volunteer student organisation in international higher education in Europe, our members provide information about mobility programmes and motivate students to study abroad. They organise mobility conferences to increase the accessibility of information, as well as share their own mobility experience in order to showcase how such an experience can be an investment into one's future. Our members can often be found at various mobility and scholarship fairs organised nationally by stakeholders who recognise ESN as a likely partner and a trustworthy source of information. Such recognition allows our members to advocate for better and more accessible mobility opportunities among decision makers in their country, as well as create nation-wide initiatives. Promotion of volunteering and active citizenship is very important to our organisation; ESN contributes to the field by conducting its own research initiatives like the ESNsurvey and publishing papers, like the ErasmusUpgrade Manifesto. Additionally, in collaboration with their university, our members work hard to ensure fair, smooth and enjoyable mobility period for all international and exchange students. We take pride in Erasmus in Schools, an activity where our members promote opportunities and benefits of higher education to elementary and high school students, while their exchange students hold country presentations and discuss their current mobility experience. This way, we ensure the maintenance in popularity of mobility programmes among upcoming generations, as well as create future volunteers and active citizens.
ESN stands for active citizenship, which includes actively partaking in finding solutions for current problems. Environmental sustainability is one of the major struggles of today’s society and, when it comes to this field, our members try to raise awareness about the issue and lead by example. They are always open to debate the connection between veganism and environment or share useful tips and facts when it comes to recycling, reusing and reducing. They also organise events of similar nature, like Erasmus Forest - an activity where local and exchange students plant seeds or saplings, or events aimed at cleaning some contaminated area, like a beach or a park.
HEALTH & WELL-BEING
Mens sana in corpore sano. Moving abroad for an exchange is a big turnaround which includes changing our everyday habits. Regular practices usually happen when we have a stable routine, and it’s kind of hard to plan anything when you are aware that you will have to change your lifestyle again in 6 months or so. When they move to another country, exchange students usually spend quite a lot of time on trying out the national cuisine which often includes dining out, as well as tasting products offered in shops in order to discover which ones actually suit their needs. Also, they have a certain monthly budget they depend on which can make it quite hard to purchase big quantities of healthy food which is usually more expensive. Apart from figuring out their dietary needs, exchange students also spend quite a lot of time setting up their new life which can be a source of some physical and emotional distress. Knowing this, local sections often organise sport related events such as hiking, football matches and dance classes, or make ESNcard discount deals with their local gym. They also organise healthy eating workshops, publish healthy recipes or give tips on where to purchase affordable healthy food in their city. Additionally, ESN also implements Responsible Party, an activity which revolves around the moderate alcohol consumption, and International Erasmus Games, an annual sport competition for exchange students all over Europe.
SKILLS & EMPLOYABILITY
According to the Erasmus Impact Study launched by the European Commission in 2012, 85% of students study or train abroad to enhance their employability and more than 90% of students reported an improvement in their transversal skills. On average, 92% of employers are looking for transversal skills, on top of knowledge in their field (91%) and relevant work experience (78%). On top of recognising mobility programmes as a powerful tool for personal and professional growth, ESN also provides opportunities for self-development for our volunteers by organising workshops and training events where they can gain and develop their skills. Afterwards, they use those newly acquired skills to advance their local community, as well as create additional learning opportunities for their international and exchange students. They quite often organise career fairs and various soft skills related events for local youth, however, they also advocate at their universities for their members to receive ECTS points for their volunteer efforts. ESN has its own internal training programme, Eduk8, aimed at training the members in the field of non-formal education which can also serve as an added value to their CV. Additionally, ESN hasn’t only developed ErasmusIntern, a platform which connects future interns and internship providers in assuring quality internships, but also provides various professional opportunities in the Headquarters, such as internships, European Voluntary Service and European Solidarity Corps placements.
ESN implements the field of social inclusion by widening the participation and social engagement. ESN believes in a more diverse Erasmus+ programme, which is why our members work hard to raise awareness about mobility opportunities for students from underrepresented groups. One of examples of this is Mapped!, aimed at promoting accessible Higher Education possibilities for students with disabilities. ESN believes in implementing volunteer experiences as a natural part of the mobility experience and aims to contribute to social integration of students through volunteering activities under the SocialErasmus project. In this regard, local sections organise activities such as animal shelter visits, workshops in preschools or retirement homes, helping with the meal preparation for the homeless or donating blood. By organising these activities, our members enable exchange students to contribute to the local community, therefore feel integrated in its daily functioning. Fostering social engagement creates inclusive societies.
All in all, ESN can offer a little bit of everything to everyone. Sounds cool? You can always find a local section near you and join us in our work or you can support us in our efforts by making a donation to our organisation.
Starting my path as a volunteer in the network, I was more than thrilled to discover that ESN does not only stand for parties and drinks. In fact, it is so much more.