Written by: 
Jessica Alves Friday, 20 December, 2019 - 17:51

So young, yet so ambitious - ESN section in the spotlight December 2019

To end 2019 with a bang, the Section in the Spotlight travels to our 40th country, one of the youngest sections in our network: the incredible ESN Kyiv in beautiful Ukraine!

ESN Kyiv became an official member of the Erasmus Student Network on the 2nd of June 2019, but they celebrate their anniversary on the 23rd of September since they registered as a candidate section on that date in 2018 at the Council of the National Representatives (CNR) of ESN in Riga. They are the first section in Ukraine, but it’s not the first time Ukraine has attempted to enter the network. There were several attempts made in the early 2000s from other cities, but Kyiv is the first (they love to mention that they were approved with 100% of the votes during the CNR!) 

The 40th country to join our network was founded on the initiative of the current President, Tetyana Fedurchuk. After becoming a candidate section, she gathered a team of people that she had worked within the student union of their home university, Tara Shevchenko National University of Kyiv. Two of these people are still board members of the section, namely Oleksandra Tyrkalova, the Vice-President, and Kateryna Kubrak, the Communication Manager.

Even though they have just joined our network, ESN Kyiv already has 25 members and a mascot. A lot of them are students, and some are recent graduates, but they are all active and inspired volunteers. Many of them take part in different international projects, while others are members of other youth organisations and even lead their own initiatives. ESN Kyiv has a structure that helps ensure they cover all aspects of the international students’ stay in the city. The section is divided into four departments: Communication, Events, Partnerships, and Education. They say it’s hard to have a certain structure when it comes to recruiting new members because they have only done it two or three times, but for now, whenever they feel the need for someone new, they hold an open call, then the chosen volunteer enters a probation period, and if they contribute, they are accepted as an official member. They’ve only had elections once so far. After becoming an official section, they elected the board via online voting. They hold meetings once a month and also have calls once a month. The board and the managers have a separate chat in Telegram which is active almost all day and they also use Trello for everyday tasks. All the required information is on Google Drive, divided into separate topics. 

Prior to their arrival in the city, each international student gets a welcome email from ESN Kyiv and a link to their Survival Guide. There’s also a map of Kyiv on the site with all the key/essential places and instructions on how to use Papaya to get a buddy. At the beginning of the semester, they organise a welcome week with different activities. They have a guided city tour every semester (this is an intense experience during the winter semester due to the -10ºC weather!) but the activities vary. During the semester, they try to focus on different events. Their international students love an event called Language Café, where they create some language games (like explaining a word in Russian/Ukrainian) so that the students can practice their language skills. Other cultural activities include visiting museums (like the National Museum of History) and movie nights. Last year, they attended Maslyana (a Slavic holiday of baking and tasting pancakes of all the flavours you could think of!). Last semester, they went to Chernihiv, a city north of Kyiv. Other than this, they organised environment-oriented activities like the #trashtagchallenge in which they gathered to clean up the territory around the student dorms in Spring, or a tree planting day wherein they planted some trees around the student dorms. They also went to an animal shelter and held a workshop on gender inequality issues during Social Inclusion Days.

Even though ESN Kyiv is a very young section, there’s an event that they’ve held four times already which the students love. It focuses on the promotion of mobility with local students since the local students of Kyiv still don’t know a lot about Erasmus and exchanges. The event is called Erasmus Days and it lasts 3 days. The event itself includes presentations from ESNers, former Erasmus students, the IRO from their home university, and the National Erasmus+ Office. It lasts three days because, in order to engage the maximum number of students and since the faculties are spread out around the city, they try to be at a different location each day of the event. One part of the event is a Speaking Library, where they gather former Ukrainian Erasmus students and current Erasmus students in Kyiv, and all the interested students can come and talk with these “speaking books” to learn about their experience better. One of the Erasmus Days events was extended to include AIESEC and AEGEE opportunities as well, so they partnered with them and invited them to give their talks, too. Generally, around 250 students attend these presentations.

They started using Papaya to help with the buddy system, but before that, they used to ask the international students prior to their arrival whether they needed a buddy and then they would search for a buddy manually. 

The Education department of ESN Kyiv works mostly for partnerships with educational institutions. When they started, they were only covering Taras Shevchenko National University of Kyiv, but this semester they started working with another university and by the next semester, this section will be covering up to five universities. This is one of ESN Kyiv’s greatest achievements, especially considering where they started. They also have a very strong cooperation with the National Erasmus+ Office in Ukraine. They are now co-organisers of their events, instead of just volunteers.

One of this section’s goals is to grow the huge potential and they want to help active students from other cities around the country. In order to do that, they created a guide, a sort of “how to develop an ESN section 101”, that includes ways to get in touch with ESN Kyiv.

Even though this is a very young section, their NR (who’s also their President) regularly attends international events. In fact, she initiated the creation of a working group of non-EU countries in the network. They work on raising awareness on the obstacles that non-EU countries in the network face during their work and how to solve them. It is also worth mentioning that two of their members were selected to attend the Gender Checkup event that was held in October in Budapest. One of the girls who attended the event held a workshop on gender inequality in Kyiv based on the knowledge she gained during the event.

ESN Kyiv is unique because they are so young, yet so ambitious, they even won an ESAA grant and are going to organise an event for their members on Erasmus values in the upcoming Spring. How ambitious is that for a section that, officially, isn’t even one year old?

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