By now, the majority of European citizens have heard the name Erasmus+ and many have encountered the transformative experience of academic mobility. Millions of students have utilised the opportunity to study or train abroad, meet new people and discover other cultures, build their European identity as well as become more aware of challenges and opportunities that lay ahead, and develop themselves personally and professionally. The benefits of Erasmus+ on students are undeniable, and many studies stand behind that claim; for example, Erasmus Impact Study shows that mobility experiences have positive effects on the professional careers of mobile students in comparison to non-mobile students.
This makes it clear why the topic of Erasmus+ alumni is on the top of everyone’s agendas. To contribute to the topic, Erasmus Student Network has had a panel discussion about the effects of Erasmus+ on the employability of its beneficiaries as a part of an online conference under the name Erasmus Generation on the Labour Market. In the panel discussion, we have had five speakers who had five very different mobility experiences - they come from different countries and they chose different countries for their mobility destination, they come from different cultural and educational backgrounds, and their participation in Erasmus+ has shaped their future academic and career choices in different ways.
"I was the only girl at my home faculty studying electrical engineering. During my Erasmus I became more confident and I realised that this is the profession I do want to follow, that I want to work everyday on inventions that can make people’s lives easier. I now know I want to build my own enterprise and I want to be an example for young woman engineers."
Lead Project Engineer
Erasmus+ can completely alter the way the student sees and interacts with their field of study. The speakers at the panel have emphasised that the chance to study at another university has improved technical competencies connected to their studies and introduced them to new teaching and learning methods which have ultimately made them stand out back at their home university. The opportunity to study in English and to learn the terminology connected to their studies in a foreign language has prepared them for more international careers, while the opportunity to experience study material in an intercultural classroom has broadened their perspective of potential career pathways. Before, their studies have been a one-lane street and thanks to their mobility experience they have discovered different avenues that they didn’t see back when they started their degree. And for some of our speakers, Erasmus+ was the push they needed to make a career shift and continue their studies in a completely different direction.
"When coming back from my first Erasmus exchange, I decided to apply for a job in the marketing field, even if this was not the topic of my studies. And I got it. After such experiences, one is able not only to show they are best for a role, but also that you are coming with a different set of skills."
Knowledge Transfer Team Member
Erasmus+ enriches students' academic life, however, the experiences that the students have that influence their development travel beyond academia. All of our speakers have agreed that their mobility made them step out of their comfort zone and allowed them to see the broader picture and really think about what they want out of life and how they want their future to look like. Interactions they have had, as well as socio-cultural and language barriers they have faced and had to overcome haven’t only widened their views but have also equipped them with competencies to live and work in intercultural environments. Additionally, our speakers have emphasised that they have developed their communication skills, as well as cultural awareness and adaptability - they found themselves more open to ask, learn and share their differences and discovered that they are what unites us instead of separate us. There was also a consensus between the speakers that mobility is an opportunity to network and enrich one’s social life, create bonds and friendships rooted in empathy and collective memory.
"What Erasmus showed me is that anywhere you are, you can make a contribution. I wanted first to get away from this small island, but I realised I come from a great place and I had to reflect why I didn’t already do a list of things back home. Returning, I had a different discovery perspective of my own country."
Rebecca Bonello Ghio
When they came back from their mobility, our speakers were more aware of the areas in which they would like to improve and curious about the opportunities that would allow them to do that. One of the speakers compared Erasmus+ to the literary trope of a hero’s journey - the hero comes back from a journey as a completely different person who sees their home, as well as the world, with a completely different pair of eyes and wants to use their newly-acquired competences and experiences to contribute to their community and people in it. You see your city, country and culture from a different perspective - you see it through the eyes of everyone you have met along the way and the streets you thought you knew so well suddenly seem completely different and full of possibilities.
Finally, the panel speakers have also shared that they believe that employers and recruiters see Erasmus+ as a strong asset on one’s CV and they often equate it to the person’s ability to communicate well, especially in intercultural teams. They also believe that mobile students are seen as dedicated enthusiastic people who have quality education and have the ability to adapt themselves to live in an intercultural society.
Erasmus+ affects the lives of the students on many different levels that only Erasmus+ alumni understand. And while the benefits of academic mobility on individuals are plentiful and known to the majority, we need to make sure that they are also obvious to universities and communities at large and to offer spaces to the Erasmus+ alumni to channel their experiences into places of mutual interest and benefit.
To learn more about our panellists' experience, please watch the panel streaming through this link:
"I am so grateful for the discomfort I went through during my exchange because it made me dig deep and it was a strong learning experience, whether it is a positive discomfort or negative discomfort we just end up learning tremendously from it."
Worked in IT, now an entrepreneur - Pardubická KOZA (bringing nature into the city) and Oáza růstu (personal development for youth)