Between the 7th and 10th of April, the Erasmus Student Network held the first-ever Erasmus Generation Meeting in Porto, organised by ESN Portugal, with the support of the SITEL group and the city of Porto. The event was attended by more than 800 participants, the majority of whom were ESN volunteers and mobility alumni, representatives from partner organisations, universities and associations, among which Representation of the European Commission to Portugal.
The event started on Thursday afternoon with a traditional Flag Parade in Jardins do Palácio de Cristal, followed by an Opening Ceremony in Casa de Vilar. During the opening, Vice President of the European Commission, Margaritis Schinas, and the President of the European Parliament, Roberta Metsola, spoke to the participants in a video message, both thanking the Erasmus Student Network for its work in supporting the implementation of the Erasmus+ programme for more than 33 years.
"With your thousands of members and hundreds of local sections, your contributions remain unique to this programme's continued success" - Roberta Metsola
Although our colleagues and friends from ESN Ukraine couldn't attend the event, they addressed the Network in a video, asking the youth of Europe to keep them in their thoughts and stand up and speak up for the people of Ukraine.
"This meeting offers an opportunity to discuss overall implementation, relevance, efficiency and impact of Erasmus, but it is also an opportunity to learn about other possibilities, to bring attention to other programmes, to share ideas, knowledge and experience." - Joana Lima, National Agency Erasmus + Youth in Action
Representative of the European Commission to Portugal, Sofia Moreira de Sousa, herself a member of the Erasmus Generation as a programme alumna, joined in dialogue with Ania Kawalec, a five-time Erasmus beneficiary. Despite a difference of nearly two decades between their mobilities, the conversation proved once again that the Erasmus Generation is bound together not by age or nationality, but by shared experiences and values that are felt by every single person who goes on mobility and comes back home a changed person.
The opening ceremony was closed off by the speech from the President of the Erasmus Student Network, Juan Rayon, who reflected on the long road that took ESN to the first Erasmus Generation Meeting, but the promise of many more to come.
The programme of the event officially started on Friday with a morning panel discussion "Skills and careers of the Erasmus Generation", where Erasmus alumni talked about the skills they have developed while on mobility and during volunteering, and how useful these are proving today in their professional lives. The entirety of Day 1 focused on the employability prospects of Europe's mobile youth, with several sessions taking place parallel to a Career Fair, sponsored by Talent Portugal. Young people had a chance to chat with several companies, such as SITEL, Fujitsu, BNP Paribas, as well as the European Personnel Selection Office responsible for selecting staff to work for the institutions and agencies of the European Union and attend their session on how to build a career in the EU institutions.
Day 2 was opened with another panel discussion, this time about different types of mobility - from high school exchanges to traineeships - highlighting the theme of the day: more mobility, better mobility, mobility for all! During the morning, ESN International officially launched the Erasmus Generation Portal, the place where anyone wishing to study abroad can easily access all relevant information, from the different types of mobilities offered, to specific information about European countries.
Like the previous day, many sessions and discussions were taking place simultaneously at the Mobility Fair, where the participants could find key information on mobility opportunities in ESN member countries and many of the Portuguese universities that were present throughout the day.
The last day of the event was reserved for celebrating the best initiatives from around the network, with the annual ESN Awards, and announcing for the first time ever the Erasmus Destination of the year. To do that, we were joined in a video format by Themis Christophidou and in-person by Nadia Manzoni from DG EAC, who announced that by submitting over 400 tips via the Erasmus+ App and showing the real meaning of "students helping students", the young people of Thessaloniki succeeded in showing why their city should take the title of the first Erasmus Destination ever!
Best activities, projects, and initiatives were crowned during the ceremony, with ESN sections and countries competing in 14 different categories, from Social Impact and Employability to Culture and Environmental Sustainability. ESN Portugal, the host of the first Erasmus Generation Meeting, rightfully won the Network Award, the only category voted on by the sections and countries of ESN.
With three full days and over 80 different sessions held by both ESN members and external speakers from partner organisations, institutions and universities, first-ever EGM was dubbed a great success by all those who participated.
“The energy of 800 student volunteers in one place was inspiring and the excitement around being part of this historical first Erasmus Generation meeting was palpable. The refreshing thing about a student conference of this kind is that the students work hard and play hard and all in the spirit of cooperation across cultures, across languages, across universities. I found the discussions with the students very open, honest, constructive and the students passionate but cautious, intelligently questioning matters and weighing the visionary ideas against what is feasible in reality. I am happy to see that the capacity of these ESN volunteers to self-organise and express their needs in front of the authorities is growing!” - Nadia Manzoni, DG EAC
“It was a real pleasure to address the first-ever Erasmus Generation Meeting in Porto, about the many job opportunities offered to aspiring talent by EU Careers. I was quite impressed by the organizational ability demonstrated by a group of enthusiastic and committed young volunteers from all over Europe. The event was rich in ideas, experiences, languages and cultures. I was particularly touched by the strong support Erasmus Alumni expressed for the European project and for the values and objectives that underpin the European Union. I look forward to seeing many of them apply to EU Careers and being successfully recruited in the future.” - Luís Loureiro De Amorim, Head of Unit at EPSO
“I entered the first-ever EGM with high expectations considering it was my first time being in a physical conference of this scale, I can truly say that every single day outdid the one before when it comes to the connections built, the stories shared, the skills exchanged. I have nothing to express but gratitude and fondness for everyone who has coloured this event with their diversity and showed love and interest for ASAF and its cousin organizations. Thank you and see you in the next EGM!” - Imane Benrabia, ASAF
'The importance of the EGM after two years of a pandemic cannot be overstated: even if most of the participants had been on Erasmus, for many of them this was their first truly international event. The possibility for local activists to meet with their peers from every corner of Europe, share experiences and confront with members of European NGOs, as well as National and EU institutions dedicated to mobility, has been an important moment of 'concretely making Europe', whose outcome will be visible in the daily activities of each ESN section'. - Matteo Vespa, ESU
“What this EGM has achieved is highly demonstrated through the diversity of issues addressed and the variety of stakeholders engaged. From providing capacity building of members and partners to building up advocacy chances and empowering partnerships with other organisations and stakeholders. The first EGM has set the way and ground for others to build on and use when preparing the next EGMs to come. Representing the European Youth Forum at the EGM, I see this event as a great example for other members to learn from, but also an opportunity to join forces within and beyond our platform. An opportunity to empower each other, and address key achievements and struggles faced by each network, each organisation, and the young people we represent.” - Panagiotis Chatzimichail, Youth Forum