Between the 6th and 9th of April, the Erasmus Student Network held the second edition of the Erasmus Generation Meeting, organised by ESN Romania in Bucharest, with the support of the Romanian Erasmus+ National Agency ANPCDEFP, and it is part of ESN’s flagship project “Erasmus Generation in Action”, co-funded by the European Parliament. The event was attended by more than 1000 participants, including mobility alumni, representatives from partner organisations, EU institutions, National Agencies, universities and associations, among which Representation of the European Commission to Romania.
The event started on Thursday afternoon with a traditional Flag Parade on the campus of Politechnica University of Bucharest, the hosts of the event, where the opening ceremony was followed by three days full of more than 100 different sessions held by both ESN members and external speakers from partner organisations, institutions and universities.
“You are the owners of the future of Europe.” were the words of Her Excellency Ramona Iulia Chiriac, Head of the Representation of the European Commission to Romania, as she addressed the attendees and reminded the Erasmus Generation to take an active role in the decision-making processes in Europe.
Among the speakers at the opening were Vice Rector of Politechnica University of Bucharest, Horia Iovu; Secretary General Bogdan Cristescu from the Romanian Ministry of Education; Secretary General of the Ministry of Entrepreneurship and Tourism, Darius Voda; Director of the Romanian Erasmus+ National Agency, Monica Calota; and the President of the EAIE, Piet Van Hove.
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 highlighting the importance the Erasmus+ programme has now more than ever and thanking the Erasmus Student Network for its work in supporting the implementation of the Erasmus+ programme all these years.
“Go out there and explore. Immerse yourself. Take every possible opportunity to put your skills to use while acquiring new ones along the way. Be an active part of the change you want to see. Be an active part of your Europe.” - Roberta Metsola, President of the EP
The opening ceremony was closed off by a speech from the President of the Erasmus Student Network, Juan Rayón, who highlighted the role of the event as a place for the creation of new ideas and initiatives that contribute to the improvement of mobility, making it accessible to all.
"Stop focusing on making nice pictures of young people but involve them in the process."
The official first day of EGM Bucharest was opened with a keynote speech by Alexandre Ricard, CEO of Pernod Ricard, our long-term partner on the Responsible Party project, which aims to reduce binge drinking among adults and promotes responsible alcohol consumption, among others by encouraging young people to #DrinkMoreWater.
This was followed by a motivating and insightful panel with Alexandre Ricard, Luís F. L. de Amorim from EPSO, Irina Ferencz from the Academic Cooperation Association (ACA), and Laura Rumbley from the EAIE, on how today's youth, and Erasmus Generation in particular, can develop skills needed for their future career prospects and which skills are more relevant in different fields.
Day 1 was fully packed with dozens of sessions on topics ranging from youth participation, sustainable mobility, and the future of the Erasmus+ programme, to those on youth employment and inequality, and a reflection on European Year Of Youth, which brought to the forefront the needs and expectations of young people and the representatives of the Youth Unit of the European Commission and the National Agency of Romania worked with EGM participants on the different proposals from ESN to ensure an impactful legacy for the year.
The session “Your voice matters: Youth dialogue with Romanian Members of the European Parliament” was one of the key ones of the event, featuring a high-level panel with MEPs Dragoș Pîslaru and Victor Negrescu which created a space for dialogue between the MEPs, the moderators and the audience, so participants can get a better understanding of the work done by the MEPs at the European level, learn about the different portfolios they are working on, and gain inspiration to get more involved in democratic life and EU affairs.
Participants also got a chance to discuss the role students can play in the European Universities Initiative and how to actively engage them, during a panel which combined the perspectives of different actors in the European University Alliances: Coimbra Group, a network of leading universities in Europe, all of which are members of Alliances, the Academic Cooperation Association, the key European network of National Agencies, and the student representatives.
Parallel to all of this, the EGM Expo took place where the 900 participants could find out more about academic and mobility opportunities in over 40 countries in Europe, but also find out more about their employability chances by getting in touch with many of the companies present, including our friends from EU Careers by EPSO, as well as theInterna and Expedia Group.
Day 2 opened with the presentations of the Erasmus Destination of the Year 2023 finalists, and a conversation with last year's winner, Thessaloniki. Representatives from Toulouse, Vienna, Valencia, Padova, and Gent pitched their cities to the audience, listing the reasons why they are the best mobility destinations. This initiative aims to identify great practices in supporting student mobility at the city level, showcasing local student associations' role in making their cities better mobility destinations and improving the quality and impact of mobility experiences.
The day was once again full of sessions on various topics, from employment to sustainability, all for students and youth workers to learn from each other what actions they can take to improve their work, the support they offer to international students, and how to further develop and market the skills they developed while volunteering.
Among the topics of the day was the one on Erasmus+ grants and how their structure can be improved so that they better serve the student's needs, with Svava Finsen from DG EAC B1 Unit, Nicoleta Popa from the Romanian Erasmus+ National Agency, and Katrina Sproge from ESU, who used the perspective of Erasmus alumni who are actively supporting other students to examine how Erasmus+ funds could be better distributed. They expressed that supporting those who really need it should be the priority when allocating Erasmus+ funding, even more than having lower grants for more people. Participants also argued in favour of clearer criteria for the allocation of Erasmus+ funding for Higher Education Institutions, helping those institutions with lower mobility numbers to increase the number of available opportunities for students.
An interesting session on International Credit Mobility also took place on the second day, where representatives from the Romanian National Agency and former ICM students went deeper in terms of supporting ICM students in their pre-departure and in their mobility phases, and brainstormed and shared some best practices with student representatives and ESN section members.
The last day of the event was reserved for closing words, a round of appreciation from the participants to the organisers, and a video message from Themis Christophidou, Director General of DG EAC.
During the closing gala, weest initiatives from around the network, with the annual ESN Awards, the initiative of the Erasmus Student Network that aims to provide recognition of the work our member organisations do over the course of a year.
Best activities, projects, and initiatives were crowned during the ceremony, with ESN sections and countries competing in 15 different categories, from Social Impact and Employability to Culture and Environmental Sustainability. ESN Luxembourg proudly took home the Network Award for their campaign for better student housing, and representatives from the city of Gent, the place where ESN started, took the title Erasmus Destination of the Year 2023.
The Erasmus Generation Meeting, an event for almost 1000 people, was organised by 80 volunteers who prepared everything in their free time from university or work, and in only three months. The dedication, positivity and creativity of this team of young people were reflected in the excitement and engagement of the participants, and EGM once again proved to be the perfect celebration of the Erasmus spirit - of welcoming, interculturality, passion, and true unity in diversity.