During the Erasmus Generation Meeting in Bucharest last month, Ghent and ESN Gent took home the title of the Erasmus Destination of the Year, winning against the amazing cities of Vienna, Valencia, Toulouse, and Padua.
The Erasmus Destination of the Year initiative, started by ESN and the European Commission last year, seeks to identify great practices in supporting student mobility at the city level, showcasing the role that local student associations can play in making their cities better mobility destinations and improving the quality and impact of mobility experiences.
All of us at ESN International are very excited about the potential this initiative has in showcasing how local student associations, HEIs, and cities can work together to widen participation among students from different backgrounds, but also how it can inspire new practices among the different stakeholders involved in student mobility. Erasmus Destination of the Year is also a great opportunity to highlight the already existing and incredible activities of our local ESN sections in supporting student mobility and promoting inclusivity. For us, this initiative represents an opportunity to celebrate the hard work that goes into creating a more diverse and inclusive global student community.
- Nikolina Đurić, Board Member at ESN International
This edition of the initiative builds upon the success of last year’s, powered by the Erasmus+ App through which ESN local sections submitted tips for international students in their cities. During the Erasmus Generation Meeting (EGM) in Porto, representatives from the European Commission announced that by submitting over 400 tips via the Erasmus+ App, Thessaloniki took the crown of the first-ever Erasmus Destination of the Year. Given the positive reaction from ESN’s network, and the reception the initiative has had in Thessaloniki and in Greece, ESN decided to expand the scope of the competition, while maintaining the essence of students helping students.
Ghent, together with runner-ups Padua and Vienna, Valencia and Toulouse, made the finals after an internal evaluation and all 5 cities had a chance to present their bids for the title to the 1000 participants of EGM in Bucharest. The external jury made up of representatives from the European Commission, EAIE, Academic Cooperation Association, Youth Forum, and European Students’ Union made the final decision, taking into account important factors such as collaboration with key stakeholders such as the Higher Education Institution(s), the municipality and other local partners ensures a high-quality mobility experience for students.

Representative of Gent presenting their bid at the Erasmus Generation Meeting 2023
The competition was open to all ESN local associations and priority was given to the inclusion and diversity dimension, in terms of how the work done by the section and the other actors ensures that students enjoy their mobilities to the fullest regardless of their background and that the diversity of the student population and the local community is used as an asset.
Winning the Erasmus Destination of the Year 2023 has been an amazing experience! We're thrilled to have our hard work recognised, and it has motivated us to continuously improve our mobility support. The national press attention was a great opportunity to showcase how ESN Gent together with the Higher Education Institutions and the city of Ghent jointly work to improve the mobility experiences in Ghent. Our relationship with the International Relations departments has been strengthened further and we cannot wait to continue to work on future projects together. 
- Yasmine Collier, Local Representative of ESN Gent
Ghent and ESN have been inseparable since the early beginnings of ESN in 1989, as the foundations of the organisation were set during the first-ever assessment of the Erasmus programme in Ghent, with 33 students who participated in the first years of mobility.
Over the next 34 years, ESN Gent has had a strong collaboration with the key HEIs in the city, including UGent whose Head of the International Relations Office, Frederik De Decker, was the president of ESN Gent in the early 90s.
ESN's work in the city covers everything from on-arrival support to international students, help with finding housing and jobs, integration in the local community through various events and initiatives, educational activities that focus on learning about everything from the history of the city to the importance of civic engagement and the EU, and an ongoing project on health and well-being in general with a focus on mental health and well-being, as the ESNsurvey has identified stress and anxiety to be one of the most common issues encountered while on mobility.
The collaboration ESN Gent has had with the various higher education institutions over the past 34 years has gone hand in hand with the expansion of the Erasmus+ programme itself, focusing on making the city friendly for international students, and Ghent’s innate youthful spirit which comes from the large student population that each year welcomes over 1500 Erasmus students, make it a true capital of international student mobility and the perfect mobility destination for all those looking to step out of their comfort zones and try new things through the life-changing experience that is student mobility.