European mobility: Erasmus, volunteering, Interrail, culture…the choice is yours!

, by Lorène Weber

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European mobility: Erasmus, volunteering, Interrail, culture…the choice is yours!
Image credit: Mojca J/Pixabay

Did you know? Since the launch of the European Union’s Erasmus programme in 1987, more than 9 million people (including 4.4 million students) have benefited from an exchange in another country. It is estimated that 1 million “Erasmus babies” were born after their parents met thanks to the programme. In Paris, the Montparnasse underground station even dedicated an exhibition to these families in 2017! However, mobility in Europe is not limited to Erasmus: our article explores the variety of opportunities.

Erasmus: the travelling student… but so much more!

Contrary to a common belief, the Erasmus programme is no longer limited to university students, but has expanded to high school students, apprentices, teachers, instructors, jobseekers, new graduates, athletes, artists… Erasmus was actually renamed Erasmus+ to emphasise the programme’s broadening to include a wider public.

Thanks to Erasmus, many European citizens have the possibility to study, work or undertake an apprenticeship, an internship or training in another European country. Beyond the educational dimension, Erasmus also allows for a unique cultural and linguistic enrichment, by allowing young (and less young!) European citizens to benefit from a complete immersion in another country, to learn its language, to discover its culture and how it works, while studying, working or travelling with other Europeans. The Erasmus babies are only one example of the human relations that can be forged between Europeans through the programme.

Incidentally, the programme’s origins were far from being established by just one single country. The Erasmus adventure was born from the joint efforts of determined Europeans: Jacques Delors from France, Domenico Lenarduzzi and Sofia Corradi from Italy, Manuel Marín from Spain, Angeliki Verli from Greece, Alan Smith from the United Kingdom, Peter Küpper from Germany and many others.

European mobility: Erasmus and beyond!

Still, mobility opportunities in Europe are not ‘limited’ to Erasmus. Other programmes allow young Europeans to benefit from an experience abroad.

For the youngest, the DiscoverEU programme, launched in 2018, allows 18-year-old European citizens to travel across Europe thanks to an Interrail Pass provided by the European Union. 70,000 young people have benefited from the initiative since its creation.

Less well-known than Erasmus, the European Voluntary Service (EVS), a sort of European equivalent to the UK National Council for Voluntary Organisations, allows European citizens aged between 17 and 30 years old to enrol in general interest projects (environment and nature protection, welcoming refugees, cultural projects, development cooperation and so on) in another European country, for 2 to 12 months. They can do so through volunteering, traineeships or even a job. Beyond committing to a project, it is also about promoting the EU’s values, particularly solidarity. In 2019, the EVS actually changed its name to European Solidarity Corps, to better emphasise the importance of this founding value of the EU, at the core of the programme. Multilingualism is also a pillar: parallel to the projects, the volunteers also have the possibility to benefit from language support.

Finally, art also enjoys a dedicated programme. In a continent which is home to unique historical, cultural, artistic and linguistic diversity, it is essential to protect this richness and to allow Europeans to discover their neighbours’ heritage, but also their shared cultural heritage. The Creative Europe programme allows artists and cultural professionals to travel across Europe to spread their art, and facilitates the mobility of cultural artefacts themselves. Film festivals, translation of literary works, but also audio-visual programmes benefit from this initiative.

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