Summer is here, everyone is on their way to the seaside and so is the Section in the Spotlight. And not just any seaside- this month we will take you to the Atlantic coastline, where thousands of exchange students study ,swim, surf, sail, party and discover the Portuguese capital, largely thanks to ESN Lisboa, the July 2014 Section in the Spotlight.
As many other outstanding sections, the history of ESN Lisboa begins at the end of an Erasmus exchange period. In September 2008 nine former Erasmus students returned from their Erasmus experiences around Europe. Studying in different departments of different Universities in Lisbon, they had two things in common- they were all friends together and they realized there was no ESN section in Lisbon. So they decided to change that and together established one ESN section covering all major HEIs in Lisbon. And thus ESN Lisboa was born! Five years later… “we have a legal foundation, statutes, standing orders, a solid hierarchic structure, strong activities, trips and parties, multiple partnerships, participation in all the international projects, high level network involvement and an extraordinary fast learning curve for all the active members.” Let’s have look at some of these achievements more in detail.
ESN Lisboa is composed of a total of 50 members (incl. 14 newbies) who are supported by roughly 20 Alumni and managed through a very complex structure. The section is divided into 8 departments, each with coordinator, all of which are divided & supervised among a 3 person Board:
- President - Education and Institutional Relations, Sports and Trips, Partnerships
- Vice-President - Human Resources, Communication and Marketing, also acting as LR
- Treasurer - Culture and Integration, SocialErasmus, Parties
Apart from that, there are 3 Committees (Treasury, Legal, Strategic dev.) working independently from the departments. A Coordinators Council composed of dept. Coordinators & Board members makes sure a wide agreement is achieved on strategic & non-urgent decisions of the section. Two external positions are available for the locals (ESN Collaborator) & Erasmus students (ESN Ambassador) willing to promote & help with activities of ESN Lisboa occasionally. All standard communication channels including weekly section meetings, a wide range of MLs & social media channels are used. On top of that a section website and weekly newsletter provide the latest insights into section activities. ESN Lisboa is very active on FB, having almost 8 thousand Likes on their section Page and every year reaching up to 4 thousand members in their FB Groups. In order to tract the constant development of section for future generations, every bit of knowledge is being stored on section wiki.
With an average of 4-5 ESN activities per week, there is no classic ESN activity / event that ESN Lisboa would not organize. All of them can be found in their ESN Calendar. Cultural Euronights, Language tandems, SE & EiS (up to 20 activities per semester combined), trips twice a month to most iconic locations in Portugal and some in Spain, loads of sports events connected to the sea and beaches of Lisbon and of course, parties. ESN Lisboa actively participates on national events of ESN Portugal, too. Both Erasmus National Meeting and local edition of ESNOlympics are high in demand and this year Erasmus team from ESN Lisboa placed 2nd in national ESNOlympics edition.
A crucial cooperation with many Lisbon’s HEIs is being maintained for instance through presence in all their welcome sessions for which ESN Lisboa prepares special Welcome kits containing survival guide (which is an ESN Portugal project), public transportation form, bank account form, free SIM card, information and discount vouchers in our partners, ESN Lisboa and partners' merchandising and their calendar for the semester and Welcome weeks. And it is the Welcome weeks that can be considered a regular flagship project of the section. Two weeks full of activities of every kind whose aim is to get you acquainted with your studies, city, country, language, culture and the kind of Erasmus lifestyle that only Lisbon (& ESN Lisboa) can offer. Speaking of flagship projects… ESN Lisboa in cooperation with the City Hall, all the HEI’s, garagErasmus and some other institutional and commercial partners are preparing an online platform called “Study in Lisbon” whose aim will be to gather in one place all the important information that a future Exchange student may need to know about studying & life in Lisbon. The City Hall even gave the section one of the youth promotion spaces in downtown historical centre which is now an ESN office, where ESN Lisboa has their section secretary (paid employee) together with 1-2 Erasmus interns working for the section!
The sections SocialErasmus activities have a very positive impact on the local community, especially the tandem with children where the Erasmus students regularly visit local orphanages and interact with the children, the "feed the homeless" and food collection activities, the Erasmus in Schools visits to high schools and the beach cleanings and forest days. Recently ESN Lisboa took part in an International SE call for help to countries of Balkan region and organized an event to raise money to help Croatia overcome the disastrous floods. This was a huge success and all the raised funds were donated to Croatian Embassy in Portugal. Moreover this event added to the developing section cooperation between ESN Lisboa and Croatian section ESN Zagreb. Recently a grant application was submitted for a 2-turn culture & knowledge exchange project that will take some of ESN Lisboa members to Zagreb and vice-versa, if approved.
No section can be great without taking care of its members. ESN Lisboa runs a huge buddy program with over 300 Portuguese participants every year, all of which are eligible to attend most of section activities. In ESN it is known as Internationalization at home and it is often a 1st step on the path to ESN and a great recruitment tool. Once a member of ESN Lisboa, events like ESN Awards, Integration Weekend, Reflection Group will not miss you. And for the new ESN Lisboa section Board that got elected a few days ago… enjoy the Transition Weekend! =.)
ESN Lisboa finished 2nd in this year’s AGM Milano STARlight contest and it is without a doubt among the top 3% of the internationally active sections in our Network. Having a total of 7 section members involved in 4/5 ESN Committees, 3 Eduk8 trainers etc. speaks a lot about section commitment to ESN International. Needless to say that 3/5 NB members of ESN Portugal and numerous other positions on national level are also held by members of this section. As their SitS application states “I think most of this international motivation of the team comes from hosting SWEP on 2011 and a high international knowledge transfer from current and former NRs coming from our section. We strive to keep this motivation going and our members shining on the national and international level, as they are the best advocates of the sections' strength, development and commitment to ESN.”
Finally, the old leaving Board of ESN Lisboa would like to dedicate this Section in the Spotlight award to the new generation of ESN Lisboa (now all grown-up) sardines. To them “you are our future. So keep on putting our section in the spotlight!
PS: A few wise words of ESN Lisboa vision about Erasmus Companies that need no commentary: “The Erasmus program keeps growing so it is natural that these companies appear, as there is a place for them in the economic market. If you are lucky enough that there isn't one in your city then you should start preparing for that as it is our prediction that this will be a bigger "problem" for the ESN sections and will spread wider in the network each year. But here is our most important message: we should not focus on eliminating their existence, as that is most likely not going to happen. Instead, we should take advantage of this to reinforce the volunteer values among our members and Erasmus community, maintain a professional attitude towards the members of such Erasmus Companies, strive for stronger cooperation and recognition from the universities and, above all but most importantly, push to better than them! It is working for us, why shouldn't it work for you? ;)”
Written by Prokop Teper