Nine months. That is show much it can take from the moment the section joins ESN to the moment it becomes the Section in the Spotlight. Unbelievable you say? Just ask ESN BelUPgrade members, they will tell you otherwise. True story, bro!
ESN had a section in Belgrade for a few years, but this section slowly died out and a radical reset was necessary. In February 2013 CNR Brussels the previous section was expelled. This allowed the founders of ESN BelUPgrade to begin their work towards joining ESN. In May 2013 CNR Thessaloniki ESN BelUPgrade gained full membership and could thus officially begin their work. Their first big activity was welcoming the participants of Ride for your rights in Belgrade in summer 2013.
With over 100 members including 40 active ESNers, ESN BelUPgrade is no informal group of students. They are organized into six official teams but the truth is, there are much more teams that come and go. The section even had a Section in the Spotlight team! In their own words “although each and every ESNer has chosen his team, it is a common situation in our section that fresh ideas are what unite us all!” The section is available three times a week in their office located in the city center and members together with exchange students strengthen their bonds every Wednesday in Triangle Café.
International students are always encouraged to take initiative and this mainly happens through SocialErasmus. Some of them like it so much that they were asking how to become permanent volunteers in institutions that ESN BelUPgrade cooperates with (such as orphanages). Another way for the internationals to contribute is through Language Tandem Nights. Big progress was recently made especially with practicing Spanish, English, German or Turkish. And let’s not forget about Free Hugs! Some internationals even joined ESN BelUPgrade as active members and upon their return home, continued their ESN involvement.
Trips are an important part of every ESN sections work. While you are reading these lines, ESN BelUPgrade is preparing a Budapest spring break Trip. When it comes to discovering Serbia, they however have a very interesting concept to offer, thematic trips. “The Food Road-which will show a few places in Serbia with most traditional food to taste, or The History Road, which will show the influences of different empires that were on our territory.” Those are just a few examples and for me personally a rather interesting approach to presenting your country. Well done!
As Belgrade is a very big city, there is always something new to see. And even if you run out of options on the surface, you can always visit the underground city center, which is exactly the next thing to be planned by local ESNers. Other than that, there is a wide variety of other social events of sportive and party attitude, with a traditional Serbian dinner to rule them all.
Being a very young section, ESN BelUPgrade did not yet develop a flagship project; they rather tend to do more small things. Nevertheless they aim to go big, especially when it comes to SocialErasmus. During the last SE Week the section had 3 activities and their national SE project is book donation for primary school without library in Golubinci, which is being done together with ESN Novi Sad and aims to grow beyond ESN Serbia and involve as many locals as possible, too. And for those who really love animals, there is an ongoing SocialErasmus Zoo project. An ESN BelUPgrade phone app is yet another step how to get closer to the international students and provide them with all the important info about actual ESN happenings in Belgrade in no time. The section also makes Welcome Week at the beginning of every semester and is actively involved in Responsible Party campaign.
Since there is no National Agency in Serbia, communication with stakeholders is more difficult than elsewhere. That is why ESN BelUPgrade recently established the position of Education Officer (currently held by NR) who started planning meetings with various stakeholders to promote research projects of ESN. The relationship of ESN BelUPgrade and University of Belgrade is still in development. Although University supports the section activities, they cannot help them financially or provide them contact information to incoming exchange students.
March will be a historical month for ESN Serbia will have their first National Platform from 8-9th of March and it will be hosted by no other than ESN BelUPgrade!!! This marks another step in evolution of ESN in Serbia, but the ESNers never sleep and they actively attend various workshops and in spring ESN BelUPgrade will have a teambuilding weekend in Vojvodina. The current NR of Serbia also comes from ESN BelUPgrade and makes sure her country is properly represented on all important ESN events.
As their application said “we want to show that the most important thing is not to have million international students, but to be helpful, to show hospitality and to make their stay as comfortable and unique as it might be.” Those really are the words to live by, good luck ESN BelUPgrade, I am sure we all will hear from you again soon.
ESN BelUPgrade song:
What’s the most important for our section?
Friendship, love, society, our connection?
You know what-there’s no one thing to choose
Because our team won’t let its members ever lose.
Belief that you can help, study, share
Will lead us everywhere!
We help students and we help ourselves
Learning to be better, we leave our worries on the shelves.
BelUPgrade is here for each and every one
Everything for your pleasant stay will be done!
We would sincerely like to be a Section in the Spotlight
It would make our faces happy, shiny and bright!
Written by Prokop Teper