When motivated volunteers join forces - ESN section in the spotlight July 2020
This month's stage lights are shining bright on ESN UNWE, a sunlit section from Bulgaria. While 2020 seems disastrous to everyone else, it turns out that ESN UNWE have managed to make it their year. Keep reading to find out what kind of magic they used.
Even more, ESN UNWE has an inspiring message for all the small sections out there, and honestly, we stan!
ESN UNWE appeared on the map of ESN in 2011 and today they have 15 active members, 40 buddies, and around 50 alumni. The board consists of 6 members, however, for the last 3 years, it has not been full – some positions were missing their dedicated volunteers.
That is when the rise of the phoenix of 2020 for ESN UNWE began. The current board sat down and started brainstorming. All the weaknesses were written down and solutions were found. The first issue was the lack of dedicated volunteers. In August, when the current board started their mandate, ESN UNWE had only 10 people keeping the section going and they had no proper recruitment process. After they analysed their current situation, they realised that fresh blood arrived after being buddies, so with the help of IRO, they contacted all the students who had returned from an exchange, used all kinds of social media channels (active usage of social media is another goal they set up for this year), and successfully recruited 40 buddies. They organised 2/3 meetings with them, introduced ESN to the newbies and held a one-day training, which hadn’t happened in years!
Their flagship event, ‘My Erasmus adventure: Seminar for Outgoing students’, has a very unusual target audience and also helps with recruitment. Going on Erasmus may seem unpredictable and kind of scary. ESN UNWE helps with that! They organise an event where they bring outgoing and international students as well as ESNers under one roof to share tips and life hacks, create a vision of how the Erasmus semester is going to look like for the ones who are about to leave and learn useful phrases during a language café. The event addresses the Education and Youth ESN Cause and is a brilliant idea for those sections who have a small number of incoming students and a lot of outgoing ones. Therefore, there is no surprise that ‘My Erasmus adventure’ won 3rd best practice during SEEP Istanbul 2017.
The next issue that needed to be dealt with was a very small budget. ESN UNWE welcomes about 100 Erasmus students per year so it is hard to establish commercial partnerships. However, they still manage to work around this. They live off national partnerships, ESNcards (that they actively promote on social media), and welcome packs. However, they get most of the money from university grants. This year they managed to get a bigger one.
That brings us to issue number three – ESN UNWE was not that much acknowledged by the university and other student organisations. This year, they collaborated with all the student bodies, helped the International Relations Office to promote Erasmus+ and participated in university events where they made themselves visible to local students. Thus, it was a bit easier to ask and receive more support from the university – they became bigger and more visible.
The section was also not yet recognised internationally. Even though all the trips were managed on the national level, ESN UNWE cooperated with many sections throughout the country, its members were presented in the Organising Committees of national events and Committees within ESN International, they made an additional effort to be present at the international level. This year, ESN UNWE is organising SEEP Sofia 2020, they got an honourable mention in the EnviromentSTAR category with their EcoMarathon and…
And with that, the last big opportunity to get recognised internationally happened to ESN UNWE – we send our love to all the members, the so-called pandacorn army, who worked hard to get where they are. You truly deserve to be in the Section in the Spotlight of July.
"It doesn't matter if you are not the biggest section with many volunteers, a huge budget and thousands of Erasmus students, you can still shine bright. All you need is a team of motivated volunteers and hard work. In our case, we brought back SEEP to Bulgaria (the last SEEP here was organised in 2010) and this is the first international event our section will organise. We applied to the AGM STARawards for the very first time and got an honourable mention in the EnvironmentSTAR category with our event EcoMarathon. During the last year, we created our first merch. We even prepared welcome packs - stickers, keychains, T-shirts, and our branded 'Erasmus in Sofia' bags. We have increased our budget, we got our members involved in international committees and attending international ESN events abroad. If we managed to achieve all of this in only 10 months, we believe each section can do that, no matter what", the section says.
As you can see, in the end there is no magic. ESN UNWE inspires us to face our problems, work hard and get the best results possible. Keep going, ESN UNWE. We are excited to see you grow and shine!