From 25th to 28th September, Brussels welcomed over 30 representatives from the National Member Organisations of the Erasmus Student Network for the annual #ErasmusUpgrade, ESN’s main event in the field of education and advocacy. This edition was dedicated to exploring the role of the Erasmus Generation in achieving European integration, how the Erasmus+ programme can foster active citizenship and youth participation, and the role that youth organisations play in fostering intercultural dialogue. The event served as a space to develop concrete ideas and proposals on how the Erasmus Generation can contribute to building a better Europe. The discussions that took place during the event will inspire ESN’s advocacy and engagement work throughout the year.
This year, #ErasmusUpgradeis was organised as a part of the Erasmus Generation Participation and Engagement project, co-funded by the European Parliament. The project seeks to increase awareness about the European Union among young people, and facilitate pan-European dialogues among international young people, local communities, and decision-makers.
“It was truly an enriching experience to see so many young, motivated people showing authentic interests for the topics that we prepared for the meeting and being very engaged in discussions with each other. I can rest assured that they will play an active role in achieving the goals that our organisation is working for and that after their volunteering experience, they will remain as active citizens constantly advocating for progress in society.”
Pedro González, Germany
During the four-day event, participants had the opportunity to attend all sessions, discuss relevant topics and develop recommendations. The event kick-started with some background topics like what ESN does to improve mobility, what policy and project tools have been developed to address our general priorities in the education field, how the Erasmus+ and the EU Institutions work and the global dimension of mobility programmes.
On the second day, participants joined sessions that created spaces for structured brainstorming, moderated discussions and information exchange focusing on related barriers and solutions. Jakub Grodecki, Vice-President of the European Students Union (ESU), complemented these discussions by introducing their advocacy practices for students’ rights and their current priorities and by exploring different opportunities for collaboration between ESN national organisations and ESU national members.
“ErasmusUpgrade was the perfect event to fill my knowledge gap in the field of education. It also allowed me to exchange with people from other countries and build upon these discussions to improve the education strategy in Switzerland because we all want the same thing in the end: More mobility, better mobility and more accessible mobility.”
Yann Yasser Haddad, Switzerland
The third day was dedicated to keynote speakers. The first one was Jessica Fiorelli, advocacy coordinator at the Lifelong Learning Platform presenting the key elements of a successful advocacy strategy in the field of education at the European level. Next, we welcomed María Rodríguez Alcázar, a board member of the European Youth Forum (YFJ) who presented their work and discussed how ESN can improve cooperation with national youth councils.
Oana Dumitrescu from DG EAC of the European Commission, was the last guest for the day presenting the most important elements of the Erasmus Charter for Higher Education. The day ended with a very interesting introduction to the Erasmus+ App and its key features.
“What I’m taking home from this event is the collective consciousness of the participants and how it has expanded during the last couple of years. Even though they experienced how it is to not be in control of what happens around them and towards them (we all did!), they were in control of how they see, respond and react for more and better mobility and lifelong learning opportunities.”
Adessa Zadia, Greece
The last day was dedicated to shaping ideas for a joint education strategy for ESN. The key speaker of the day was Catherine Sustek, member of the cabinet of Vice-President Margaritis Schinas, who joined us for a presentation and discussion about the work of the European Commission and how to communicate about the European Union.
The motto of the event was: more mobility, better mobility. The motivation of the participants towards this scope brings hope that the discussions and knowledge that took place during the event won’t remain in the venues but they will pave the way for common dialogues in their national and local platforms.
“ErasmusUpgrade is the key event of the Erasmus Student Network in the fields of education and youth. The tremendous impact of the pandemic on learning mobility made this year's edition more important than ever, since we are focusing on helping mobilities to recover. Representatives from all across our Network came together to develop their competences as young leaders, but also to reflect on how we can work as a Network to continue improving society through internationalisation and learning mobility. Now, ESN is better prepared to work for the benefit of international students and to create a positive impact. The event marked the beginning of a challenging and fascinating year.”
Juan Rayon, President of ESN International