Jahnke: Talk to a stranger today

Erasmus+, the new EU programme for education, training, youth and sport, due for launch in January 2014, will build on the legacy of Erasmus by offering opportunities for 4 million people to study, train, teach or volunteer abroad by 2020. The programme is expected to have a budget of around €14.5 billion for 2014-2020 – 40% more than funding for the current education and training mobility programmes. Erasmus+ replaces the current Lifelong Learning Programme (Erasmus, Leonardo da Vinci, Comenius, Grundtvig), as well as Youth in Action, Erasmus Mundus, Tempus, Alfa, Edulink and the bilateral cooperation programme with industrialised countries.

We ask a few question the new president of Erasmus Student Network Stefan Jahnke.

How would you evaluate newly proposed framework Erasmus+ as the president of ESN?

We are happy that the trialogue finally came to an agreement about the name. Unfortunately the separate negotiations on the Multiannual Financial Framework indicate that instead of the initially proposed 19 billion only around 14.5 billion euros will be available for the new programme. We believe that reflects the minimum needed to support the new programme that streamlines Youth, Education and Sport.

While the overall framework of the new programme is now agreed upon, many details still need to be developed. Via its ESNSurvey and PRIME research, ESN has given continuous input on the current Erasmus programme over the past 6 years and ESN is pleased that we have been consulted on many of the relevant elements of the programme. Now that the legal basis is agreed upon, ESN will continue to give input and suggestions on how to further improve the quality of student mobility. Full recognition of credits taken abroad is still one of the main concerns for Erasmus students and ESN will keep pinpointing remaining deficiencies and support the European Commission’s work on solving this issue.

The EU target for overall student mobility is at least 20% by the end of the decade. Currently, around 10% of EU students study or train abroad with the support of Erasmus or other public and private means. Around 4.5% receive an Erasmus grant.

Do you think it is possible to reach 20 % student mobility in Europe? Could you explain us why a student should go abroad?

We are aware that 20% of student mobility is a very ambitious goal that will be hard to achieve considering the current national cuts on education. The new Erasmus+ program aims at sending around 4 Million learners abroad until 2020.

Going abroad is benefiting a student in many ways. First off is the self-development, the increased cultural understanding, higher self-confidence and tolerance. Besides that employers value the added soft-skills that students gain while studying in another country. Last but not least you will meet friends from all over the world which you share unforgettable moments with and lets be honest – who doesn’t want a couch to surf on in different countries around the world.

The Erasmus Student Network has selected students from each participating country who went abroad with Erasmus in 2012-2013 to represent the 3 million milestone.

Can you tell us more about this action with 3 million milestone?

The Erasmus Student Network helped the European Commission in selecting one student in each of the 34 participating countries to represent the 3.000.000 Erasmus students that have been going abroad throughout the last 25 years. We are proud that the commission entrusted us this task and want to congratulate all of the lucky students once more for having the opportunity to call themselves the 3.000.000th Erasmus student.

Few months ago you were elected president of ESN for the period 2013/2014, there is a very active year in front of you. What are your visions? Where would you like to push already now one of the most active organisations in Europe?

In the past years ESN indeed developed to the biggest student organisation in Europe with it’s over 12.000 member and over 17.000 “Mentors” taking care of international students in 436 sections in 36 European Countries.

I personally would like to create some more visibility for the Network and all it’s great initiatives like SocialErasmus which helps students to integrate into the local society by engaging in beneficial volunteering activities in their host country or Exchangeability which stimulates studying abroad for students with disabilities.

Since we are a Brussel based organisation it is difficult to always stay in touch with all the local sections. I would definitely like to improve the connection between the local and international level and offer more services to our sections. Being an ESN sections contains many advantages over being independant.

One of the main things I would like to focus on is as well to make Erasmus students participate in the European Parliament elections next year. For us it is important to build a young society that is participative and understands the importance of Europe that is diverse in it’s cultures and united and inclusive.

How would you sum up the present situation in the EU from the point of view of a young person?

It is clear that European young people suffered a lot from the crisis. That’s why it’s important that everyone takes the chance to participate in an exchange to ensure labor mobility in the future and self-confident young Europeans that shape the Europe they want. The political institutions are slowly opening up to more consultation from young people and it’s crucial that young people become more participate in that process.

What message would you like to send to young people in Europe?

Obviously I can only recommend every young person to go abroad through the Erasmus program or other possibility and make this great experience that so many value in their personal and professional life.

Besides that I would like to encourage everyone to become active as a volunteer and work on the internationalisation at home. Being an active citizen benefits both, the society and oneself.

On a personal note I can give the advice: “Talk to a stranger today”. You will be surprised how much you might have in common and how interesting stories people have to tell. It has been a very enriching advice that my grandmother gave me a few years ago and ever since I am always looking for the conversation whether it is the queue in the supermarket or in the train.

Interview by Miroslav Hajnoš

Photos: Erasmus Student Network