The topic Erasmus+ was covered very often in the media over the past year and especially after the release of the official programme in January 2014. Right now, not many Europeans can tell the difference between the former Erasmus Programme, a mobility scheme for students, and the brand-new Erasmus+, a complex strategy in the fields of education, training, youth and sport with great aims for the next seven years. The name is misleading, indeed, but a closer look at this promising scheme will explain in a nutshell what exactly Erasmus+ is and, furthermore, why it is important for the youth of Europe to be informed about the opportunities which this programme has in store for them.
What’s all that Erasmus+ thing about?
Many of you might have heard of European programmes such as Leonardo, Grundtvig, Youth in Action, Comenius, Jean Monnet, Erasmus or Erasmus Mundus. All of them were part of a former strategy of the European Commission called Lifelong Learning, which operated from 2007 till 2013. During this time civil society boomed all over Europe; more and more young people and workers took the opportunity to gain new skills and improve their employability chances. The programme offered training courses, mobility schemes, youth exchanges and increased cooperation among actors all across Europe. Due to this success the Commission decided to continue the tradition with a new programme which would reunite all the former lifelong learning strategies under the same umbrella, namely Erasmus+. With a budget of €14.7 billion, “Erasmus+ will provide opportunities for over 4 million Europeans to study, train, gain work experience and volunteer abroad”, as stated on the official website. There is an increase of 40% in the budget in comparison to the former strategy, a clear and tangible proof of the EU commitment to create a Europe for citizens stated in the Treaty of Lisbon.
Ok, but why a new programme?
The Commission’s aim was to make everything as simple, efficient and transparent as possible. Therefore, all the former activities comprised in the Lifelong Learning scheme are still to be found under the umbrella of Erasmus+, yet not categorized according to target groups or types of activities, but according to purpose. The main purpose of the whole scheme is to bolster transnational partnerships, i.e. to increase cooperation between NGOs, schools, universities, companies and decision making bodies from different countries in an effort to develop the education, training, youth and sport systems. According to the goal that needs to be attained, Erasmus+ activities are organized under three key-actions: KA1 – Learning Mobility of Individuals; KA2 – Cooperation for Innovation and the Exchange of Good Practices and KA3 – Support for policy reform. Therefore, activities like youth training courses (former Youth in Action) or student mobility (Erasmus/Erasmus Mundus) will fall under the first category. All these three have further subcategories, as another key-word in this new programme is specificity. The more specific a project is (precise budget, clear details about the involved actors, very specific goal), the better are the chances to be approved.
What should the youth do?
The European Union has understood that the multicultural federation’s future lies in its youth’s hands. The Commission recognizes the increased importance of youth involvement for the welfare of the Union and sees the young people of Europe as a key factor in overcoming the European crisis and the more and more increased euroscepticism. It sounds nice in theory, but what about practice?
As I already stated: seize the opportunity. It might sound like a clichéd formula, but Information is power. In order to find a suitable project in which to take part or even coordinate your own, the youth needs to get informed and do some research beforehand. The problem is that many young people are either misinformed on this topic and think that a training course or a semester abroad, for instance, are some sort of reward for overachievers, or do not take time to find real information, or ask people who already did that for advice. In fact, overestimated fear of the unknown, which many of us do not seem ready to surpass, hold us up from success even though the idea of being one of those 4 million people definitely appeals to us.
The only advice is to forget about this fear! Stepping outside of your comfort zone and grasping one of these opportunities is beyond doubt a life-changing experience. It is a big step towards finding your life purpose and discovering your contribution in the middle of a society full of confused young people who pursue a better future. You only need curiosity, interest, involvement and willingness to be part of this game, as no one will offer you an opportunity if you cannot prove that you are willing to take it.
Edited by: Natalia Ghincul