I first heard of Erasmus at 16 years old when I was in my school library having a talk on university education. I remember feeling extremely intrigued about what Erasmus offered, but had never considered that it would lead me to where I am today: Living in Germany, working in a multilingual environment and sharing my experience with you on this blog. Erasmus gave me an opportunity that I very likely wouldn’t have had, had it not existed.
As you can imagine, I was gutted to hear the announcement, at the start of January 2021, that the UK withdrew from the Erasmus scheme as part of Brexit. I feel that UK students have had the opportunity taken from them. Stolen from them. And some won’t even know it.
Erasmus has been running since 1987. It offers exchanges, connections, apprenticeships and work experience for students of European countries. Since 2014, under the most recent version of the programme ‘Erasmus Plus’ 200,000 students that have participated, 15,000 of which were British. And yes, Boris Johnson has said that they are introducing a replacement, but he also said that the UK would remain within the Erasmus scheme.
Erasmus offered me, and many others, the life-changing opportunity to study abroad. A lot of my course mates did not come from bilingual families – for us, this exposure really was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. We may not have know it then, but the experience meant more than just study abroad; it would enrich our personalities, broaden our perspectives, boost our language skills and position us to proceed with international careers.
“Use the money to travel and explore,” were the words of my university lecturer when discussing the Erasmus grants we’d receive. I remember feeling somewhat confused – had he just told us to spend the grant money on a holiday? But just to be clear, this was not a holiday. It was study abroad and it was Erasmus. I soaked up every aspect of this life-changing opportunity like a sponge, and I’d do exactly the same again.
Not only that, but after returning to England to complete my studies, my grades improved greatly. I couldn’t believe how much the Erasmus experience had positively influenced my ability in the classroom. At 20 years old, I had a new confidence that would stay with me forever.
To those who participated in the Erasmus scheme as UK students: I am sure you will understand the importance of sharing my feelings on this topic. For the young people who aspire to go abroad: Erasmus may no longer be an option, but you can still be proactive, be persistent and if anything, vote.
A few photos from my Erasmus experience in Germany and Spain 2011/2012