According to erasmusprogramme.com, ‘Erasmus students are those that take advantage of the Erasmus exchange program, a well supported and organised scheme that has been in operation since the late 1980's. It allows students to study at universities in the EU member states for set periods of time.
Erasmus students study a wide variety of subjects but most use the program for advancing their language skills with a view to working in the international sphere.’
Throughout its active years, the Erasmus scheme has supported internationally-minded, travel savvy students on their trans-national studies and lives.
Being a member of the scheme entitles you to Erasmus’ support (both financial and educational) if you’re looking to spend some study time at an institution in neighbouring European countries.
And with over sixteen thousand Brits having taken up the scheme’s offerings in 2017 alone, you’ve no doubt heard weird and wonderful stories of friends and family studying abroad.
Guardian columnist and author Rhiannon Lucy Cosslett talks of her Erasmus adventures in her latest article. Thanks to the scheme she studied in Italy, learned the language, lived with natives and internationals alike, and extended her world-view far beyond a childhood spent in a tiny Welsh village.
“It’s hard to express all that this programme gave me, without becoming emotional. I didn’t have the kind of resources that made travel an option. I could never have afforded to move to Italy without the grant the EU gave me. I would never have learned Italian, a language I love, or discovered the same passion I have for the country’s literature, cinema and art.
I would never have developed the confidence you gain from having to navigate the complex bureaucracy of another country, or from being cross-examined in front of a packed lecture theatre in a foreign language about the paintings of Leonardo da Vinci. I would not have seen Sicily, or Venice, or Sardinia in the company of so many new friends.”
Like Rhiannon, so many Erasmus students develop new language and communication skills, learn new topics in unfamiliar scenarios only to come out stronger and more confident, and progress into international roles which value their experience and cultural awareness.
No better way to learn that the world really is your oyster. But it’s an opportunity that might not be open to us for much longer.
How come? Well, this month, British MPs voted against a legislation that would have required we negotiate continued membership of the Erasmus scheme after the Brexit deadline at the end of January.
As reported by the Times, currently the ‘£1 billion cost of subsidising British students studying for a year of their course in EU universities is paid for by the European Commission. At the end of the Brexit transition period Britain will have to pay if it still wants to participate in the €16 billion programme.’
But just because we’re not entitled to a free ticket, it doesn’t mean that we’re definitely losing out. An official from the Department for Education told BBC News: “The government is committed to continuing the academic relationship between the UK and the EU, including through the next Erasmus programme if it is in our interests to do so. The vote last night does not change that. As we enter negotiations with the EU, we want to ensure that UK and European students can continue to benefit from each other's world-leading education systems.”
So, where is this heading? There’s going to be a transition period following the Brexit deadline, and during this things are going to stay pretty much the same. Erasmus funding is safe for the current academic year.
The future’s far from set in stone, though. If you’re interested in studying abroad in the next few years, keep an eye on updates from the Erasmus+ website and on our monthly Push news, where you’ll get the lowdown on any developments as and when they happen.
LUCY HARDING is an English Literature grad and an MA Publishing student at UCL. She is passionate about international relations and cultural diversity, having worked closely with her university’s Erasmus society to support European students. She also spent a year abroad studying at California State University: Long Beach
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