Does the Erasmus program really contribute to the construction of a solid EU identity?

Marianne Thyssen Erasmus +

Marianne Thyssen, Member of the EC in charge of Employment, Social Affairs, Skills and Labour Mobility, and Tibor Navracsics, Member of the EC in charge of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, attend the launch ceremony of the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus program at the European Parliament. Marianne Thyssen in front of the panel of the 30th anniversary of Erasmus. © European Union , 2017 / Source: EC – Audiovisual Service / Photo: Georges Boulougouris.

This article was exclusively written for the Sting by one of our passionate readers Mr Luca Arfini. The opinions expressed within reflect only the writer’s views and not The European Sting’s position on the issue.

Right now, in a period of several crises challenging the EU’s stability, the sense of belonging that the EU citizens have towards the European Union matters more than ever. Migrations are influencing Europe and the European identity of its citizens, yet there is not only one type of migration.

Indeed, Favell claims the existence of three kinds of migration: the traditional ‘ethnic’ migration from non-European countries to European countries, the intra-European migration composed of EU citizens, and the migration from Eastern Europe to Western Europe which places itself among the other two. Many studies focused on the relationship that is present between intra-European migration and EU identity, like Rother and Nebe’s research, show a particular correlation among who lived in an EU country other than their national one and the sense of closeness to the European Union.

Nevertheless, it is the generation of young people in Europe that exercise more and more the right of free movement through the numerous exchange opportunities offered by the EU; undertaking temporary migration in various European countries to enhance job prospects and to live an intercultural experience. The most popular program for exchange students is undoubtedly the Erasmus program, which was created in 1987.

One of its primary objectives is to promote common European values and create a sense of belonging to a community through education and youth work. The EU commissioner Thyssen, in his speech for the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus program that occurred in 2017, stated: “In 1987, Erasmus began with just 3,000 participants in 11 countries. The idea was to give students an insight – and in many cases, their first- into different cultures and ways of life”.

In the article 2 of the Council Decision of 15 June 1987 to establish the program, it is stated that one of the primary objectives of the Erasmus is: “to strengthen the interaction between citizens in different Member States with a view to consolidating the concept of a People’s Europe”. Therefore, since the beginning, the Erasmus program was also created with the intention of increasing the students’ interactions across the EU Member States to strengthen their awareness of the concept of European citizenship.

The launch of the Erasmus program, according to Maiworm, signified the beginning of the internationalization of higher education in Europe. In the first year 1987-1988, 3244 students coming from 11 different European countries took part in the program; while in 2013-2014 the number increased to 272,000 students, who spent a study period abroad with 33 countries participating in the program: the 28 EU Member States with the addition of Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia.

I conducted a study to investigate the influence that taking part in the Erasmus program in Denmark had in the construction of a European identity of 57 students, both men and women between 20 to 27 years old. I wanted to discover if there was a direct connection between this intercultural experience and the sense of belonging to a European community; whether meeting new people coming from EU (and non-EU) countries could help students in feeling more European, or if it makes them simply globally-minded individuals.

I obtained the data for my analysis through an online survey with open-ended questions, which I published as a google doc in various Facebook groups of Erasmus student in Denmark and that has been shared on the different Facebook pages of the Danish section of the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) during all the month of November 2017.

The majority of the students reported that they chose Denmark as the destination for their study abroad period because they were interested in the Scandinavian system and culture. Denmark was also seen as the right place to live, because of its high-quality education and high level of spoken English. However, during the exchange program, most of the students’ social interactions appeared to be rarely with the locals and mostly with other Erasmus or international students.

Furthermore, the preponderance of the students connected European citizenship with freedom of movement, which was described as the most important European value. The relevance of this EU right was also reinforced by the comparison with other International students coming from outside Europe, who had to undertake a very long and complicated bureaucratic process to stay in Denmark.

Nonetheless, a great number of students declared that their knowledge on the EU right of free movement did not improve after the end of their Erasmus. The main reason was that they already possessed a certain knowledge on the topic and, during their study-period abroad, they had almost no chances to have a better understanding of EU rights. In general, the students seemed to feel more part of a group of international students abroad, living in the same country for a short period and experiencing the same condition of being an expatriate, rather than part of a European community sharing EU values. Some students also affirmed that they feel European, but the Erasmus program didn’t increase or change their attitude towards Europe.

They already felt European before going abroad, and they already had some prior knowledge or interest in the European Union. A small group of students said instead that studying abroad and meeting people from different countries reinforced their nationalist feelings. They might feel as Europeans, but they put their National identity before any types of European feeling.  However, every single student that took part in the survey agreed on drawing the Erasmus program as a positive experience that all the students should do at least once during their studies.

In conclusion, According to the results of my survey, no strong correlation appears to exist between the Erasmus program and the building of a solid sense of Europeanness. Indeed, most of the students met and interacted with other students coming from both European and non-European countries; this increased their closeness with different cultures and their knowledge of other nations, but it didn’t necessarily enhance their sense of belonging to the European Union.

The majority of survey’s participants declared that the Erasmus program did not affect their European identity, either because they already felt European before leaving or because they felt more as citizens of the world rather than European citizens. Nevertheless, these findings don’t diminish the relevance of the Erasmus program as an enriching cultural and social experience. In fact, all the students that took part in the survey claimed that their sojourn abroad helped them: to break down prejudices, to be more independent and to make long lasting friendships.

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Advertising

Join the Hive!

Featured Stings

Trump beats Clinton but Americans will learn the hard way that the US can’t change with an election

“Austerity was not the alternative!”, President Hannes Swoboda of the European Socialists and Democrats on another Sting Exclusive

Ukraine pays the price for lying between Russia and the EU

COP21 Breaking News: “We must accelerate the process”, Laurent Fabius cries out from Paris

Is the ECB ready to flood Eurozone with freshly printed money?

‘Internal security’ or how to compromise citizens’ rights and also make huge profits

Galileo and EGNOS programmes back in orbit powered with €70 billion

Mobile World Congress 2015 first to debate EU’s new stance on Net Neutrality and Roaming Charges

Google case: A turning point in competition rules enforcement

The UN supports Europe’s military action in Libya and the Mediterranean; Russia and China agree

A day in the life of a refugee: the wait

G20 LIVE: World Leaders in Turkey for G20 Summit. Global Economy will be discussed in Antalya

The issue of health literacy and how it affects European health policies

European Development Days 2013

‘Safe Eurobonds’: a new trick to betray the south euro area countries

What are the real targets of EU’s efforts to fight tax evasion?

Three countries losing ground and one new prime minister

“Only through energy policy we can trigger competitiveness”. The Sting live from #EBS2015: Energy Union – When will it happen?

UN-based World Summit Award (WSA) presents its master list on digital innovation with impact on society from 24 countries

The new Kiev rulers ask $35 billion from the West

Social inclusion: how much should young people hope from the EU? 

MWC 2016 LIVE: Ericsson/Cisco partnership on track, insist execs

Banking on sunshine: world added far more solar than fossil fuel power generating capacity in 2017

ECB’s trillion has to be printed and distributed fast before Armageddon comes

EU Commission: Once in every 20 beef meals you eat…horse probably with drugs in it

The European Sting writes down the history LIVE from G20 Leaders’ Summit in Turkey

The energy industry is changing. Are governments switched on?

Can the world take the risk of a new financial armageddon so that IMF doesn’t lose face towards Tsipras?

Germany and OSCE support an east-west dialogue in Ukraine without exclusions

Half the world’s population is still offline. Here’s why that matters

Robot inventors are on the rise. But are they welcomed by the patent system?

Travel the world, find yourself

Far from a healthy Health Workforce: lack of workforce planning leaves our citizens without access to proper care

The EU checks the multinationals for tax fraud but Britain may sail out of the EU via Panama

Close to final agreement on the EU Banking Union

AIESEC Vlog

Paris agreed with Berlin over a loose and ineffective banking union

In dreams and in love there are no impossibilities

Vulnerable young people must not be blamed & stigmatised for violent radicalisation

WEF Davos 2016 LIVE: Cameron corroborates that Britain should remain in the EU

EU attempts to make new deal with Turkey as relations deteriorate

Solitary Britain sides with US aggressing Russia and chooses hard Brexit

Why do medical students seek for work abroad?

Facilitating the access to finance and risk capital for SMEs and midcaps

The Ecofin deceives the SMEs with the EIB €10bn capital increase

The US banks drive the developing world to a catastrophe

Why is Grexit again in the news? Who is to pay for Eurozone’s banking problems?

The West cannot ignore Russia; dazed Germany sitting on the fence

Trump reshapes the Middle East at the expenses of Europe

Trump to subject the Fed, challenge the ECB and make Wall St. bankers even richer

Alexandre in Czech Republic

Apparently the EU Digital Single Market passes necessarily from China’s Digital Silk Road

EU Budgets: Europe hoping for Xmas gifts

At last a good price for the Greek debt!

EU: Turkey to shelter Syrian refugees and turn other immigrants back in return of €3 billion

Vote at 16 in Malta: next stop Europe

Earthquake: Monte Dei Paschi Di Siena

Greece will probably stay in the Eurozone but at what cost?

The ITU Telecom World on 14-17 November in Bangkok, Thailand

Summer pause gives time to rethink Eurozone’s problems

More Stings?

Speak your Mind Here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s