Five former Erasmus students, full of freshly gained experiences acquired during their studies abroad, have decided to immerse themselves in a new adventure and introduce ESN to their local university - the section was founded in 2011 at Cattolica University in Milano. Only a year after the section was established, it becomes known inside the Italian network thanks to the quantity and quality of the organized events. Let us introduce you to the very first Section in the Spotlight of this year - ESN Unicatt Milano!
The section counts around 50 active members including 5 Board members, 3 guarantors and some Board supporters who work on the specific projects or activities. The section is divided into 6 working groups - Partnerships, Communication, ESN Projects, Tandem, Culture, and Sports. In order to ensure proper integration of members, meetings are organized by each working group, focussing on plans for the future and certain skills needed.
New members of the network come from two groups: "the returnees" and the international students. "The returnees" are the students returning from studying abroad. Every 2 or 3 months the “Welcome Back” activity is organized by the section in collaboration with the International Office, which is aimed at "the returnees" and their inclusion in the ESN activities. Since Cattolica University is an international university, the section is composed of international students, as well. To ensure successful integration, each new member is assigned one experienced member to mentor them. The section members also integrate newbies into the ESN community by allowing them to join groups and mailing lists in order to show them how ESN works and what kind of work the network does. To become an active member, newbies have to participate in the section meetings or become a person responsible for a certain activity.
Other than that, they organise ESN School at least twice a year to ensure proper training of new members and their introduction to the ESN structure, its projects, and more. In addition, members can participate in Lombard Coordination organised by all the sections from the Lombardy region. Members dedicate most of their time to ensure the best experience for their exchange students, which is evident from their full calendar composed of diverse activities. They also offer help to exchange students in their academic life and provide a housing service. “ESN Tuesday” is an important day for their activities, during which there are karaoke nights or tandem nights, which consist of teaching Italian in an informal manner by playing fun linguistic games. Apart from that, there are also international dinners, cultural visits, sport-events, and trips. The most popular party is definitely a "Tram Party" held in a historical tram that goes around the city.
In 2015, ESN Unicatt Milano organised "Integration Weekend" - the main event during the "Welcome Days". It’s an event where participants spend 24 hours together in a country house doing activities which help them to get to know each other. The section is very proud of their "ESN Swim Break | Milano Pool Party" - a section's flagship project. The event takes place at the biggest Italian indoor waterpark and it is nationally recognized since it has more than 1,000 participants every semester.
The section cooperates with the other five Milanese sections under the name of "ESN Milano United" which allowed them to win an award for "Best Section Cooperation" at AGM Warsaw. The section's cooperation mentality goes beyond the Italian borders and ESN Unicatt Milano collaborates with ESN Barcelona UPF and ESN Budapest Corvinus.
The uniqueness of the section lies in its diversity and the capability of its members. Since the university offers a large variety of courses, members have the backgrounds suitable for their positions. ESN Unicatt Milano is a really close group of friends; they call themselves a family and are very proud of that. Who wouldn’t want to be a part of this magical section?
This month's Section in the Spotlight is a true representation of the spirit of the Erasmus Student Network. It was founded all the way back in 1991, but it has not lost any of its enthusiasm, motivation and drive. After all these years, they are still keeping their spot under the lights. The Section in the Spotlight for December 2017 is – ESN Porto!
ESN Porto was established in 1991 at the University of Porto and is the oldest ESN section in Portugal. At this very moment, the section has around 45 members, which include: a Local Board of five people (President, Vice-President, Treasurer, LR, and Event Manager); the coordinators of seven departments (HR, Communication, IT, Projects, Partnership, Activities, and Parties); and two supporting positions (Education Officer and Secretary).
Each semester, ESN Porto welcomes new members into their group. In order to make sure the quality of the section is maintained, they have a special system of selecting newbies:
“We do the first screening and invite them to a session where we explain ESN on the international, national and local levels. To be accepted, they need to have more than one academic year left of their university course and be free every Monday night. After choosing the candidates, they join ESN and are called ‘Parachutes’ – because they fall from the sky. They have the welcome month to show us how they work - which is then evaluated by HR with the help of all the members. If they pass, they are called ‘New Members’ and have a maximum period of one year to be nominated by an existing member to receive full membership” -
ESN Porto is famous for their events. They have their own ESN Porto Academy, which organises training sessions, workshops and team building exercises. In international ESN circles, they've hosted numerous major events: the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in 1995; the South-Eastern European Platform (SEEP) in 2006; the Council of National Representatives (CNR) in 2009 and 2014; and the International Erasmus Games (IEG) in 2017. They will also host the South-Western European Platform (SWEP) in 2018.
“We organise all kinds of activities, from cultural to educational. We host a trip every weekend (!), mainly within Portugal and sometimes to Spain. During the Welcome Month, we have events every day, such as a boat trip on the Douro River with Porto wine cellars visit, Surf Day, Portuguese night (our most famous event), City Rally, Night Walk and many others. During the rest of the semester, we organise at least one cultural activity per week, for example, a World Dinner. Every Wednesday and Saturday, we have themed parties and on weekends, as said before, we run trips. Last year, we organised 80 activities, 25 trips and 38 parties” -
ESN Porto’s flagship project is their own brainchild – the Portuguese Night. This is an event they do every semester, during the Welcome Month in a big house in front of the river, decorated with all the symbols and figures of Portugal. Their Erasmus students have the opportunity to try all the traditional Portuguese dishes and assist in the performance of academic tunas – the people that dress as Harry Potter in Portugal – fado groups and Rancho Folclórico – all traditional music.
ESN Porto collaborates with universities and companies involved in education and employability events. In collaboration with the University of Porto. “We believe that we can only improve if we have all of our members on the same level of knowledge or at least work on acquiring that knowledge. ESN Porto has always had a problem trying to plan workshops and training sessions for our members because we are extremely busy with events for our Erasmus students, so now we do it in the first hour of our weekly meeting” -
The section also implements the ESN projects ExchangeAbility, SocialErasmus and Mov’in Europe. The members regularly travel to other ESN countries’ events and are involved in the activities of the Committees, the Audit Teams and the Secretariat.
What makes ESN Porto unique? In their own words:
“We work with 15 universities and 30 local partners for 3,500 Erasmus students; we organise two Welcome Months, 80 activities, 25 trips, 38 parties, and 20 international projects activities; we sell 3,000 ESNcards; we have 2 recruitment drives, 12 team building activities, 2 weekend retreats, and 15 training sessions per year. This is what makes us unique – we work hard” -
For their 20th birthday, in 2011, ESN Porto created their own brand: t-shirts which said either “Please, send me back to Porto” or “Erasmus Addicted”. Their impressive history really proves that their members are still Erasmus Addicted and that this addiction is not fading away. Parabéns!Photo credits: ESN Porto
This small section located in western Slovakia was founded in March 2016 and is currently working under two universities - University of St. Cyril and Methodius and Trnava's University. ESN Trnava is mainly managed by the President, Vice-President, Local Representative and Partnership Manager. Among local coordinators are Mov’in Europe coordinator, SocialErasmus coordinator, ExchangeAbility coordinator, HR and Buddy coordinator. Buddy coordinator is responsible for connections between local and exchange students. The structure of the section is very inclusive and all active members are welcomed to participate in the meetings between Board members and local coordinators.
Since the section is young, there are no foreigners as members of the team. At the moment the section is focused on the recruitment of new members which is conducted by the HR team who makes campaigns at universities and manages social media campaigns. All potential members always go through the personal interviews with the board members.
ESN Trnava is active in organising many events both for ESN members and exchange students. Events for ESN members include teambuilding activities when members share the experiences that they have outside of ESN life. They also include special meetings with insights of the section's work. In April 2017 ESN Trnava held first ever "Meet Your Colleagues" meeting where Slovakian ESN members could share their experiences. To empower relationships with thirty exchange students the section organised a special event called “Weekend in the Forest”.
ESN Trnava places a big emphasis on showing the Slovak culture to exchange students by organising trips around Slovakia and Slovak Nights with traditional food and dances. During national dinners, exchange students can present their countries through food, culture, quizzes, traditional clothes and dances.
ESN Trnava is also actively involved in international ESN projects. For example, SocialErasmus which includes volunteering help to the local community. Exchange students and ESN members help to locals with dog walking, clothes donation and many other activities. They also organise Erasmus in Schools, where exchange students talk about their home countries and mobility experiences with local pupils at secondary schools. On top of that, exchange students can join “Books, Children & Erasmus” campaign when students visit elementary schools and read books together. Furthermore, ESN Trnava is involved in work with ExchangeAbility and Mov’in Europe projects.
Members of ESN Trnava do not stand back when it comes to the participation in national and international events. Not only can you meet them at National and mini-National Platforms of ESN Slovakia, they also participate in Czechoslovak Platforms, National Platforms held with their neighbours, ESN Czech Republic and Meet Your Colleagues meetings. When it comes to international events, they are presented at AGM and CEP. All of this helps them stay motivated and gives them new ideas.
“We want to ensure the best time for our exchange students and leave a mark on their memories with our work. Smiles and happiness of our Erasmus students are the most valuable reward which we can get.”
- Stanislava Vojteková, Local Representative of ESN Trnava
Although ESN Trnava is a relatively small and young section, it is capable of big things and we can expect that they will continue their growth and success. As they stated, they are not afraid of leaving their comfort zone to make revolutionary things!