The EU's Erasmus programme turns 20 this year. Launched in 1987, the higher education scheme has given almost 1.5m students a taste of what it’s like to live and study in other European countries. To mark the beginning of the celebrations, a conference has been organised in Brussels by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN).
The event, hosted by the EU's committee of the regions, brought together past and present Erasmus students, as well as ESN members, to highlight the success of the programme and discuss possible improvements.
In her speech, Margot Wallström, European communications commissioner, stressed the importance of Erasmus in building a stronger Europe and called on Erasmus students to help: “Be the ambassadors for Europe and share your enthusiasm for what it means to be European.”
Erasmus students of different generations related their experiences. Desiree Majoor, who was on the scheme in 1987, was one of the founders of the ESN, which was set up with the idea of helping Erasmus students to get the most out of their stay abroad. “I am happy to be here today,” she said, “I could not imagine 20 years ago what Erasmus would have become, but I am impressed at the enthusiasm of you all.”
In keeping with the joyful spirit that surrounds the Erasmus experience, the conference ended with a real birthday party. Ján Figel’, commissioner for education and training, attended this special event, making a toast to the young participants.
Various events, one involving an Erasmus van, will take place in 2007. A special website has been designed to collect stories from 20 generations of Erasmus students.