Erasmus crisis = Euro crisis for students?

by Susanne Schmidt

Sorry guys, this is again a blog dealing with the Euro crisis! I know it has dominated the media for what felt like an eternity – and perhaps you are bored of it. But luckily, probably, most of us have not yet been directly affected by it. On the contrary, while reading about the financial situation of the Erasmus grants, I immediately understand what it will mean for us as students. It is important to know, why and how the crisis also touches us.

The Euro crisis sometimes feels absolutely unconceivable, at least to me. It seems like every day politicians are discussing new proposals which are hard to understand, making it even harder to understand what it actually implies for us in our daily lives. The simple first question could be: If you’re discussing something every day – and you don’t have anything else to do – why haven’t you a pragmatic solution? This is an easy question, but unfortunately, the answer is much more wide spread than the amount of Berlusconi’s real hair…

So, to be honest:

What would the introduction of the Euro bonds mean and what are its direct and indirect consequences? When and how do I as a citizen experience it? Does it have long-term effects or rather short-term ones? And more personally, would it be wiser to study another subject? What is the best way to prepare myself for the labor market in times of an uncertain economic future? Questions upon questions!

However, when I read recent headlines like “EU has no cash for Erasmus fund” (eubusiness.com), I felt directly personally touched. I had instantly the photos of jolly Spanish students in mind wearing Klomps for the first time in their life. As a former board member of the Erasmus Student Network Twente, I experienced how much the foreign students valued their exchange semester. At the end of their stay, all students concluded that the year has enriched their life in countless ways. Not only academic but culturally, learning new languages or new ways of living and meeting new people. If the EU would need to reduce its financial efforts for the program in the long-term, it would undoubtedly be a major setback for many students and their hopes for university. According to the article, one third of the Erasmus grants for the period September – December 2012 are missing. Knowing this fact, I am convinced that students who are currently thinking about doing a semester abroad will be much more reluctant to do it than in the past. The experience abroad is an extra bonus of being a student, not a feature that you indispensably need. Hence, I would not expect that students take a loan just to do it. The economic prospects are too uncertain.  Going into debt as a student for an experience which, although would certainly enrich your life in many ways, is not essentially needed will make many think twice.

And for the EU? Supporting the Erasmus program is in my eyes highly important. The students get a wider education, becoming more open for cultural differences: a necessity when working in cross-national companies. Think of the three most interesting experience in your life. Probably, I am absolutely sure, one of this experiences was in another country. Furthermore, it can be expected that it will lead to a more tightened European identity in the future. But that is a whole other issue…

Photo courtesy of ESN

Susanne Schmidt

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