Why should you experience Erasmus+?

 The European Union over time has developed numerous programs aiming at strengthening the position and role of young people. Beside the fact that the citizens of the EU are in some way prioritized, people coming from the Western Balkan region can also enjoy various benefits stemming from these programs. One of them, I would especially like to highlight, is the Erasmus + students exchange project. Its main goal is to allow youngsters to experience student life in one of the prominent European centers in a period of time lasting approximately for half a year. Despite the benefits and inspirational conception of this idea, many students, even the best ones, miss the opportunity to live this adventure because of the fear of leaving their comfort zone, but also because of some minor things such as the application-related procedure. Therefore, this blog could be a motivation for all of them to make the first step, and feel the charm of studying abroad in a different cultural and social context. From what I saw in this project, it enriches young people with an unforgettable experience, but it also it makes them become more competitive in the labor market after completing their education.

During my studies at the Faculty of Political Science in Podgorica, like the majority of my fellows I was a very studious student and driven by the idea to study abroad. In addition, my social engagement was not lagging behind, as I participated in the work of nongovernmental organizations. Despite my desire to study abroad for a certain period of time, my University did not offer many opportunities of that kind. In other words, the problem that I was facing was institutional in character, embodied in weak linkage between my university and foreign institutions, therefore, preventing students to profit from this EU programme. Moreover, I realized that it is actually the issue young people from the whole Western Balkan region are facing, even though our universities are entitled to take part in the Erasmus +. That’s why it is so important that Balkan universities develop connections with foreign universities in order for youth to have more options.

I’ve started with those opportunities that were easier to reach, namely, different summer schools in my country and abroad, which slowly lead to the internationalization of my education. It strongly influenced me, personally and academically. It contributed to the visible improvement of my English language skills, which made me more proactive in debates, and more ready to represent my views and support them with arguments based on the knowledge gathered during schooling. This engagement helped me to diversify my academic focus and concentrate my research on the area that is intellectually stimulating enough to me, and at the same time very relevant.

During my master's studies, I finally got the opportunity I have been waiting for a long time. It was a scholarship which offered the opportunity of studying in Rome and I grabbed it. As a beneficiary of Erasmus+ project I witnessed numerous benefits stemming from this program. Firstly, I had the opportunity to study at a prestigious Italian university and meet a number of experts from my field of study, which furthermore significantly expanded my network. Also, during the exchange, I attended a language course, which improved my knowledge of the Italian language. Naturally, an environment in which everyone is more likely to speak his/her own language (Italian), than English, was also helpful in that term.

As for the social part of this experience, the Erasmus network organized various gatherings, so that all participants had the opportunity to get to know each other, exchange their experiences, and present the culture they belong to. My scholarship, moreover, allowed me to visit different parts of Italy, which made me fall in love with this amazing country. Everything I mentioned gave me psychological impetus for my further ambitions and readiness to fulfill my goals.

I'm happy because of the fact that nowadays, more and more people I know are opting for this step. However, we are only at the beginning, because it is on the Western Balkan universities to strengthen and multiply contacts, and potentially to employ individuals who would really be helpful to students when applying for exchanges. The part of the job that is up to students, who want to participate - is to overcome fear and intensively learn the language. Consequently, these programs will open the horizon for youngsters of this region allowing them to create a network and be more competitive in the job market! Additionally, Erasmus+ program provides students with a very dynamic experience, filled with many beautiful moments, and emotions, like those that now remind me of Rome. Thanks to my experience, now I am certain that this town is really eternal – La citta eterna.

 Author: Bojana Lalatović