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What is the best way to change your life? Participate in foreign exchange programs!


A. P. J. Abdul Kalam who served as the 11th President of India had a really inspiring message for young people: “My message, especially to young people is to have courage to think differently, courage to invent, to travel the unexplored path, courage to discover the impossible and to conquer the problems and succeed. These are great qualities that they must work towards. This is my message to the young people.” This quote touched us, when we first read it. When people are young, they have the most opportunities to explore the world, to study, to get experience and they should own enough courage to make the best of these opportunities.

In the first part of the article we would like to summarize Erasmus and some another foreign exchange programmes in Hungary, Italy, Cyprus and Greece. The second part of it will give you a broader knowledge of their situation in Lithuania, Poland and Spain. These programmes are for university students to study abroad at one of their institution's partner institution, they have the chance to see the world, get acquainted with foreign cultures, life-styles and of course gain experiences.

In Hungary the best known exchange programme is Erasmus, also this is the most successful and popular programme in Europe. Erasmus was part of the EU’s Lifelong Learning Programme. 37 countries take part in the Programme: the 28 EU Member States, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Macedonia, Norway, Switzerland, Serbia, Turkey and Russia. “Since its launch in 1987, the Erasmus Programme has seen not only a constant increase in the number of students taking part, but also in the quality and diversity of the activities proposed. Erasmus mobility, with its core focus on skills development, is a central element of the European Commission’s strategy to combat youth unemployment, featuring prominently in the Europe 2020 strategy for growth and jobs. Student mobility contributes to individuals’ personal development and equips them with a wide range of competences and skills that are increasingly valued by employers. Students do not only improve their foreign language skills and develop greater intercultural awareness, they also become much more able to quickly adapt to changes and new situations, solve problems, work in teams, think critically and communicate more efficiently.” On the whole of the programme Erasmus changed 3 million lives of young people between 1987-2013.

In Hungary the statistics of the EU Commission seem to be very realistic because in 2012-2013 the most chosen countries between Hungarian college students were Germany (1012 students), Spain (352 students) and France (338 students). Majority of the incoming students came from Turkey (616 students), Germany (557 students), France (519 students). In Hungary there are 10 cities with different universities that accept Erasmus students. Naturally the capital of Hungary – Budapest - is the most popular one. There are 9 different universities who joined Erasmus, Corvinus University of Budapest (Corvinus) and University of Eötvös Loránd (ELTE) accept the highest numbers of foreign students. In 2013 college students from ELTE came to hand the most Erasmus scholarship.

Erasmus programme has a long history. But here comes some interesting facts:

·  The most popular Erasmus countries are: Spain, Germany, France, United Kingdom;

·  27% of Erasmus students make lifelong friendships, 33% of Erasmus students have foreign boyfriend/girlfriend;

·  Since 1987, approximately 1 million babies have been born to Erasmus couples;

·  It seems that women are more courageous, many more women travel abroad with Erasmus;

·  Average age of Erasmus students is 22-23.

Of course there are temporary exchange connections of universities which have built up with each other, but we can find other programmes for organising exchange programmes for students. For example, AFS Magyarország Nemzetközi Csereprogram offers programmes for students, they can spend 3-11 months abroad studying or volunteering. Participants live with a host family while attending school or working within a community. There are more than 80 destination countries because the AFS international organization have partners all over the world. For more information about AFS: http://www.afs.org/.

The world's largest youth-run organization is AIESEC (International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences). AIESEC provides a platform for students in different universities by going on an international internship and/or by joining various local chapters as a volunteer. Each year members have an opportunity to live and work in a foreign country. Participants can choose to work in areas of management, technology, education, or development. All around the world AIESEC is present in more than 127 countries. In Hungary there are 10 university where this organization works - University of Corvinus own the biggest local committee. For more information about AIESEC: http://aiesec.org/.

Now, let’s take a look to the Mediterranean. There are really good reasons why to choose Italy as a study destination. Italy is the kind of destination that travelers return to over and over again. One of the most diverse and beautiful landscape in Europe. Whether you are heading to the beach or to the mountains, to the vineyards or to the cities, there are endless possibilities for exciting Italy travel. And obviously Italy has one of the world delicious and authentic national cuisine. So studying or working there is a really nice choice!
In 2012-2013 the most Erasmus students in Italy went to Bologna and Rome. The biggest part of the Italian Erasmus students chose Spain (7425), and after that France (1909) and Germany (1842).

   Finally, we would like to talk about Cyprus and Greece. Mostly the Cypriot students who took part in Erasmus program between 2012-2013 travelled to Greece (124) and Poland (102). Cyprus was a popular destination among the Greek students.

Greece is in economic crisis but it’s still a premier-league travel destination. There are incredible historic sites in this country. Perfect climate conditions allow every visitor to enjoy every season across the country. Lot of students like to spend their school year in the persistent summer. In 2012-2013 398 students from Poland travelled to Greece, this was the biggest part of the incoming students. And of course Germany was the main destination for Greek Erasmus students too.

Let’s move further to the North. Lithuania is one of the five countries (together with Luxembourg, Liechtenstein, Latvia and Spain) that has the highest numbers of outgoing Erasmus students based on the size of national student population. During the 2012/2013 academic year, the country sent 3 529 students to spend a semester or more abroad. Seeking not only international experience, but obviously the good weather too Lithuanians mostly go to Spain (282), Portugal (255) and Turkey (252). Germany, with 234 outgoing Lithuanian students, stands 4th. Vilnius University and Vilnius Gediminas Technical University are two universities that send the highest numbers of students to participate in Erasmus. However, only one of them is between two most popular universities between incoming students – during the mentioned year, Lithuania received 2 326 Erasmus students from the whole Europe and the majority of them decided to study at Vytautas Magnus University in Kaunas, second biggest Lithuanian city, following by Vilnius University in the capital.

Another less popular but also interesting opportunity that Lithuania gives is a Nordplus Higher Education exchange programme which aims to foster an educational cooperation, boost innovations and share the experience between Baltic countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia), Northern countries (Denmark, Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Finland) and autonomic districts of Northern countries (Greenland, Faroe Islands, Åland Islands). Also, if Europe is not enough for you – The Baltic-American Freedom Foundation (BAAF) offers fully financed internship programmes in the United States of America. BAAF’s mission is “to enrich the ties between the United States and Latvia, Lithuania, and Estonia, through programs of education and exchange concentrating on economic growth and democratic processes. Visibly strengthening U. S. - Baltic ties is a core goal.”

Poland is a country full of rich history so in there you always have plenty to see and learn. Isn’t it a great reason to go there? In 2012/2013 academic year Poland received 10 772 Erasmus students from foreign universities which made it the 7th most popular destination for incoming students in Europe. Two of the most popular universities was Jagiellonian University in Cracow and University of Warsaw. The same two universities were amongst the most student sending higher education institutions together with University of Lodz – during that academic year Poland sent 16 221 students in total to experience the Erasmus life. Statistics show that Poland is literally exchanging students with other four European countries – Spain, Germany, Portugal and France were not only the most popular Polish destinations, but also the most students came to Poland from those same countries.

Another opportunity to leave your comfort zone is The Kosciuszko Foundation. Founded in 1925, it is dedicated to promote educational and cultural exchanges between the United States and Poland and to increase American understanding of Polish culture and history. Polish are also able to participate in ASSE which was established in 1976 as the American Scandinavian Student Exchange by the Swedish Government to organize student exchange programs between Sweden and the United States. Now it has grown a lot and gathers together more than 30 countries from different continents, including Poland and Spain, about which we are going to talk next.

So, the most popular Erasmus destination Spain – the country which is usually called a champion of Erasmus. Its universities always appears on TOP 100 sending and receiving institutions and well, not only appears, but usually are the leaders – with 40 202 incoming students four of the Spanish universities share first four places for most receiving universities in Europe (University of Granada (1 959), University of Valencia (1 779), University of Seville (1 702), Complutense University of Madrid (1 659), following by University of Barcelona in the 9th place). Same universities plus Polytechnic University of Valencia also send the highest number of Erasmus students to study abroad. In the whole Spain it makes 39 249 students in total. Those students usually go to Italy (7 425), Germany (4 938), France (4 534), and United Kingdom (4 178). Besides Erasmus, International Association for the Exchange of Students for Technical Experience (IAESTE) provide students in technical degrees (primarily Science, Engineering and the applied arts) with paid, course-related, training abroad and employers with highly skilled, highly motivated trainees. With over 80 countries involved and exchanging over 4000 traineeships each year worldwide, it is the largest organisation of its kind in the world, and in Spain you have the opportunity to participate.

As the phrase has it: „The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” So it’s time to take a step forward the world. There are so many possibilities waiting to be found!

Eszter & Renata

Location

Oktogon 3
1066 Budapest
Hungary
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