The ESAA (Erasmus+ Student and Alumni Association) General and Working Group Meeting was held in Warsaw between of 13th and 16th of October. ​

The garagErasmus General Meeting participants (that took place on the day before) were invited for the opening day. The garagE representatives of the Working Groups and our ESAA Board Members stayed all weekend to work on the plan for the next few months on developing and moving forward the Association and give even more opportunities to the community of the four member associations, Erasmus Student Network (ESN), garagErasmus Foundation, Erasmus Mundus Association (EMA) and OCEANS. Special times ahead of the Association as next year is the 30th Anniversary of the Erasmus program so the weekend was around this topic mainly, but other very important questions and issues emerged, and were discussed.

The first day was opened by the Co-Chairs Pavan Sriram and Vivivana Permazzi outlining the aims of the Meeting, mentioning the progress that has been made so far and the goals for the next few months. For the new participants, Edlira Alku draw up the history of ESAA, mentioning the events and meetings that took place since the foundation of the Association. ​

The next point on the agenda was the introductory speech given by Adrian Veale, the European Commission Directorate General for Education and Culture, in which he welcomed the members of the umbrella association. He referred to the Erasmus+ program as one of the tools that Europe has so to tackle the challenges that are being faced and emerging on a daily basis, especially in shaping a new narrative for Europe, based on high quality education and common values.

This year two awards were given as a recognition of the contributions and the positive impacts made by ESAA members. Two members were awarded for their outstanding performance and achievements on the Working Groups that they lead. Marcela Chavez Ocampo (Communications WG from Erasmus Mundus Association) and GaragErasmus’ Velimir Tasic (Professional Development WG from garagErasmus Foundation) received a highly deserved standing ovation for their strong commitment to ESAA and it overall vision. Marcela highlighted the importance of volunteering on reshaping social communities. Velimir emphasized the importance of the Erasmus+ program on shaping people’s lives through all the opportunities offered not only to people within the EU but also beyond its borders, not only individual stories but also on wider communities.

After a coffee break, which are always a good opportunity for networking, the participants were divided in five working groups, discussing different topics. After the workshops, the groups outlined the results of the discussions around the given topics:  

  • European run mobility programs as a tool for soft diplomacy, about how the ESAA events could promote soft diplomacy in non-EU countries, reaching more people who has not been in an exchange program;
  • The role of Erasmus+ in tackling crises in the European Union brought the strengthening the social impact of the Erasmus+ in Europe and social integration as a main challenge. In the same time mentioning the fact that the program, next to the positive influences, has some negative views from the people that are not being part of the program, that needs a better communication from our part.
  • El the current crisis of Europe and the potential impact on international student mobility, questioning if the EU is becoming less attractive and how does that effect Europe. The group came to the conclusion that there is a gap between the international minded people and the more national minded people, and there is a need to build a bridge in order to narrow it down.
  • The fourth group looked on the ways to develop student mobility programs in Europe that are future proof and sustainable. The fact the there is a need for evaluate and measure the impact of the program was recognized and to find evidence as tangible as possible, looking up the success stories and case studies in order to promote the program. This promotion must have clear messaging and a good marketing strategy. Another key aspect would be to integrate as many local students as possible.

The last group brought up thoughts about the impact of mobility on the professional life of alumni, such as changing and shaping the perspective of people that can be applied in the professional life. The conference closed with a panel session which discussed mainly the upcoming 30th Erasmus anniversary and the plans ahead of the European Commission.