STRASBOURG, France – The European Parliament celebrated on Tuesday the 30th anniversary of the Erasmus student exchange program that has provided scholarships to nine million students across Europe seeking vital experiences and further education since its launch back in 1987.
The event was hosted by European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker and European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport Tibor Navracsics.
Navracsics highlighted the Erasmus program’s contribution to personal and academic development, describing it as a pan-European further education project that has become one of the European Union’s most positive success stories.
The Erasmus program, named after the Renaissance-era Dutch humanist Erasmus of Rotterdam, is also an acronym for “European Community Action Scheme for the Mobility of University Students.”
During the ceremony, 33 representatives of the Erasmus generation, one from each participating country, shared their personal experiences and were awarded prizes.
Among the former Erasmus students present was Portugal’s minister of education, Tiago Brandao Rodrigues, who chose to study abroad in Spain.
Also present was the Spanish chef and former Erasmus scholarship recipient Nazaret Bonal Rodriguez, who studied at one of the top Michelin star-level chef academies in France to become a pâtissier (pastry chef) and, thanks to her experience abroad, now works at the exclusive Don Gil restaurant in Albacete, Spain.
Tajani said Erasmus was more than a mere scholarship: it was “a mind-opening experience.”
Juncker said that Erasmus was the “best response in favor of Europeism and against nationalist selfishness.”
He urged the bloc not to neglect the financing for the scholarships.
In countries like Spain, the families of students are often forced to resort to their own financial resources; depending on the destination country, the exchange can set them back between 150-390 euros ($168-$437) per month in out-of-pocket costs.
“Each euro we invest in Erasmus is an investment in the future, the future of a young person and of our European ideals,” the head of the EC added.
Navracsics, who is Hungarian, said he regretted that back in the late 1980s he couldn’t opt for an Erasmus scholarship as a student because he was on the other side of the so-called Iron Curtain.
Coinciding with the Erasmus program’s anniversary, the EC and the European University Foundation also unveiled the mobile application for the Erasmus+ program.
Co-funded by the both the EUF and the EC, this free mobile app will accompany participants from their application phase until the return to their home country.
This app provides information on the Erasmus+ program’s opportunities for individuals and features multiple functionalities.
It is intended to render mobility abroad easy, accessible and at arm’s reach for every participant while promoting innovation and digitalization in the long run.
The students will be able to process administrative tasks, attend e-language classes, access on-line tutorials or post advice for other students on how to fully integrate within their host community or visiting university.
The Erasmus program was first launched in 1987, with the participation of 3,000 students from 11 countries.
Since then, nine million students have benefited from these scholarships.
Perhaps the most telling example of how Erasmus became a real life-changing experience are the one million “Erasmus babies” whose parents met as exchange students and ended up starting a family.
“These figures are unofficial, not Eurostat. However, the European Commission does approve of this type of rapport,” Juncker mischievously quipped, displaying the usual humorous attitude he reserves for these kinds of events.