With summer rapidly approaching, it’s only natural we move towards the warmer parts of Europe. However, the section in question isn’t only in our sights because it’s in Spain, but because it’s the oldest section in the country! Meet our Section in the Spotlight for May: ESN UCM Madrid.
ESN UCM Madrid was founded in 1991, which makes them the section ESN Spain built its foundations on. They are constantly growing and improving, as well as adjusting their structure according to the needs of their ever-changing environment.
Currently, they work in teams. They have 12 teams - Tandem, Salsa, Cultural, ComCom, Legal, Partners, Tutor, Merchandising, Sports, Projects, IT and Parties. Each team has a Head, chosen by the team itself, who is responsible for creating the Action Plan and ensuring that the team meets its goals and objectives. They also have local coordinators of international projects such as Mov’in Europe, SocialErasmus and ExchangeAbility who cooperate with local coordinators of the other five other sections in the city.
Nowadays, they have more than 40 active members!
“The sense of belonging that unites us provides material for great teamwork.”
All of their members can receive proper education and training at Local and Regional Platforms. Local Platforms are crucial for the understanding of local, national and international level for newer members, while Regional Platforms are organised in cooperation with other sections from Madrid. Team building activities are also a regular occurrence in their section! All of this is possible thanks to the funds they receive from ESNcards, as well as local, regional and national grants and partners. This year, they have sold 2000 ESNcards!
They organise, on average, around 15 trips per year, and around 5 project activities per month for their international students. When organising these activities, they often cooperate with other sections from Madrid. Monday evenings are reserved for tandems, Tuesdays for sports, Wednesdays for salsa and Thursdays for parties. Additionally, they organise two cultural events per week: a cycle of fine arts and the Royal Palace. Weekends are reserved for the exploration of the Spanish countryside!
“Today we co-exist with 5 other sections in our city and we have achieved harmony and a unique joint force throughout our country.”
ESN UCM Madrid is an eco-friendly section, proven by their flagship project EcoWeekend, a two day trip to the mountains of Madrid. There they spent the weekend learning about environmental issues, having workshops, eating non-processed food, and recycling. The workshops were on the following: removal of rubbish in the mountains; a hiking tour; a soap making workshop; a t-shirt dyeing workshop; and a tour of sense, an ExchangeAbility activity. They have managed to educate and entertain their exchange students, as well as have an impact on the local community.
They are also killing it with their Buddy Programme - this academic year they have managed to pair up more than 1000 exchange students to 270 tutors! The university helps them in their approach to local students by offering them ECTS points for this activity.
Their members are active on both the national and international levels. Several of their members are on the national level, and they regularly host Spanish National Platforms as well as other national events. Their members are in the OC of KINESI, a national training event which will take place this summer.
Being the oldest section in the country, and one of the oldest ones in the whole of Europe, can’t be easy. However, ESN UCM Madrid has mastered this task, and this award proves it!
Spring is already here, and so is our Section in the Spotlight of this month. Ready? Drum roll, please, for a Spanish powerhouse - ESN Barcelona UPF.
ESN Barcelona UPF, otherwise known as UPFamily, was born in 2009 when several curious ex-Erasmus individuals started communicating with their International Relations Offices. Since then, generations of newbies called by different names - ranging from animals of the year, to places connected to the President’s last name - have been contributing to the expansion of the section. This year belongs to the generation of Ballenas!
The section consists of 40 members, including 6 Board members and 5 Committee Chairs - Culture, Sports, Projects, Buddy Programme, and Website and ComCom. Furthermore, over the year, they often create Working Groups in order to deal with specific tasks and support some of the functions of the Local Board. If you are a former Erasmus student, you can apply for membership by filling out a form and participating in a meeting focused on ESN and internal work. Only after that can you help the section to coordinate countless activities.
Other the constant care they provide their exchange students with, they celebrate the international spirit by having dinner in a Chinese restaurant after every meeting. This opportunity is most suitable for newbies because they can become acquainted with experienced members through improvised speed friending. It is obvious they appreciate their members since, twice a year, they organise a training event meant for new members. The main goal of the event is maintaining good relations within their UPFamily.
Speaking of events, they spend most of their time with their exchange students. They hold dozens of events for them, starting with Integration Weekend, which seems to be their number one activity. However, the most intense days are Welcome Days when volunteers work endlessly to help integrate exchange students into their local community. Furthermore, cooking classes are also popular - is there a better way to get to know the region than by tasting it? As well as these, sports activities are popular, too.
They put a lot of effort into activities organised within the frame of international projects of ESN where they collaborate with coordinators from 3 Barcelona universities. They actively work on implementing Erasmus in Schools, while nowadays they are working hard to improve the aforementioned activity in combination with Mov’in Europe aimed at high school students. They also care about the cause of ExchangeAbility and plan to map their university in the near future. They are not behind with grants either. They have received a grant from the Government of Catalonia to organise the pre-AGM CNR Barcelona 2018 and an ESAA grant to organise an educational event.
It is worth mentioning that members of ESN Barcelona UPF are involved in social causes as well. Their current flagship project is a Gender Working Group which wrote a protocol against gender violence in cooperation with Gender Department of UPF University. It is aimed at informing and preventing gender violence within the section which applies to their activities and students.
The involvement of local students is an integral part of the section. By creating a project "Mov'in Your Buddy", they intend to match local students going on exchange with international students coming from their future universities.
“There’s no doubt this year is the year of our members.”
We shouldn’t forget section cooperation; not only do they cooperate with other three universities in Barcelona, they have section cooperation with ESN Unicatt Milano as well. They cooperated on the organisation of SWEP Milano 2018, and very recently on the largest network event, AGM, which took place in Costa Brava.
“All these events can only motivate new members to keep leaving the mark of our section on every level.”
The uniqueness of ESN Barcelona UPF lies in the quality of its members. They have an incredible amount of respect for each other, they like to share the kindness and happiness which makes for a positive impact on the teamwork, as well as on the high-quality experiences of international students. They are creating one UPFamily that can’t be stopped from making changes while still improving the section and themselves.
The temperatures may be under 0 degrees, however, our sections are working hard to stay on fire! Make yourself a cup of hot beverage, wrap yourself in a blankie and prepare to be amazed by our Section in the Spotlight for March: ISC VUT Brno!
International Students Club of University of Technology in Brno or ISC VUT Brno was officially founded in 2004, however, they have a history much longer than that. Back in 2003, when the section wasn’t formally recognised, it had only one member - the section founder - taking care of 20-30 exchange students.
ISC VUT Brno is managed by its Local Board consisting of seven members who make all the major decisions and lead the section according to specific internal rules. Each Board member is responsible for one or more specific teams consisting of various number of people who help them handle their workload in their respective fields. Currently, there are more than 30 active members in the section alongside 120 buddies who take care for more than 600 exchange students at the University of Technology in Brno. Wondering how to become a member or a buddy? Well, all of them are chosen by the HR, after filling an application form and doing an interview which aims to check the applicants' communication skills and their possible contribution to the section. They also have a unique position in the section, Knowledge Manager, who’s responsible for transferring knowledge between old and new members.
It’s obvious that ISC VUT Brno takes care of its members, so it’s no surprise they organise team buildings, workshops and other activities for their members regularly. They have three days team buildings for all of their members, as well as Board team buildings. Alumni usually hold workshops for new members in order to educate them about the structure, projects and everything else related to ESN. With regular section meetings, they also organise Buddy meetings where they educate new members about the Buddy programme and how to easily solve typical situations or problems exchange students have.
When it comes to activities organised for exchange students, they rock at various sports activities such as ice skating, skiing, tennis and volleyball, as well as cultural activities such as movie nights, board games and karaoke. Every Tuesday they organise Presentation of Nations where 2-3 groups of exchange students present the countries they come from. Afterwards, they organise a thematic party. Quiz Nights are a regular occurrence at ISC VUT Brno as well, where they test the participants' knowledge in various thematic areas.
“These events promote team spirit, closer acquaintance, but also to deepen knowledge.”
They also organise lots of events and trips, some of them even on regular basis. They divide them into two categories, small or one-day trips and large trips which can last up to several days. Small trips include travel to the nearby locations, while large trips include cross-country travel.
They organise some trips and events in cooperation with other sections from Brno, better known under the name ESN Brno United cooperation. The cooperation includes events such as International Ball, Erasmus Cup, Flag Parade and interesting themed parties. All these events and activities are possible due to the section’s good relations with University and Municipality, as well as an extremely successful distribution of ESNcards.
They’re also very into the projects of ESN International. They organise activities such as Dinner in the Dark and Sign Language as a part of ExchangeAbility project, and they often organise Erasmus in Schools under SocialErasmus. They organise one unique activity called “Drink Beer, Save Cats” where they collect returnable bottles from exchange students and from the money they receive in return, they buy food for cats from Cat Shelter in Brno.
Although the section supports all international projects of ESN, they have especially fuzzy feelings towards Mov’in Europe.
“Main goals are to show the local students that studying in a foreign country is not as hard as they might think, to increase the interest for mobility and to entice cultural understanding by organising meetings for local and exchange students.”
By attending the events, local students have a chance to hear lectures from university employees, former exchange students and find internship opportunities abroad. This year, their plan is to organise the same event together with all sections from Brno, meant for all university and high school students from Brno. Talking about aiming high, huh?
However, this isn’t the only way for them to include local community in their activities. Twice a week, they organise an event called “Run for Friendship” which aims to create a bond between local and international students through sports. Also, they organise a BBQ for approximately 400 local students twice a year, during the summer and before the winter semester.
ISC VUT Brno is very active on the national and international level of the network - they find it’s very important for their members to stay aware of what’s going on in the world of ESN.
When asked what makes their section unique, they answer: team spirit! After every meeting, they go to a pub where they chat about everything related and not related to ESN.
Well, there’s definitely a thing or two all of us can learn from this lively section!
Written by Tajana Mohnacki
2018 may have only just begun, but this section has already achieved a major breakthrough! Although it will turn only four this May, its members’ impressive achievements ooze effort, experience, commitment and excellence. And that is why the Section in the Spotlight for February 2018 is – ESN ASE Bucharest!
ESN ASE Bucharest was officially registered on the 24th of May 2014 at the Bucharest University of Economic Studies after it was formally approved as a section, which is when they celebrate their birthday. Ever since, it has grown to have ninety volunteers, forty active members and fifty buddies in their Buddy Team. Their activities are coordinated by the Local Board, comprised of a President, Local Representative, Vice-President, Vice-President for Marketing and PR, Treasurer, and Secretary, who are supported by two members each: ESNbuddy Coordinator and Alumni Coordinator, who support the VP; Copywriter and Visuals Responsible, who support the VP for Marketing and PR; ESNcard Coordinator and Partnership Manager, who support the Treasurer; two Events-planning Coordinators, who are supervised by the Secretary; two Project-management Coordinators, who are supervised by the LR and who take care of the implementation of SocialErasmus, Mov’in Europe and ExchangeAbility.
ESN ASE Bucharest has two recruitment processes each year, one in August and another one in February. Their last recruitment proved to be particularly successful, following an extensive online campaign, resulting in 65 applications and 32 new members. The section cultivates their team spirit carefully:
“If there’s something we have learned from the previous years, it’s that volunteers play a major role in the development of the section. Therefore, we try to motivate them by constantly organising events for them.” - say members of the section.
The most important event happens during the induction days which are usually held two weeks after recruitment. Over a period of two days, volunteers get better acquainted with the section and ESN in general by attending presentations on topics relevant to ESN ASE Bucharest, such as their identity, activities, events, projects, opportunities within the organisation and so on. This is also a good opportunity for them to get to know other volunteers and moreover, the ‘family’ they are going to be part of.
They usually have two meetings per month with all the volunteers and a couple of team building sessions throughout the semester – social games, board games, cooking, etc. They also award the volunteer of the month for his or her activity during the past month - they give them a certificate and a small gift for their involvement. They work very hard to enable their volunteers with opportunities to develop their skills, so sometimes they bring speakers to teach their members, for example, how to speak in front of big crowds or perform first aid.
This big family is always open to making new friends from other sections in their city - they organise team buildings for volunteers not only from their section but also for the ones from other sections in Bucharest. They often organise joint events for Erasmus students in their city which sometimes requires they have regular informal meetings in cafes, pubs or other places.
ESN ASE Bucharest also organises a wide range of events for their international students.
“Since most of our section members already went on an Erasmus+ mobility, we are aware of how important it is to organise as many interesting activities as possible for our incoming students.“
They organise different types of events, such as: Welcome Weeks, which usually include: an introductory session; Buddy meetings; Traditional Dinners; parties each Thursday or Friday together with ESN UniBuc and the candidate section ESN Politehnica Bucharest; entertainment events, such as Laser Tag, Escape Rooms, Urban Pool, bowling, board games, treasure hunt etc.; and trips, for example the trip to Mogosoaia each semester, Halloween in Transylvania (their National Event), Winter Trip, Ski Trip, and Escape to Vama Veche (another one of their National Events). In the past year, they have managed to organise over ninety-five events.
Among those, there are events not so strictly related to either ESN or Erasmus but aimed at other students and the local community. They organise meetings at different faculties where students who would like to go abroad can meet former Erasmus students and find out about their experiences in a different country and ask them for advice. This is also a good opportunity for them to find out about ESN ASE Bucharest since many of them want to join the section once they come back from their mobility period.
Thanks to their work, dedication and creativity, they have managed to attract several very valuable partners and sponsors. They have a strong partnership with their municipality in terms of promotion materials – printed bags, booklets, t-shirts, badges and other materials – for the Welcome Days and for other events such as National Platforms, Local Board Meetings, etc.
When it comes to sponsorships, Accenture has been helping them financially in the past years, especially for their ‘GoInternational’ project (Mov’in Europe), dedicated to outgoing Erasmus students. In June 2016, the section applied for the ‘Go Social with ESAA’ grants and received €700 for the project called ‘Go Green! Go Clean!’. Moreover, in 2017 they had a lot of sponsors such as Red Bull, LovePlus, Lipton, Corso and others which offered them materials for national and internal events.
Their ideas don’t end there. What’s next for them is the implementation of a brand new original flagship project, ESN Romania’s new national event - Erasmus LAN Party. The aim of this event is to offer Erasmus students from all over the country the opportunity to satisfy their need for playing video games on PC, PlayStation and board games. Erasmus students can challenge their friends to play games outside the competition as well, just for fun.
ESN ASE Bucharest has members in every Committee except for the IT Committee and has sent many of them to ESN international events. Some of them have also been part of the OC of two of the biggest national events in their country, Escape to Vama Veche and Halloween in Transylvania, and will participate in the organisation of the national event Erasmus LAN Party.
What makes ESN ASE Bucharest unique?
“Someone who all other sections are always interested in, especially during national and international events: Parizaki – our mascot! Parizaki comes from far far away, from a distant Erasmus land, with a purpose to protect Erasmus students. He comes with us to all major events. When we take Parizaki to events we have to pay attention because he’s a very desirable mascot and he has already been kidnapped a couple of times – he always finds his way back to us, though.”
Every Erasmus+ student in Bucharest knows Parizaki, as he has his own Facebook profile and can get friend requests. You can add him too, he is always happy to make new friends!
Their hard work, dedication and imaginative nature, especially when it comes to organising events, has rightfully deserved ESN ASE Bucharest the title of the Section in the Spotlight. Behind that success hides a team that is strong, open-minded and open-hearted. Do you feel like joining them on Escape to Vama Veche or Halloween in Transylvania yet?
All photo credits: ESN ASE Bucharest