Going home

For most students the Christmas holiday is a halfway point, but for many Erasmus students it is the end of the road. They are going home. At the lxESN party three Erasmus students look back. ‘The atmosphere here is very open-minded.'

The EU’s Erasmus programme was set up to promote Europeanwide interaction by offering students and teachers grants to spend some time in another European country. The EU’s aim is to promote a sense of ‘European citizenship’. In others words, the feeling that you are a European. As well as of course stimulating personal development, language skills, intercultural cooperation and improved chances on the labour market. But the Erasmus programme has a reputation for partying. Students are thought to go abroad primarily in order to let the good times roll. True? ‘Noooo!’ say Cyril (from France), Camille (France) and Ema (Slovakia) with one accord. ‘In Spain, yes, there you can party a lot’, they assert, ‘but in Wageningen you really have to study to get your points.’ All three students expect to pass their courses. But they are not averse to a party, of course. Ema: ‘Erasmus students can combine partying with studying very well.’ They are particularly enthusiastic about lxESN activities. Not just the parties, but the potluck dinners to which everyone brings a dish from their home country. And the excursions to get to know the Netherlands and its neighbouring countries get full marks too. Because all these activities help the students to get to know each other and to feel at home. Cyril: ‘Just as I am used to in France, the Erasmus students form a close-knit group in which everyone knows everyone else.’

Open to criticism

For these three students, a stay in Wageningen also meant getting to know another education system. Ema is very satisfied with Dutch education. ‘It is better, more intensive, to have courses that last for short periods instead of for long semesters.’ He also thinks it’s extraordinary that the teachers are open to criticism. ‘In Slovakia that is unthinkable. Professors there are more old-fashioned, and are very proud of their title. Students don’t get any feedback on their projects, as they do here. I am happy to have been able to study here for four months.’

More European

In a couple of months you can get to know a town quite well. Camille really likes Wageningen and certainly wants to come back. She is sorry she has to leave now. ‘The atmosphere here is very open-minded and international. lxESN and other student societies make it dynamic. It is a small town but there is a lot to do, and there are a lot of concerts.’ The students feel that the Erasmus programme achieves its objectives. Ema: ‘I have met people from various countries. And then you find out that your prejudices are not quite right. The Finns are not so cold, and the French are not so proud or arrogant. I found the Dutch very open and helpful.’ Camille feels more European after this experience too. She thinks the differences between Europeans are small. ‘There are many similarities; we all look the same. Actually we are the same.’ Irene Boers

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