Erasmus: learning and knowing more, especially about oneself

Since the year 1987, when 3,244 students headed to different European universities to study abroad, the number of Erasmus programs have been growing non-stop.

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Since the year 1987, when 3,244 students headed to different European universities to study abroad, the number of Erasmus programs have been growing non-stop so much that, over the last couple years, private entities have joined this project with initiatives such as the Santander Erasmus Scholarships, which are promoted by Banco Santander, starting its second edition in this course.

At one time when mobility was accessible only by a few people, Erasmo of Rotterdam paid a visit to several European Universities and defended education as a priority for the development of modern society. Therefore, when the European Union resolved to start a program in the late 80s that let young people study, be trained and get experience abroad, logically the name of this Dutch humanist and theologian inspired the name of the popular program Erasmus.

After 27 years connecting Europe, Erasmus+ was started in 2014, the European Program of Education, Training, Youth and Sport for the period 2014-2020. Over all these years, more than 4 million people (including students, professors, teachers, trainers, educators and workers in the youth field) have had the possibility of moving across Europe in order to boost their training and promote their working perspectives and personal development. 14,700 million euros, around 2 million students, around 25,000 strategic associations and more than 150 alliances for knowledge established by 1,500 institutions of higher education and companies, are some of the figures that show the magnitude of this program.

Over its 32 years of experience, different private entities have been showing their interest in a program which has become one of the pillars of higher education in Europe. Banco Santander is one of them. Two years ago, the entity presided over by Ana Botín resolved to start Santander Erasmus Scholarships mainly aimed at promoting the equality of opportunities and inclusion, besides recognizing the academic excellence of students because, for the Executive Chairman of the Group, “This program is a clear example of promoting the equality of opportunities and academic excellence, because excellence should be inclusive and contribute to the general interest and equity”.

The second edition of the program counts on the support of the Ministry of Economy, Innovation and Universities and CRUE Spanish Universities, and it will be financed by almost 2 million euros to grant 5,152 scholarships and aid of 3,200, 500 and 150 euros. To select the students who will be granted with the scholarships of the largest amounts, which imply 25% of the funds of the program, the universities should value the academic record and the situations of vulnerability, taking into account belonging to underprivileged communities or a recognized disability of more than 33%. Concerning the scholarships of 500 euros and the aid of 150 euros, the criteria is based on the academic background, but the centers will give priority to the students in situations of vulnerability.

Open the mind to new experiences

For several months, Alejandro Villaluenga belongs to the big family Erasmus. From the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, this young man will stay until early February in the Italian city of Bologna, where he attends his fourth year of Law. He has been one of the beneficiaries of the program boosted by Banco Santander for the course 2019/2020.

Being sure that the Erasmus stage can be one of the most grateful experiences for a student, Alejandro always was clear about living a similar experience abroad, “because it opens your mind towards other points of view, showing a vision different to what you get used, not only about the academic field, but also the social one”, he said by phone from this city located at the north of Italy, where you can breathe the university life in every corner. An idea that accompanied him since, while in the Secondary School where attended A levels, he wrote close to his desk the sentence “Open mind for a different view”.

This young man from Madrid selected Bologna following the steps of his father, who also studied in the Italian city thanks to Erasmus, besides “In my family there has always been a really close relationship with Italy, where we travel a lot”. As a typical university city, Bologna counts on a very international university where young people from all over the world study, “and it is really rewarding”, Alejandro states, who lives in student housing where most of them are from Italy. In this regard, he explains that although there are not many ways of living Erasmus as individuals, basically there are two options: you can go only together with your peers from your country or leave your comfort zone, meet people from all the world, learn a different language and live as the people of the country where you are living, in this case, Italians”. Alejandro opted for the second option and he says that he would do it again.

For Ana Botín, Executive Chairman of Banco Santander, “Europe is more inclusive and stronger with programs such as Erasmus+”. A statement that Alejandro extrapolates to his personal situation because, thanks to the experience he is living, “I got more independence, became more determined in facing typical problems when you are in an unknown environment and, in short, I learned that every goal I reach is a way of gaining self-esteem”. That’s the way he encourages other young people not to think twice and to live an adventure that, besides making them grow in the academic field, it will help them know new cultures, people and ways of life, but especially “to get to know yourself”.

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