Curious how other students experienced volunteering on an exchange? Not sure how this would take place in practice? We collected some testimonies from students who invested their time to take part in volunteering actions during their exchange period.

The campaign "Leave your mark, volunteer on exchange" points out the different benefits the Erasmus+ programme can have on exchange students as well as on local communities. The focal point is the social impact of the Erasmus+ programme, highlighting benefits not directly related to a persons academics progress or employability opportunities. The indirect aim of the Erasmus programme is to create a new Generation of Europeans that have a better mutual understanding and intercultural awareness of citizens with a different background.

With more than 4.4 million higher education students have taken part in the Erasmus+ programme, it is one of the most successful initiatives of the European Union. The Erasmus+ programme has been developed to create a young generation whose cultural identity transcends traditional cultural divisions, who carry memories and values within themselves that originate from all corners of the European continent.

  

“We always talk about the importance of volunteering and I am happy to have taken a step forward and actually tried it on my own! It was fun and surprisingly easy to spend some time with locals, especially seeing there was a team of people involved and everyone believed in the importance of what we were trying to do. I felt more present, volunteering reminds me of the immediate issues I can address and shifts my focus from the big, daring dreams to the small, daily steps I can take to make the dream come true.” - Timka

  

"Erasmus in Schools experience was an amazing opportunity to meet local students, to learn a lot about their culture and to be able to share with them about my own country. It gave us the chance to explain in plain and simple words how great is to go abroad for studying or for an internship and to motivate young people to keep on moving around Europe (and the world). We shared curiosity and laughs, and I personally think that's the key of promoting mobility as a lifestyle. Becoming a volunteer in another country made me feel like I was contributing to that country, that population, that culture. It's the best way of learning more and adapting more when you are abroad." -Sira

   

“The volunteering was the most exciting part of my exchange year, because it gave me the chance to meet and interact with interesting people from different generations and cultures. I felt that I was easily integrated into the community. It offered me many new impressions on the cultural and social system in France, and I was able to improve my social skills. All of these experiences will help me in my future career as a teacher.” - Robin

  

"With volunteering, the wonder is right behind the corner. The pupils in Thessaloniki and their teachers supported us to make the activities lovely engaging because those kids made the difference: they were the embodiment of curiosity! Even after years of volunteering, you understand why you're still in love with it, and reaffirms what you always knew, but thanks to ESN is everyday clearer: Europe is our continent which cultivates hopes and peace, and there is much more room for cultural understanding than hate and division." - Alberto

  

"Erasmus in Schools was an unforgettable experience. The kids made a big impression on me by welcoming us even from our first steps at the gate. The kids in the two classes I had the chance to take part in were very curious and excited in exploring different countries. In the end, I got a lot of "loving letters" from the kids which made this experience so touchy. Coming to Thessaloniki would be just an experience of travelling. But through volunteering, I felt like I become a part of the city, with the local community. Volunteering definitely has become more meaningful to me since I saw myself in a different place, with different volunteers but we were doing the same thing: bringing happiness to others." - Hana

"Although I have been volunteering for some years already, up until now, I have never worked with young children. Despite the language barrier, there was no problem in communication.  These children are pure to the core and so innocent. In just a few moments I learnt so much about them and about myself. Every one of them had a unique background which made this experience even more enriching. Giving back to the local community is a great way to meet and help people while discovering their personal stories. Volunteering changes you forever and I am so happy because of it." - Michal

In the framework of the SocialErasmus+ project, with a focus on the learning experience of international students during their volunteering activity and internationalisation at home for local students, Erasmus students have opportunities to hold classes on various topics at local schools during Erasmus in Schools visits. Through their engagement, students enrich their curricula, gain competences and learn how one can contribute to the improvement of society as European citizens.

The Erasmus Student Network gathers more than 19,100 international students per year who engage with more than 40,800 members of their local communities with the help of 2,400 ESN volunteer coordinators. Erasmus Student Network (ESN) is the biggest student association in Europe. Present at over 1000 Higher Education Institutions, it unites over 500 local associations in 39 countries. More than 15,000 volunteers take care of international colleagues under the motto “Students helping students”. ESN works for the creation of a more mobile and flexible education environment by supporting and developing the student exchange from different levels and providing an intercultural experience.