At the UK National Agency we are very interested in hearing how your project is progressing, and want to help share your experiences along the way! Taking part in an Erasmus+ project can be a life changing experience, not only for developing professional, education and employability skills but the building of new partnerships and relationships.
Ellen and Raquel shared their very special stories of taking part in Erasmus+ as part of our Valentine’s Day feature in the February Erasmus+ e-newsletter. A European Commission impact study showed that young people who study or train abroad not only have better career prospects, they are also more likely to have transnational relationships. In fact, one in every four former Erasmus students met their long-term partner this way!
"A truly colourful and international life, all thanks to Erasmus..." Ellen Wichmann, Policy Officer in the International Higher Education Team, Scottish Government
Ellen did her Erasmus exchange in 2005, going from Dundee to Aalborg, Denmark. She explained: “One of the boys in my class had a tendency to stare at me. Our lecturer put us into the same discussion group where we disagreed on just about everything. At the end of the semester, this boy emailed, inviting me to his home in Georgia. Naturally, I politely declined. But he was persistent and I’m adventurous, so I booked a flight and went.
“He showed me an ancient monastery hidden in the Caucasus mountains and I fell in love with him right there. We got engaged that summer and married the following year. We have been together almost 10 years and have two beautiful children. We’ve lived in Georgia on and off ever since. A truly colourful and international life, all thanks to Erasmus which can be, and often is, completely life-changing.”
"... a circle of friends across the world, and I found love" Raquel Rodrigues Keenan, Community Engagement Officer South West, Volunteer Now
European Voluntary Service, (EVS), led Raquel from her home in Portugal to Northern Ireland when she took a year out from her job as a newspaper journalist to volunteer in Luxembourg. Raquel says: “This was a wonderful year when I made friends for life, learned about other countries and cultures, tried different food, but above all I met Conor from Northern Ireland, another volunteer, who is now my husband!”
After their placements finished they kept in touch before realising their relationship was serious. Raquel then decided to make the move to Northern Ireland. Raquel adds: “Volunteering changed my life for the better! I now have two homes and two families, a new outlook in life that is more positive and resilient, a circle of friends across the world, and I found love.”
Conor Keenan, Raquel’s husband, describes his decision to take part in EVS as “the best decision I ever made”. He said: “I used my experience with EVS to get into the culture and heritage sector when I returned. My personal life too took a turn for the unexpected when I fell in love with one of my fellow volunteers. We are going strong almost seven years later, married with a house, a lovely wee dog, and a great gratitude for our decision to volunteer internationally.”