One year, two countries. Find out how far Erasmus+ took former higher education student Adwoa Acquah
Adwoa took part in Erasmus+ in 2009/10 while reading law at Kingston University in London, studying abroad in two countries, the Netherlands and Sweden. Adwoa is now an anti-money laundering Analyst for Clifford Chance in London. Here she talks about taking part, the impact it has had and her thoughts on ethnicity and Erasmus+.
"I took part in the programme because I saw it as an excellent opportunity to have an adventure, experience other cultures, meet new people and discover new things about myself as a person. I knew the experience would push me out of my comfort zone and this was exactly the experience I was seeking. From an academic perspective, the programme offered me the opportunity to learn about legal systems of other jurisdictions and how law interacts with society in those countries.
Dreams become reality
During the process of applying for Erasmus+, I recall telling my friends about studying abroad and even asked them to take part with me. I saw it as an opportunity to have an adventure but my friends saw it as plain crazy. It didn’t bother me because, even as a young child, I had always said I wanted to travel the world when I was older. Erasmus+ was an opportunity to make my dream become reality and to unleash my inner passion for adventures.
Erasmus+ and ethnicity
On my first induction day in Sweden, I could not help but notice that I was one of the handful of students from an African-Caribbean descent. I saw no more than ten students in the crowd out of 2,000 or more who were from the same ethnic group as me. In the Netherlands I also noticed the predominance of white students and the lack of minority groups, especially of Black African-Caribbean decent. In my class and also during most social gatherings I was the only black African.
During my year in both countries, however, there was never an occasion where I felt as though I was being excluded by the staff, people in my class or my neighbours because of my ethnicity. Everyone I met was very warm, friendly and welcoming. I think this is the beauty of the Erasmus+ spirit. I went on the Erasmus+ programme with the mind-set of experiencing other cultures, meeting new people and learning new things about myself.
I was able to share some of the best memories of my life that I will cherish forever, with people from all over the world and from different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. I feel like I have made life-long friends and have shared one of the most amazing and life-changing experiences with these fun people.
Life after Erasmus+
Like most of the other participants in Erasmus+, I found the programme to be a life-changing experience - academically, personally and socially. I returned home confident, highly motivated, open-minded and more adventurous than ever and gained skills and experiences to enhance my CV. In addition, I feel like I have built friendships for life and gained a fresh perspective on the world and other cultures.
Participating in the programme certainly influenced my decision to pursue a Master’s in Public International Law with specialisation in International Human Rights. With the international exposure that I had, I wanted to study something which was exciting yet dealt with issues at the forefront of public debates such as the legality of the use of force and the scope of human rights protection. I returned to the Netherlands to do my Masters because of the positive experience I had there during my Erasmus+ programme. Following my Masters studies, I secured an internship with the United Nations where I worked with The United Nations Human Rights Council, which is the body responsible for promoting and protecting human rights around the world. During this time, I had the pleasure to have a one-to-one meeting with the then High Commissioner of Human Rights, Navi Pillay.
I would strongly urge students and staff to choose to take part in Erasmus+. I promise you, taking part will be utterly rewarding and one of the most unforgettable times of your life. Erasmus+ is definitely an opportunity not to miss!
In an interconnected world, the Erasmus+ programme is so crucial. It opens doors of opportunities for those who are open minded and have a sense of curiosity about the world around them. For me, the programme gave me a life experience that I look back on with pride and that serves as a source of confidence for me as it defines what I can achieve when I set my mind on something. Not to mention the amazing people I have met and the opportunities I would not have otherwise had experienced. I hope I will be able to benefit my community and sphere of influence with the skills and lessons learnt so far."
Adwoa is one of the participants featured in our Shaping Futures exhibition. To read more inspiring stories like hers, take a look at our Shaping Futures webpage.