Virginia is a true mobile citizen having participated in Erasmus+ in several different countries
She took part in Erasmus in her third year at university in 2010/11 when she went to Spain and Italy. She now runs a successful blog suitably entitled the 'well-travelled postcard' and is currently in the middle of a two-year Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's degree. Virginia, pictured below, tells us more about her experience and the impact it has had on her life and career so far.
Postcard from Spain and Italy
"During my Bachelor's in Spanish, Italian and Portuguese at the University of Exeter, I spent a year abroad that I split between studying at the University of Córdoba in Spain and on a work placement at Giorgio Armani Operations in Modena, Italy. What an incredible year! As an Erasmus undergraduate studying in Spain I very much mingled with the other international students and expanded my network across the whole of Europe, while mastering my Spanish and also gaining new skills through a part-time job teaching English in a private academy.
My experience of working in Italy was very different and much more integrated into the local Italian lifestyle, as I was surrounded everyday by Italian colleagues, flat-mates and friends. My language skills developed towards fluency at a faster pace and I felt very much a part of the local community. The skills I gained during the six-month work placement at the Modena office of Giorgio Armani were also very useful for future job applications and interviews, and it turned out to be essential for the graduate scheme at O2 that I began after university.
Erasmus+ was undoubtedly one of the best decisions of my life and has opened so many doors and opportunities to me. I’d never have got to where I am today in my career and my travels if I hadn’t done Erasmus+! In fact I loved my first Erasmus experience so much, that I’m even doing it all over again with an Erasmus Mundus Joint Master’s degree - a true example of how life-changing it can be!
Postcards from the Netherlands and Sweden
During the first half of my Erasmus Mundus Joint Master's degree in European Society, Politics and Culture, I studied in both the Netherlands and Sweden, although this time the studies were conducted in English. I’ve been studying, researching and writing papers on contemporary issues in Europe, but I’ve also had additional opportunities, such as organising a conference on fake news, an interactive workshop on EU foreign policy and a summer school on illicit trade, as well as attending meetings with lobby groups and cultural institutions in Brussels and meeting people working in the European institutions.
Erasmus Mundus – a new perspective
As the course is designed specifically with mobility around the consortium's eight universities in mind, it's a very enriching and academically challenging programme that unites students, lecturers and academics from various cultures and countries and provides access to a very broad range of perspectives, enabling us to tackle our subject from new angles. I've been very impressed by the standard of the Dutch and Swedish education systems and I think that Erasmus Mundus is an ideal platform to encourage students across Europe and the world to learn from one another's experiences.
Standing out from the crowd
An Erasmus year abroad was a compulsory part of my Bachelor’s degree, as I studied languages, but it was also one of the main reasons I was attracted to a degree in languages in the first place, as I wanted to gain experience of living abroad and gain skills that would help me stand out from the crowd. I specifically wanted to try both studying and working abroad to get the best of both worlds, and also to ensure I had some decent work experience on my CV ahead of graduating.
The benefit of my Erasmus experience became evident just one year later when I succeeded in getting into a two-year European Leadership Graduate Programme at O2 (a subsidiary of Telefonica), which required all candidates to speak a foreign language fluently and to have professional work experience abroad - two things which Erasmus had given me! That opportunity really launched my career, enabling me to access the professional opportunities of a large multinational like Telefonica. It allowed me to travel all over Europe, even to South Africa, and to work abroad again in Spain for six months on an international assignment with Telefonica, making use of my languages and experiences gained through Erasmus.
The Erasmus entrepreneurial spirit
Another result of my Erasmus experiences in Spain and Italy was that in 2012 I started a travel blog called the well-travelled postcard in order to write about everything I’d learned while living abroad. The blog swiftly grew and developed into a really successful project, which eventually saw me collaborating with travel companies and tourist boards all over the world. I have been invited to visit destinations, write reviews and experience parts of the world that I’d never dreamed of visiting. Erasmus was my original motive for starting the blog - which has opened so many doors and incredible opportunities for me!
Confidence to continue
Having had such a positive experience with Erasmus during my Bachelors, when I decided some four years later that I wanted to do a Master’s degree, I was very open to the idea of studying abroad again. Had I not taken part in Erasmus previously, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence or enthusiasm to embark on a two-year Master’s with such a lot of mobility. I am absolutely thrilled with my Master’s programme and the opportunity that I have to live in so many different countries once again. It’s been another excellent decision!
Bridging the cultural divide
Wherever I travel and live around Europe during my Master’s now, I always meet other young people who have also participated in Erasmus+. That shared experience really helps to form a mutual bond and bridge any sort of cultural difference. I’ve also met up with lots of the friends I made during my Erasmus year and it’s amazing to see where everyone has ended up and where we bump into each other.
Giving something back
Having experienced Erasmus and got into my graduate scheme after university as a direct result of it, I became really interested in encouraging young people in the UK to develop their intercultural skills, through learning languages, travelling and taking part in Erasmus+. This lead me to contribute to several different campaigns such as the Language Launchpad project, produced by GlobalGraduate and the European Commission, and to giving talks in schools and universities about the benefits of an Erasmus+ year and of learning languages. I was also selected to attend the annual global One Young World summits in Johannesburg and Dublin as a representative of Telefonica, based on my project to encourage intercultural skills in the UK. It’s something I feel passionately about, and I feel that Erasmus+ has given me a platform and the real-life experience to be able to talk about the importance of these skills and hopefully inspire young people to make the most of opportunities like Erasmus+."
Virginia's Erasmus+ 30th anniversary message
It’s amazing to be part of this community of young Europeans that have experienced living, studying and working in another country over the last 30 years with Erasmus+, and I only wish that more young people in Britain knew how fantastic Erasmus+ is and made the most of this opportunity!
You can follow Virginia on the well-travelled postcard blog to inspire you to get mobile!