Intern Europe Newsletter for MOBGAE
30th October 2015
Erasmus+ Programme – a UK perspective
By Madeline Blackburn
I recently had the pleasure of disseminating the MOBGAE research to a class of 17 and 18 year olds at Hayesfield Girls’ Sixth Form College in Bath in the UK. The students were attentive and I began by asking the following questions:
‘Who speaks a foreign language?’ None of them.
‘Who has considered going to university outside the UK?’ None of them.
‘Who has considered work experience outside the UK?’ Great! Two of them! ‘Where are you planning to go?’ Both of them – the US.
‘OK, who has heard of the Erasmus+ programme?’ None of them.
‘The teacher?’ No.
As amazing as it seems, it is honestly not uncommon to speak to students and teachers in the UK, whether at VET college or university, and find that they have never heard of the Erasmus programme. How can this be after nearly 30 years of mobilities?
Is it because UK students aren’t interested? When I spoke to this group I experienced the same reaction as I have in the past; amazement, enthusiasm and an opening of minds. The pupils at Hayesfield were straight on to the MOBGAE website reading stories, trying to find out how they could get work experience and fully engaged in the prospect of going overseas. So the interest is definitely there from young people.
What about the teachers? Are they not interested? I did a small survey of local VET colleges about 18 months ago, and rang round about 8 of them to see if they knew about Erasmus+. Most of them had never heard of it, some of them weren’t interested, but a couple went ahead with grant applications. For the first time, students from those colleges have undertaken their first international placements in 2015 and we can only hope that participant numbers will increase now that the colleges have cut their teeth on the first projects.
These pockets of interest hardly scratch the surface. The UK uses just a fraction of its Erasmus+ allocation, but where is the will and the determination to spread the Erasmus message to British stakeholders? It is a common complaint of business here that recruits out of college and university are not ‘work ready’, as they have little practical work experience and sometimes maturity levels are not all they might be. An international work placement is one way to grow up really quickly. Finding your way around a foreign city on public transport forces you to use every bit of common sense and initiative. Working with international colleagues gives a new perspective on Europe and future career possibilities.
The work of MOBGAE is only the beginning in the UK. We have to find a way to build a culture of international mobilities in our young people. It is only by doing this that we will open up the international world of work, study and volunteering to young Brits. Speed the revolution!
Northern Ireland Foundation
Name of organisation: Northern Ireland Foundation
Name of respondent: Allan Leonard
Name of intern: Krisztina Nagy
Role: Organisational Development Intern
Why did you offer an international internship?
The opportunity to hire an international intern arose from a global event in Belfast of the Forum for Cities in Transition project. An outcome was the recognition of the need for follow-up work, so funding was secured and we began to search for an intern.
Was it important that the intern came from Europe? If so, why?
It was useful to have a perspective from outside Northern Ireland. Due to the nature of local sensitivities, it was good to have someone from overseas who could lend their fresh eyes to the project. The Erasmus+ scheme was an excellent fit for the role.
What did the intern bring to your company? How has the company benefited from their work?
Krisztina has brought her university education and previous work experience, applying her knowledge and enthusiasm to explore a wide range of options to take this project forward — options that might not have been considered without her input. Her understanding of communication and organisational development has introduced new thinking in the company; the results are very valuable. The Forum is spread all over the world and is not a vertical hierarchy. Krisztina has provided research on global networks, and presented us options for further consideration.
We have benefitted greatly from her input. She is very intelligent and responsive to this particular environment. Krisztina is getting a good sense of the real world and how her work has a direct impact on our practices. She has proved to be a superlative candidate for the Forum for Cities in Transition, and we have actually extended her placement with us at the Northern Ireland Foundation.
engendered a feeling of European citizenship with colleagues?
Yes. We are already slightly biased, as we have had positive experiences with interns from Europe over the past five years. It’s very useful to have someone with an external perspective around. Krisztina has brought her own experiences of being subject to prejudice, and understands that stereotypes happen anywhere. The project that she is working on now is international in scope, and through the Erasmus programme, underlining the connections in Europe and beyond.
Would you recommend other companies to take on an international intern through the Erasmus+ programme?
Belfast Flash mob
Our journey to the flash mob started on March 30th with the creation of the Facebook event.
We invited all our friends via Facebook and all Intern Europe’s interns via e-mail. We were so excited about this project that we couldn’t wait to start.
A series of Skype interviews were scheduled with Madeline, who is responsible for the project at Intern Europe, in order to plan the event together. We discussed the different possible venues and finally agreed that the best would be Arthur Square next to “The Spirit of Belfast” monument next to Corn Market.
It is a central part of the city and on Saturday afternoon this area is particularly crowded and animated not only with young people but also with families and children who are going for a walk or for shopping.All of them represented the perfect audience for our dissemination “mission”.
After the creation of some flyers, we went around Belfast and handed them to shops and people on the street. Afterwards, we contacted a series of local newspapers, televisions and bloggers in order to advertise the flash mob online as well.
1st meeting 9th April – Maggie Mays, Belfast
We went for a delicious milkshake and for the first time we could discuss our initiative with young European students, interns and professionals. We first explained what a Flash Mob was and more importantly its purpose.
(You can find the report of the research here).
It turned out to be a great and inspiring meeting from which we gained great feedback about our ideas and also new outlooks and fresh points of view. Unfortunately, three of the participants were unable to be in Belfast on 9th May, which proved to be a challenge for us. Nevertheless, we came up with some original, new perspectives and started developing our project with enthusiasm.
We were very lucky because one of those smiling faces had already taken part in a flash mob as dancer in her hometown, and she is also a dancer; I am talking about Cristina, from Spain. She was in Belfast to improve her English and to do an internship. She helped with choreography even after her departure.
2nd meeting 16th April – Queens Students Union
During the second meeting, we welcomed some new members and talked about important issues such as the dress code, the music and the choreography. However, we still needed more volunteers!
One day we met the Belfast MET students and presented our project. The classroom was composed of 16 first year students enrolled in film and media studies. They seemed to be very enthusiastic and interested in this project and we invited them to take part in our third meeting.
3rd meeting 23rd April – Queens Students Union
Some of the Belfast MET guys came to our meeting at the Queen’s Students’ Union Bar and had a chat with us sipping a drink in a relaxed environment.
A few days later, we went to talk to the European Commission based in Belfast and to let us advertise the event by putting our posters on the main entrance window and they even gave us four European Union flags for the flash mob. Isn’t it great?
4th last meeting before the flash mob 7th May – Final Rehearsal at the Corn Market
We were a little bit sceptical about this last meeting since our plans seemed to be changed when the Belfast MET guys told us they couldn’t be there for the flash mob but, fortunately, new people joined and we could rehearse as expected. It was a very nice afternoon.
May 6th we got an article on the Belfast Vibe blog. Hooray!! Check it out
We designed and drew our “Happy Europe Day” t-shirts
One of our challenges was indeed to decide what to wear. At the beginning, we were supposed to receive some t-shirts and gadgets for the flash mob but because of shipping delay we were informed that the parcel wouldn’t be here on time. The first reaction was to ask ourselves:
“Seriously? Is it a conspiracy against us?”
But since we are persevering, we like challenges and as an old quote from the Coran says:
“If the mountain will not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must go to the mountain”
So, we decided to create the t-shirts ourselves and it was good “craic”, it was fun working together.
We drew the 12 stars of the EU flag on the front with the hashtags about the event provided by MOB G.A.E. (#MOVETOGROW #EUGO) and we wrote “Happy Europe Day” on the back.
We bought a helium canister and yellow balloons (like the stars on the EU flag) in order to share them with our audience and make the people more involved.
We explained our last minutes changes to the final team, we were a dozen of young European and international people.
EUROPE DAY – 9th May (finally) came…
The big day arrived! We met around 1PM and as expected the city center was lively.
The weather was good, the sun was shining up in the blue sky, covered from time to time by some scattered-fast-moving-fluffy-white clouds.
At Corn Market, a Scottish pipe band were filling the air with music and next to the monuments three guys were dancing with fire sticks to the rhythm of tribal music and catching people’s attention. We started with greeting children and adults on the street using our native languages and giving them our helium yellow balloons. The people, intrigued, followed us to the Spirit of Belfast, waiting for our moves.
We were split into two teams, one person per group stepped on the Spirit of Hope stone seat and greeted each other using different languages (French, Italian, Spanish and Dutch) after that one team turned in the direction of the audience and shouted the flash mob motto “MOVE TO LEARN, MOVE TO GROW, EU GO”, and showed the bright European flag. The second team did the same right after.
The others team members were holding the EU flags at the end after screaming EUGO we released the balloons.
After the flash mob people wanted to take pictures with us and seemed to be very attracted to the EU flags, so we couldn’t “disappear” as expected but we spent some time with our “fans” on the streets of Belfast since they wanted to know more about MOB GAE project.
At the end, even if the flash mob wasn’t the size or the type expected it was a big success. We had the chance to meet new friends and to spend some good time together. After the event, we went to grab a drink and we walked around proudly wearing our “Happy Europe Day” t-shirt!
For this reason big thank you goes to all the volunteers who made this possible, thank you for your patience and collaboration; they are Laurin (from Austria), Sarai and Cristina (from Spain) Dorothee, Maren and Elisabeth (from Germany), Valerie (from Belgium), Luigi (from Italy), Ruth F. and Ruth B. and Neil (from Northern Ireland) who took pics and videos.
Enjoy some pictures from the flash mob below and check out Intern Europe Facebook Page for more!!
Check out the video that was made by our ERASMUS students