"Erasmus and investment in worst-hit countries at risk, warns Lamassoure" (European Parliament)
"Erasmus est-il menacé par les restrictions budgetaires?" (Le Monde)
These are only a few examples of the articles that were being passed around between my friends on Facebook a few weeks ago. Captions usually read "Nooooo!" or ":-((((((".
This is not the part where I warm everyone's heart with a plea to please please keep Erasumus going. Do I believe this programme promotes the ever-elusive "sense of Europeanness" that is much like love or a bad stomach ache (intangible but unmistakably present). Yes. Do I think it's great that non-Member States equally participate in the programme? Yes. Do I believe that in these times, some people who are unemployed see this programme as frivolous and an added bonus on top of higher education, which can sometimes already be considered a luxury itself? Yes. Do I believe cutting back on the Erasmus budget will be the long-sought after answer to end the crisis? No. Am I being influenced by the fact that the programme was founded in 1987 and that just so happens to be my birth year and it is possibly the single coolest thing that happened that year? Probably. I am at war with myself.
Personally, I never took part in the Erasmus programme. Displaying once more my well-known lack of moderation for fun things, I packed my bags for two years. Well, two years minus four months, because of the internship: time well-spent in this exact unit. And minus Christmas, because come on: it's Christmas. And even though I now only speak enough Swedish to get myself in and out of trouble, those two years have taught me a lot. During the first year, I lived in a corridor with several other people from all around the world: Malaysia, France, the US. One of my corridor-mates was a born and raised Texan, who proudly delighted us with stories about how him and his friends got together on weekends to get drunk in bars and hate on everything that was different. I asked him why he came to study in Sweden, not particularly known for its conservatism. "Looks good on my cv," was the answer. Poor Brian, he tried so hard to fight our liberal ways :-)
Slowly but surely, though, he started to let us in. High point was the Thanksgiving dinner he organised, which I helped drink. I mean cook.
"Have you ever done this before, Brian?"
– "I've been watching Youtube video's all day. We'll be fine."
I borrowed his flannel shirts, he taught me the rules to beerpong and called me "little sis". When we said goodbye he said that he was worried that he was going to get sucked back in. I didn't ask "into what?" because I kind of knew what he meant, so I printed this picture, to make sure he would remember how rich he was now.
Now, I'm one of the lucky few who gets to go into work the following months knowing that I can talk with people from all around Europe, or even the world. People who don't give me weird looks when I tell them I don't plan on staying in Belgium my whole life. I guess in this discussion that's pretty much what it comes down to for me: more openness, less weird looks. And more flannel.