The three-day seminar (Ex)Change Your Lives was held from November 22nd to November 24th in the European Youth Capital for 2019, Novi Sad. Over 40 participants gathered in Serbia from various cities to discuss the inclusivity of students with disabilities in exchange programs as well as empowering volunteers of the Erasmus Student Network. At a time of transition to a program country, support for volunteers is not only crucial in providing support to incoming students, but also to outgoing students who are facing an entirely new set of problems. Engaging in discussions about student mobility in the framework of social inclusion was the focus in a series of discussions, workshops, and small sessions all dedicated to educating the participants on topics such as mobility, education, volunteering, inclusivity etc.
Apart from the support from ESAA, the project was supported by crucial stakeholders including the University of Novi Sad through the Faculty of Philosophy and the Faculty of Natural Sciences, as well as Erasmus Student Network Serbia , European Youth Capital for 2019 (OPENS 2019 – Omladinska prestonica Evrope Novi Sad), and the organic healthy snack company Basket .
Due to the sensitivity of topic, the seminar reached a fairly high number of people and participants. The Facebook event reached 1938 people with 70 responses, while Instagram proved views by 400 accounts on average and 1726 accounts in total. The panel discussion was livestreamed on ESN Serbia’s Facebook page and a group with people who were interested but unable to join due to a limited number of spots.
Through the engagement of youth in different aspects of the project, we have managed to begin a long and somewhat painful discussion about the current state of matters regarding student mobility, e.g. in Serbia there is a lack of financial resources to support exchange students, especially students who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.
The seminar provided a safe environment to begin the discussion about which steps are needed to improve student mobility as well as to strengthen capacities of volunteers to individually promote the Erasmus+ programme. The cultural aspect of the entire event provided the participants with bonding time which made communication easier throughout the event. The outcomes for now are only a small fraction of what ESN Novi Sad and ESAA could do to help all students in Serbia to reach their full potential with the help of mobility programmes regardless of their background.