The ESAA General and Working Group Meeting was held in the beautiful city of Warsaw, Poland, from 13th to 16th October 2016. ESAA members from the four associations (Oceans Network, Erasmus Student Network, GaragErasmus and Erasmus Mundus Association) travelled from all around the world to gather together and constructively discuss ESAA’s main achievements during 2016, the biggest challenges we had to face and to make strategic plans for 2017.
During the introductory speech, ESAA members were addressed by Adrian Veale from the Directorate General for Education and Culture of the European Commission. Veale acknowledged and encouraged the voluntary commitment of ESAA’s members, and praised the expertise and knowledge throughout the umbrella organisation, internally and externally. Not any less importantly, together with other institutional representatives, Veale referred to the Erasmus+ programme as one of the most salient European success stories and acknowledged its fundamental role in these challenging times, shaping Europe’s new narrative based on high quality education and common values.
Some of the main topics discussed by Veale and other representatives of the European Commission with the participants were precisely related to the plans and expectations for next year’s celebration of the Erasmus+ programme’s 30th birthday, which will include a series of activities in which ESAA will be also very much involved.
During the different Working Group (WG) meetings the new members of each WG were introduced and the series of activities developed by each WG during 2016 were presented. From their very particular front, each WG set the working plan for 2017. The working plan will focus on promoting the achievements of the Erasmus+ programme during its 30th anniversary and on sharing its benefits with those students and young professionals who have not had yet the opportunity to experience it.
Apart from that, ESAA members had the time to exchange ideas and points of view on some of the main economic, political and social issues currently faced by Europe and the rest of the international community; e.g. the role of Erasmus+ in tackling crisis in the European Union; the potential influence of Brexit and other international events on international student mobility; and the need to develop sustainable and future proof mobility programmes for both students and alumni. The meeting had plenty of emotional moments. The first one was when two members of ESAA were awarded for their outstanding performance and concrete achievements on the WG that they efficiently lead. Marcela Chávez Ocampo (Communication WG from Erasmus Mundus Association) and Velimir Tasic (Professional Development WG from GaragErasmus) received a highly deserved standing ovation for their strong commitment to ESAA and its overall vision. When receiving her award online from Mexico City, Marcela, on the one hand, highlighted the role of volunteers in the development of ESAA and the importance of volunteering itself in order to contribute to the continuous advancement of society. Velimir on the other hand, who was physically present during the meeting, emphasized the importance that Erasmus+ has on shaping people’s lives through all the opportunities offered not only to people within the European Union but also beyond its geographical borders.
Another special moment was during the Gala Dinner when another standing ovation was offered to the Board members who concluded their collaboration term with ESAA this year. Pavan Sriram (EMA), Viviana Premazzi (gE), Leasa Weimer (EMA), Nicola Filizola (gE), Edlira Alku (EMA) and Neringa Tumenaite (ON), as well as Melania Lotti (ON), Emrah Karakaya (EMA), Stefan Jahnke (ESN) and Jonathan Jelves (ESN) (who unfortunately were not able to attend), were thanked for the tireless work and strong commitment to ESAA that they showed to have with ESAA and all the WGs they continously worked with during the year.
At the end of the weekend, participants were exhausted but extremely satisfied with the productive days that they had spent in Warsaw. The tight schedule did not hinder the participants from finding the moments to laugh together, to exchange both professional and personal experiences, and to generally strengthen the climate of solidarity and collaboration that is steadily growing among the collaborators from all the four associations under the big ESAA umbrella.