SocialErasmus: a new dimension to international study

SocialErasmus: a new dimension to international study

The benefits of study abroad for students are widely known and not a new concept, however, students are increasingly looking for an additional, social component to augment their studies where they can develop their soft skills, their social awareness, and assist their local community. A new project developed by the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) offers new ways for international students to engage in social and volunteering activities during their time abroad.

SocialErasmus aims to enrich the Erasmus Programme by adding a social, charity and environmental aspect to the programme. This international project of ESN enables students to engage in social and volunteering activities, bringing them closer to the local communities they live in. The programme helps to promote a social attitude among international students and facilitates their social integration into the local community while exploring the added value that resides in the diversity in Europe.

An intercultural, inspirational project

SocialErasmus was established in 2008 by Justyna Adamiec and Magdalena Pawelczyk and in 2010 the project was awarded with a grant from the European Commission which has been used to professionalise the project and centralise the coordination of the project. With SocialErasmus, ESN attempts to show that an Erasmus exchange is not only an opportunity to enlarge students’ academic knowledge, experience a new culture and form international friendships, but it is also an inspiration for future life and an opportunity to get to know the realities of living in another country. The projected is aptly termed: ‘Reach higher! Go further! Go Social!’ The main objectives of the project include:

• Integrating Erasmus students into the local community

• Cooperation in joint implementation of projects

• Promotion of pro-social attitudes

• Engaging Erasmus students in volunteering and social work

SocialErasmus operates in three key areas:

• Charity

• Education

• Environment

Charity work

In the charity pillar, there is a strong focus on activities that display kindness and generosity towards less fortunate individuals and/or groups in society. Through a large variety of activities, international students are engaged in actions offering immediate help and support to people in urgent need, or carrying out activities with a more strategic aim such as fundraising for various charity purposes – in many cases in cooperation with other charitable organisations.

International Santa Claus is a key activity under the charity pillar. Here, international students bring gifts to orphanages and spend time with children and hopefully bring more joy and happiness to the children during Christmas time. Other activities include international student visits to nursing homes and children’s hospitals to share precious moments with the people living there. Blood donations have also been organised with large groups of international and local students in some countries.

Environmental work

In the environmental part of the programme, the focus is put on activities that are beneficial for the environment through various environmental acts among international students and local community members. The outcome of environmental projects is the influence on the local society in terms of greater interest for such causes or simply the projects can have a comprehensible effect of the older local inhabitants towards the younger generation. Furthermore, it teaches locals to share their problems with international students.

The main activities in this pillar are Erasmus Forest and cleaning actions. Erasmus Forest is a three-phase project. The first part involves planting trees. The second involves teaching classes about environmental protection, and the third involves a promotional publication for children and adolescents. Many environmental actions involve cleaning areas in the community areas and rubbish collection.


In the area of education, the most important task of the project is to involve foreign students in the process of informal education, mainly through their active participation in classes at primary schools, and lower and upper secondary schools. Exploring the added values that reside in the multicultural background of Erasmus participants, a project known as Erasmus in Schools (EiS) was launched. It aims to familiarise primary school, lower secondary and secondary school students with the culture and languages of many countries in Europe. Within the framework of EiS, Erasmus students visit schools and other institutions to share their knowledge and experience. These lessons help to promote a better understanding of Europe and Europeans, break away from stereotypes, and gain knowledge of the traditions and customs of EU countries. The lessons feature presentations and shows on selected countries, films and local music. Such events are often accompanied by games and contests with prizes. So-called ‘Euro Dinners’ are also organised during those meetings and they involve tasting dishes from all over Europe. EiS offers unlimited possibilities to learn about other cultures and languages directly from the source, that is from foreigners, and they are the most popular element of the SocialErasmus project.

As students are becoming more and more mobile, and looking to gain additional skills which they cannot obtain through their studies alone, projects such as SocialErasmus stand to prepare students better for an increasingly globalised world. Reach higher! Go further! Go social!

If you are attending the EAIE Conference this week, don’t miss Poster Session 03: ‘Erasmus in Schools: fostering mobility early on’ which takes place on Thursday at 10.15.

By Magdalena Dudek, Miroslava Svabova, & Tarek Keskes, SocialErasmus & Erasmus in Schools International Team