I stumbled on an Erasmus+ programme by accident through StepEurope ry while I was volunteering for Red Cross (StepEurope’s cooperation organization). After realising that even I at my forties could take this opportunity to develop my skills, I applied immediately to the Entrepreneurship Laboratory training in Loughborough, a little but famous university town, nearby Leicester.
Preparations and joining this programme requires a bit of work if you wish to make the most of it. Our goal was to make start-up from the initial business idea which was presented at the beginning of the programme. This EntLab is only one example of what Erasmus can offer, there are programmes for younger people with agendas like cultural awareness and for graduates who wish to enhance their skills, just to mention a couple.
For joining an Erasmus programme abroad you normally need to book your flights and travel yourself, but you will get reimbursed this money when you arrive to the location or further along in the programme depending how long it is. Our EntLab had three onsite modules and two at home for a duration of nearly a year in 2016.
After arriving to Loughborough we met our fellow 32 participants from 8 different countries. It was a brilliant mix of people between 18-45 year old individuals, and I wasn’t even the oldest. Most important thing is to be open-minded and maybe 18 at heart… My roommates were from UK and Romania, and I created lifelong friendships during the programme, also I’ll always have a place to visit in these 8 different countries!
We had an international evening to kick start the programme and getting to know each other. Every country’s participants presented some facts about their culture, shared local food, or teached a local dance. Finnish people teached the others how to do ”Letkajenkka” among other things.
The days were long, but we were offered good lunch and dinner, along with some breakfast money which we were able to use how we wanted. The red thread in the programme was creating and working around a canvas model for developing a business model. This model gives an easy glance to the ideas and may be used also to social enterprises.
After saying the days were long one shouldn’t forget that there is of course always room for parties, as we were given some free time and later mornings in the schedule.
We made some interesting excursions like visiting a hindu temple and ”the Golden Mile” in Leicester, and learned a lot from different cultures within a city in the middle of UK. By learning and respecting other cultures may give a huge advantage in how you approach your customers in your market, especially if you wish to go international.
Teambuilding day took us to an adventure park/manor nearby with beautiful landscape and fun exercises.
Dragon’s Den was one of the highlights of the programme where we had the chance to present our business ideas to succesful local entrepreneurs! This was the first time I’ve ever made a promotional video, so even this was a learning experience.
All in all this was an excellent programme, and my only wish is that I would have found Erasmus years ago! I can only recommend Erasmus trainings, especially to young people; do take the opportunity to see the world and learn in an inspiring environment with great people and skillfull trainers!
This is why I’m now volunteering with StepEurope and hope to create awareness about these opportunities to others.
More information about Erasmus+ programmes: https://ec.europa.eu/programmes/erasmus-plus/individuals_en