Wednesday, 14 September 2016

Converse wisely. Roundtable talks on Brexit at the British Youth Council.

Remember that scene from King’s Speech when Colin Firth as George VI somewhat indignantly blurts out “I have a voice” at a baffled Geoffrey Rush portraying his speech therapist?

If you have seen the film (and who has not seen it really?) you must remember that moment, that crucial turning point where after a lifelong battle with stammer, the King finally realizes that he indeed can fulfill his duty and that the thing that has haunted him his entire life can be overcome with the support of others.

On August 31st I was given a unique opportunity to join the roundtable talks with a number of representatives of various youth organization from all across the UK. The event titled: “Roundtable: Inclusive and Diverse Communities and Youth Voice on Brexit” took place at the British Youth Council headquarters in London.

It was a privilege to have been able to hear young people’s opinions, questions, concerns, and their general take on Brexit negotiations. At the beginning of our session we were asked to describe, with one word, what exiting the European Union meant to us personally. These words were later read aloud around the room. They were very vocal expressions of genuine concern and disappointment as well as anxiety about our futures. During these few, highly productive afternoon hours we discussed a list of Brexit related topics key to young Brits today. We spoke about the quality of state education, freedom of movement, voting rights, the economy, hate crime and many other matters.

We, young people, youth activists have our beloved, vibrant communities. We ourselves are a community. We have a voice. We have a voice and we want it to be heard. We have our strong opinions, inspiring thoughts, good suggestions and our politically viable ideas MUST be taken seriously. We do not wish to be sat at the kids’ table at the dinner party merely being able to overhear the clanging of the cutlery and a muffled yet heated debate from the main dining room.

As Europeers UK it is our pivotal goal to keep and further develop Erasmus+ opportunities for UK youth and it is our assiduous mission to be present at the forefront of a widespread debate and be an advocate for this issue. We will remain strong and continue our campaign until we are certain that these requests can be secured during the actual negotiations.  

Written in Leytonstone on September 4th 2016
By Olga Ambrosiewicz, Europeers UK Steering group member

Sunday, 31 July 2016

Ellie went to Scotland

Would you like to go to Bulgaria?” I was asked by my Police Cadet Leader. I was a slightly awkward and nervous teen, but in spite of this I seized the opportunity and went on to travel to the other side of Europe and experience a series of consequential events, that, two years later continue to impact who I feel I am and what I do today. A strong and cliché filled statement but one that shows why I am so passionate about being a EuroPeer...and how I am a writing newbie!

Therefore, I jumped at the invitation to promote international opportunities with fellow EuroPeers and Momentum World at the National Volunteer Police Cadet Conference. It took place over the first weekend of June and was set in Tulliallan, Scotland - a fairy tale perfect location with eerily good weather. 

The attendees were a blend of young leaders, Police Officers of various ranks, volunteers and other youth invested organisations; likeminded in that they all valued young people. It made for a warm environment and we spent the first evening getting to know one another over a glass of apple juice. 

Saturday at 2pm was our slot to promote EuroPean Opportunities. Each EuroPeer to share our own story, much like we had our EuroPeers Website ( ). At 1.54pm I began to attempt to do some subtle power poses in my chair as I waited for our turn.

Momentum World and fellow EuroPeers each gave unique and insights into international experiences - I was feeling adventure ready and inspired by my peers' words. Too suddenly it was my turn to speak; I looked at the 200 hundred large audience with bundles of life experience and clutched tighter on to the notepad that contained a few scribbled and illegible bullets points. I wasn’t wearing my glasses, but I imagined the audience all to be wearing beaming smiles, so I relaxed slightly, took a breath and shared my story. My thought is that believing in our EuroPeers ethos and having experienced what I was saying, all helped me to project this passion/stumble over words excitably and find a momentary confidence to promote our cause.

As a team we hoped for the audience to feel what we were saying and in turn go on to get involved with international opportunities, whether volunteering on a project, creating a project or promoting opportunities to their cadets. That Saturday evening - pre pub quiz, we held an optional evening meeting for people to find out more...the room was full of curiosity, ideas for cadet projects and energy - it was incredible. 

I left the weekend feeling privileged to have been able to share my experiences towards such a cause and moreover, overwhelmingly excited for each cadet/young person that has international journey awaiting them! 

By Ellie Devereux

University tuition fees in Britain

University tuition fees in Britain were introduced in September 1998 by the Labour government under Tony Blair as a way of funding undergraduate and postgraduate students at university. Since John Major’s initial commissioning for an inquiry into the funding of British higher education in May 1996, tuition costs in England have since increased to £9,000 per year. From September 2016, maintenance grants will be scrapped and it is likely that tuition loans will increase further in order to make up for the scrapped grants. From 2017, tuition costs will further increase, in order to keep up with inflation.
All this has subsequently led to England officially holding the rank of having the most expensive university costs in the world, ahead of even the United States, Australia and Switzerland. But why is this the case? Why does it now cost so much for a student to study and earn a degree in England? Why should a student get into so much future debt simply for wanting to study what they love? Will this deter future would-be university students from applying for a place at university?

The first thing that we should understand about university tuition costs in Britain is that it differs depending on which constituent country you are seeking to study in. English university fees are capped at £9,000 per year; Welsh university fees are also capped at £9,000 per year, but Welsh students are also able to apply for fee grants of up to £5,190, in addition to a loan of £3,810 to cover these costs; Scotland has been highly praised by students for charging no university fees and Northern Ireland only charges its university students a maximum of £3,805. Furthermore, the British government has recently stated that as of 2017, high-ranking universities – primarily Russell Group universities – will be able to raise their respective tuition costs higher than the £9,000 cap. Factors given for this potential increase in tuition costs include student satisfaction, teaching quality and employment outcomes.
Put simply, the better the university, the higher the costs.

So is it really justified for these high-ranking universities to take more money out of their students’ pockets, thereby increasing their student debt? If so, will future would-be applicants be enticed into applying for university study? In 2016, the Guardian newspaper published a report that stated that the number of disadvantaged students applying for English universities has in fact increased by 72% from 2006 to 2015, beating the number of applicants for other universities in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
Why is it that, despite their extremely high costs, English universities continue to attract not only British students, but also foreign students en masse? According to a number of governmental studies, the answer is simply that English universities are some of the most prestigious in the world and continue to offer an extremely high quality of education among its students. This is also reflected in the most recent drop-out statistics, which show that the student drop-out rate – since the tuition fees rose to £9,000 in 2010 – are at their lowest among English universities, especially among Russell Group and other high-ranking universities. This is in contrast to the increasing number of students dropping out of Scottish universities, which have since reached their highest levels in years.

Again, from this we can see that despite the increasing costs in university tuition, students continue to apply for English universities en masse. One theory is that the amount of debt that the student will eventually have to pay off is so high, it actually pushes the student to remain in university and work harder in order to achieve a better career with a high level of income, thereby making it easier to pay back their student debt.

For a student who is thinking about applying for university in Britain, the best advice anybody could give is that applying is quite possibly one of the best decisions a student can make in their entire academic life. Why? Because university – for all its high tuition costs and the future student debt that comes after graduation – provides the best education a student could possibly ever wish to get in whatever field of study they choose to pursue, and it opens so many doors for people in life that it is definitely worth the £9,000 a year – if you’re studying at an English or Welsh university. Especially with a strong postgraduate degree in the best fields of study, employment post-university will almost certainly provide a veteran student with income high enough to enable them to comfortably manage their student debts without so much worry and stress to hinder them in their respective future.

Author: Stefan Brakus

Monday, 16 May 2016

Day 2 of the EuroPeers 2nd annual network meeting

I gained new knowledge at the 2nd European Network meeting around Erasmus+ and its development. 

Erasmus+ delivered a 4day strategic coaching for fellow members and peers. We were given guidance around those that are willing or even thinking about joining the network and tips about how to stay equipped with knowledgeable experience; but most of all we were given the chance to gather globally and learn from one another. 

I learned from this network that mobility and sustainability is what matters most and that all you have to do is reach out and take a leap of faith whilst ensuring that your message is delivered with as much passion as you are Erasamized, starting from now. 


Friday, 13 May 2016

Day 1 of the EuroPeers 2nd annual network meeting

Hello from Poland!

Three members of EuroPeers UK arrived yesterday to beautiful Konstancin, not far from the Polish capital Warsaw. This place is famous for its fresh healing air and we are surrounded by the rustles of greenery and birds chirping away in the background - a perfect place for our EuroPeers second annual network meeting!

After a long and tiring day of travel for all of us, we enjoyed some Polish food and started getting to know the other participants through a creative evening of many different activities including games, collage and music! 

We started the first working day of the meeting off with a few energisers to get us going! This was followed by introductions from our Polish hosts, receiving our wonderful welcome packs and getting to know a bit more about the background and time line of the EuroPeers story so

We then split into smaller groups and started our 'EuroPeers Paths' activity where we discussed each other's experiences and involvement with EuroPeers and Erasmus+. We talked about our visions for the future of the network on personal, national and international levels.

In the afternoon we played a very interactive Erasmus+ game to learn more about the kind of activities that we could plan as EuroPeers and the tools that we could use! We reflected on the day with our travel mates - each of us had been matched up with two other EuroPeers who would be our companions for the duration of the meeting.

Tomorrow we look forward to lots more innovative workshops and inspiring discussions on the second day of our EuroPeers meeting!


Tuesday, 26 April 2016

EuroPeers UK event in cooperation with Solent University in Southampton

Ilona Kuzak, a member of the EuroPeers UK, in partnership with Southampton Solent University, is co-hosting a conference on opportunities for young people on Tuesday, May 3rd. Topics will include Erasmus+ and other European-funded opportunities, youth entrepreneurship, and more. Come join us at this event to learn about how you can take advantage of what the EU has to offer and take the next steps towards your career! Get a free ticket HERE

Friday, 15 April 2016

EuroPeers UK Launch Report

On the 30th March 2016, after months of coordination and organisation, EuroPeers and invited guests came together at Europe House to celebrate the launch of the EuroPeers UK network.

The launch was hosted by Abdul and Ellie, two EuroPeers UK steering group members.

Andrew Hadley, CEO of Momentum World, gave an impassioned speech about the importance of the EuroPeers UK, the objectives for the network, and how they plan on achieving said objectives.

The hosts then each gave a speech about why they decided to be involved in EuroPeers. Ellie touched on the importance of following your passion and working hard, while Abdul focused on how social action projects have changed him for the better.  Eddie from Lansons PR also spoke about how his experiences in Europe have enhanced his life.

There are hundreds of partner organizations in the UK making a positive impact on the lives of young people and representatives from two of these – Employability Town and The ASHA Centre came along to give a presentation on their astounding work.  Although different, they both carry out some great work to make big long-term transformations in the lives of young people.

Ilona, a EuroPeers steering group member, had just flown in from Poland but made sure that she was present to give a speech on her impressive experience in working with young people. She had also taken part in extensive training with the German branch of EuroPeers.

In order to give a more holistic view to the role of the EU, Dr. Andreas Staab who is Director of the European Policy Information Centre  gave a speech on his personal experience of living in the EU. He gave a balanced, and at times humorous recollection of his experiences!

Daniel Ambrus, Head of Communication at European Commission Representation UK also gave a well-balanced speech on his experiences of living in the EU.

Andrew Hadley gave a closing speech to emphasise the direction of EuroPeers UK, request feedback from attendees and thank stakeholders for making the event a success.

Attendees stayed on for an hour or so to network and discuss the launch and how they might be of assistance.

It was very encouraging to see the level of support offered from attendees and in the lead up to the event. Six months ago, the EuroPeers UK was just a name, small, and logo-less!

We would like to express our gratitude to the attendees, the EuroPeers UK steering group members, the European Commission Representation in London, Lansons PR, and Momentum World for providing significant resources to grow the EuroPeers UK network. Also along the way, other organizations have offered advice, which has proven useful.


Monday, 4 April 2016

Yi´s Erasmus+ story

                               Hi, I am Yi and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

I was incredibly fortunate to have my first Erasmus+ experience at the ASHA Centre in the beautiful Forest of Dean. I had been volunteering at Oxfam when a fellow volunteer-turned-good friend told me about a residential training course on interfaith dialogue. I could immediately sense from the title of the course and from my friend’s enthusiasm about the people at ASHA that it was coming from a refreshingly genuine interest in learning and ways of engaging with others that I had been searching for through volunteering.

When I arrived I didn’t have the slightest idea what to expect, but the very first conversations I had with the residential staff filled me with a sense of reassurance and excitement that I was amongst people who brought their true selves and passions into their work, and there was a feeling of warmth and homeliness even though we were all meeting for the first time. To me, this captures the very essence of non-formal education, where the aim is not to create distance and an intimidating sense of prestige or awe, but that of mutual respect and natural ease so that we can all learn from one another. 

Being quite a shy person, I tend not to contribute much to group discussions unless I have something I am certain I want to say, so as I found myself wanting to speak more in the facilitated group discussions I realised that there was something very different about the way I felt in the environment that was being created during the course. For once, it felt like I wasn’t being tested or measured, just being heard. And when I spoke, it began to feel like I was using my own voice, not one I had to project in order to meet expectations.

As I also started to connect with new friends who were going through similar shifts during the course, I realised how huge an impact the strict and unbalanced environment of my formal education had had on me as a person; and it is difficult to describe just how this realisation affected the way I saw myself and the direction that I wanted to take in my life. The existence of Erasmus+ opened up a whole avenue of possibilities in my world where there was the exciting prospect of living, working and collaborating meaningfully with others towards a better world, not just to compete and get as much out of each other as possible.

As I continued to attend Erasmus+ projects around Europe, I found my confidence in many aspects of my life grow as I came to better know my true self and was more able to bring that self into my interactions with others. I did not see formal education as something that was truly bad, however, merely that it was not always sufficient in nurturing young people to grow into whole, balanced and socially aware individuals. Since my first Erasmus+ experience about a year and a half ago, I have now returned to formal education – something I thought I would never do – and I have chosen to study Drama and Education at a university that values these concepts of mutual respect and relational pedagogy. I have rediscovered my joy and confidence in learning and am enjoying learning formally as well as informally about the different ways in which people learn and how to create educational environments and structures that best support this learning process.

To put it simply, the experience of non-formal education through Erasmus+ has fulfilled a significant gap in my development that I had sensed yet not fully understood while growing up through formal education, and I am certain that there are many others like me out there who will greatly benefit from this humble but fantastic programme for social empowerment.

Clara´s Erasmus+ story_ How my EVS experience impacted my life?

                             Hi, I am Clara and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

I decided to do my EVS because I wanted to spread my wings, and suddenly I found myself in a wonderful place, surrounded by nature in the middle of the Forest. I couldn’t express with words what I was feeling because I didn’t speak the language, but even despite this, I felt it was the place I had to be, I felt like home without knowing what would happen or how this experience would change my life, and it did. Today I can say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

The first impact it had on me was the fact of abandoning my comfort zone and starting from the beginning in a new place. It made me feel really free and independent. Life in community, even with the challenges it brings,  fascinates  me; the fact of sharing a house with 15  young people from different countries gave me another vision of the world. To know other cultures, other values, another language, shook my small world and made me discover there are a lot of possibilities and different ways.  At the same time you discover where you come from and who you are through simply living, sharing, having fun, loving, feeling and meeting people, in other words enjoying life.

The second impact was the connexion with nature: moving from the city to a village in the Forest, stopping the life of studies to start the one of experiences, working in a garden listening to the Earth to understand her rhythms and connecting with the most essential elementary things that nature provides. This bridge helped me to discover my spiritual path and awoke me to the importance of taking care of our environment.
I could say as well this experience taught me personal, professional and social skills like cooking, gardening, communication and for sure a new language. This was mostly through the work we did at ASHA hosting training courses and having the experience to get involved with them, meeting people from around the world, and learning about different kinds of subjects (theatre, music, interfaith, volunteering and so on), different cultures, traditions, ways of proceeding  and enriching relationships, as well as awakening to a European awareness.

This way of working made me realise as well the meaning of volunteering; what it deeply means to work with love and for love, having fun without expectation, giving to your community. I believe these small changes are the changes that change the world, and I believe in the methodology of non formal education, philosophy, the values and principles promoted by the ASHA centre so thanks to my volunteering service I felt I was bringing my little grain of sand to the world.

This experience was one of personal growth.  I discovered different ways to love, to open my heart to people and I even fell in love.  At ASHA I leant to trust life, to believe the things that have to come will come when you are ready and this is what happened with my love story and as well with my future. When my EVS finished, without knowing what to do next, I found a job in the same place where I was… at the Asha centre. So in my case my EVS gave me the opportunity to keep growing and learning about all these life lessons. And here I am… I am so grateful to have had this experience in my life.

After my EVS I felt really empowered to do whatever I wanted and to have the courage to go anywhere to keep growing and discovering the world, be it only for the simple excuse of visiting all your new friends around the world. I felt myself filled with love, experience,  memories and people that still and will be always in my heart.

In conclusion, my EVS experience enriched my life in different areas: my own self growth, my professional life, my spiritual life. It woke me up to my own place in the world and the part I have to play in it. 

Martin´s Erasmus+ story_ From Gloucester to Slanic Moldova, via highs lows and meeting new friends

                          Hi, I am Martin and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

What’s a man of 42, yes 42, all though not young in age, young at heart, and so grateful for my Erasmus+ peregrination, doing on a youth project and what has he gained, I hear you thinking, I 'll explain, well try to.

I am Martin Harrison a 42 year old man (that will be the last time a mention my age) from Stoke-on-Trent, a city in the middle of England between Manchester and Birmingham and famous for the ceramics industry (making plates) and where Robbie Williams grew up. I work for the Soil Association, an organic growing charity, where I manage a healthy eating project in schools. My two passions are football and the natural environment, with both always coming to the fore on the courses I have attended.

I first heard and got involved in Erasmus + projects back in September 2013, while I was working as a community officer for The Wildlife Trust, a course at the Asha Centre in Gloucester, ‘Education for Sustainable Development’. It was an amazing first experience on what was then the Youth in Action programme, and my first course- residential course since graduating from formal education in 2008. The other participants were mainly British, we looked at the sustainability of the natural environment, different types of communities, including a young family living in the woodlands on land that was common land. Aswell as learning new ideas, from the trainers and other participants, it was a great social and emotional experience, spending virtually every minute of 5 days with people I had never met before. We all bonded, laughed, joked, learnt and even cried together. This course gave me an appetite for more!
Over the next year I applied for a few courses, that were of interest to me and that I felt I could contribute too, but also had to fit in with my own life and work. I was luckily enough to gain a place on ‘Active Youth for Active Europe’ in Kopaniec, Poland, an amazingly beautiful part of the country, where we stopped was in a very remote area sleeping in wooden chalets. The participants were from all across European, again we became a community, learning about each other, each other’scountries, culture and traditions. My journey started at Manchester airport, the first time I had flown alone, which was an experience too, as I don’t overly like flying either. Another great week, making some new friends, from Lithuania and Italy amongst others, who I am still contact with today.

Since the course in Kopaniec in September2014 I have attended two more courses. May 2015 was a course in La Rochelle, France, looking at the informal learning environment. Again a beautiful coastal location, a very ‘interesting’ flight to the smallest airport I have seen. One thing I have not mentioned yet is the evening time or social/free time we had. Which I feel is of paramount importance to be able to communicate and work with new people. In La Rochelle, we played card games, which I am awful at, but I am very competitive, so be warned if you are on a course with me. Also tried to learn how to play the ukulele, I have since bought one too, and had a great meal at a fantastic sea food restaurant. A theme throughout my Erasmus+ life is making new and what I hope are lifelong friends, so from France I have friends from Serbia and France, who I stay in contact with.

My final course was a real different experience with many highs and a few lows. Glencree in southern Ireland, in the Wicklow Mountains about 40 minutes from Dublin. The Threshold, was looking at thresholds in our life, linked we the natural environment. From hiking, to a 40 minute dance/whirling experience, to making and sitting in a sauna in the woods, to spending a night alone outside which was preceded by a 24 hour fast. It was a life changing week, giving me confidence and accepting who I am, plus making what I know are friends for life. Shane from Ireland and Lily from Hungary have already visited me in Stoke-on-Trent and we are all meeting up in Ireland next month.

My next course is in Slanic Moldova, Romania in May, looking at non formal education and the environment, I can’t wait!

So, If I have not already shown, why getting involved in Erasmus+ is a good idea, I´ll summarise it for you.

It gives you a chance to travel, see new countries, learn about different cultures, and learn about yourself too. All of which are so important in becoming a rounded person that can shine in not just Britain but across Europe too. Every experience is a good experience, even if it’s a bad one, as you will learn from it. Paradise is not a place it’s about being part of something.


Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is always hard.

But we have gained unforgettable memories.

New friends.
And had a lot of fun.

We wouldn´t experience any of these moments without support of the Austrian National Agency for Erasmus+, Interkulturelles Zentrum ( Thank you very much!

How Erasmus+ influenced Vicky´s life

                                          Hi, I am Vicky and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

2016 has been a surprising experience for me, I've managed to reach over 4 different countries around Europe through the Erasmus exchange. 

What can I say!!

I can say the economy is certainly different to London. I can ensure that being a part of the Erasmus+ scheme has definitely given me the chance to know myself better, I've met some amazing people, I even had the chance to see the cities I reside in. Erasmus is an unforgettable experience which no-one will ever take away from you as an individual. 

There will be times 
when you just want to be by yourself when engaging to the programme but that's okay. I call it the moment of 'abliss'. That moment is simply mindfulness, it allows you to look at your life at a stand still and grasp where you truly want to be before you return home.

'Erasmus exchange is the moment for change', being in Vienna with the UK peers showed me that we all have dreams and by sticking together they will unfold a lot faster.

Life is a stepping stone and through Erasmus I now can work and focus on my weak points in life is that the whole point of exploring find out where it works and where it doesn't. You can never take away the experience of learning. There is always going to be a moment for enhancing this ability.

I truly am thankful for have been given the chance to know what Erasmus means and for being a part of it. I put the whole thing down to one word 'fundamental'.