Rayón stressed the need for students to support other students. “Students face many challenges these days, including those related to uncertainty. They do not know what will happen in the future, in light of the geopolitical and economic crises.”
While Rayón believes that young people are not able to change everything themselves, he says that they can inspire others to achieve change. They must look beyond their comfort zones and discuss solutions to problems as part of a global community with the same dreams, hopes, and challenges, he said.
Rayón said supporting study abroad was “just the beginning, … part of a bigger framework to empower students, connect them to others, foster dialogue, show openness to partnerships with universities and media institutions, and support south-to-south mobility.”
35 Years of Promoting Study Abroad
The Erasmus programme (now called Erasmus+) was launched 35 years ago when the European Community approved a plan to allow higher-education students to do part of their studies abroad.
Two years later, in 1989, the Erasmus Bureau created the Erasmus Student Network, whose motto is “students helping students”, to enable peer-to-peer support of students studying abroad.
Speaking to Al-Fanar Media on the sidelines of the recent General Assembly of the Mediterranean Universities Union (UniMed), in Jordan, Juan Rayón said the network was an international, not-for-profit student organisation whose mission was to represent international students, provide opportunities for cultural dialogue and self-development, and support and promote student exchange.
More than 1,000 higher-education institutions in over 40 countries now participate in the network, according to statistics on its website. It has around 15,000 active members, supported by many “buddies” who help take care of international students. Thus, the network involves around 40,000 young people, mainly volunteers, offering their services to around 350,000 international students every year, with funding from the European Commission.
The network is currently preparing for the annual conference of the European Association for International Education, to be held in Barcelona in September. Rayón said the conference was an ambitious initiative “to bring together students from both shores of the Mediterranean, to discuss their experiences, their challenges, and their ideas from an international standpoint.”