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Erasmus exchanges help European students travel

A program offering time in another country helps European youths “de-provincialize” their minds.

According to EU statistics, in 2008-2009 school year, 19,414 Italians took part in the program, amounting to just 1 percent of the entire university student population (1,660 of whom opted for the traineeships). And this is within the European average, where 0.85 percent of students normally participate in Erasmus. Italy places fourth at EU level for outgoing number of students after France (28,283 students), Germany (27,894) and Spain (27,405). The most popular destinations among young Italians are Spain and France.

For Marina Tesauro of Rome’s Tor Vergata University (an average of 400 Erasmus students per year out of a total 44,000), application to the program is still limited because of a certain prevailing mentality.

“Italian youth are way too attached to their families, friends and city of origin. They lack the spirit of adventure. But it’s also the teachers’ fault: they think Italian education is the best in the world and thus hamper students from going abroad,” she said.

Plus, the monthly grant for young Italians is not much: 250 euros for the study exchange, 500 euros for the Erasmus placement. But it’s worth the financial sacrifice. Valerio Foce, 21, a student at Rome’s LUISS university spent four months at Paris’ European School of Management.

“It was very fruitful because the teaching methodology there was totally different, I got to study less theory and more practice,” he said.

Valerio joined the Erasmus program because he wanted a break from his daily routine in Rome and start building a professional background.

“When I do job interviews my experience in Paris plays as an added value because it shows that I am flexible and open-minded.” Carolina Ricceri, 27, said, agreeing with Valerio. It’s also thanks to her stay at Glasgow’s Strathclyde University that she now works at the Milan headquarters of L’Oréal.

Not everyone is equipped to handle the Erasmus life, however.

Laura Luiselli, a 34-year-old secretary and alumni of Rome’s Tre University, said: “In Brighton I wasted my time partying. But it all depends on whether you’re a good or bad student from the start. I was a bad one.”