Erasmus+ – a migration tool or an opportunity for the youth in the EU?

It is historically in human nature, perhaps without knowing it ourselves, to move from one place to another while changing our habits and getting used to a new environment. Thereby, by garnering unique experience and knowledge, we raise our personal value both on a local and international scale.

Within the scope of this article, I want to tell a story about how the international mobility of the ERASMUS+ Programme of the European Union in a completely different country in the world can change personality and bring a substantial contribution to the future career despite the opinions of the people around.

In 2012, without myself knowing, I began improving my personality by risking and participating in a wholly new ERASMUS+ programme created by the European Commission, which was offered to me by my school in which I was studying for the position of tourism service commercial worker. By taking into consideration the speciality of my profession, the planned project also was related to it. Mobility itself foresaw that I would spend my upcoming four months on a Greek island called Corfu in a five-star hotel “Marbela beach hotel Corfu”.

How I remember my first individual migration experience today – the differing opinions of the surrounding people about working abroad, an unknown country, an unfamiliar language, and a distinct culture. The nervousness and ignorance I was dispelled by my workplace colleagues, which became like my family after some time. It provided me with a surprisingly friendly welcoming, support, understanding and acceptance as if I was part of their own society. That is how I experienced my first “culture shock” in the face of a lifestyle of another culture and differing mentality.

Speaking more about the practical matters, it was also essential to obtain a work permit in Greece to be renumerated for work and pay taxes during the stay. The ERASMUS + project provided partial funding for participation in mobility, while part of the participation fee was covered by me. As a student in Latvia, I borrowed money from my family members with the idea that I would return the money after I would earn it in Greece. I must admit that I succeeded in doing that because, in addition to my mobility as a hotel receptionist, I also did additional work during the evenings and in the early mornings as part of the housekeeping staff. I was pulling myself on all 100%, and it was also appreciated by the hotel managers. Therefore, a year after the end of the project, I was invited to return to work as a staff member. It proved to me and those around me that we are valued abroad as qualified employees who can be counted on.

I am often asked, what motivated me to participate in this programme? Did I not fear living abroad in a foreign country and that I may be cheated on? To which I respond with absolute confidence: “It was all because of a desire for something new. The desire for cultural diversity. Willingness to travel and improve upon me! I did not experience fear about whether something bad would happen to me in Greece since, as it is with every other single ERASMUS+ project, I had strong support in the form of ERASMUS+ coordinators. Fear was rather arising from the public opinion, which affected me as well!”

Then, the only opinion about any kind of migration within the scope of the EU was due to the need for profit. Unfortunately, rarely anyone understood that migration can be utilized for own personal improvement and development.

I must admit that the ERASMUS+ project and repeatedly spent 3 more months in Greece were followed by my migration to the United Kingdom of Great Britain, where I spent two years in the city of Leicester. The purpose of this migration remained unchanged, with the foundation being my opportunities in the EU!

Again, a new culture awaited me in the UK. I would even say that it was a mixture of cultures – all the possible cultures from around the world in a single place. I was bewildered by the many compatriots who have come to look for their happiness exactly here.

Another surprise, the people I met during my work in Latvia have obtained higher education – lawyers, company managers, teachers, professors, all have migrated to make a profit and are not doing what they have been doing in Latvia.

In the UK, to pay for the living expenses and save money for studies at a Latvian university, I worked in various places, including taskwork, which sometimes was only 2 hours of work.

Within two years, I earned enough in the UK to graduate from a pedagogy program in 2014 and begin my life in Latvia.

Since 2015, I have been working at the “Riga Technical School of Tourism and Creative Industries” on ERASMUS + projects, providing opportunities for young people in Europe and strengthening their awareness of “I am European”.

In the present, among Latvian employers, which of course does not include everyone, is the opinion that Latvian schools do not train specialists in demand for the international labour market with the support of ERASMUS +, but that it is a tool to prepare cheap labour for other countries and open migration opportunities for young people, to motivate them to leave their country. Is that really so?

Over the years, under the leadership of my colleague and me, more than 1.5 thousand young people have taken the opportunity to live elsewhere in Europe. Some of them have stayed and settled in one of the EU countries, holding important positions in tourism and hospitality companies. Still, most of them have remained in Latvia, as there is a demand for workers. That is all thanks to them themselves, and the opportunities are given by ERASMUS +.

I want to believe that it has become my mission: “Creating opportunities for young people in Europe through ERASMUS+.”

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