Teachers know all too well the thrill of taking the lesson beyond the classroom – those random mornings when you say ‘Right everyone, let’s go work on the benches today!’ - this little escape from the usual four walls is a big dose of motivation! Now imagine the opportunity to take the learning experience to a whole other level in a foreign country. Every student and member of staff should be given the chance to explore that possibility. We live in an increasingly mobile society where travel is already considered a universal educational tool, therefore some may argue that Erasmus+ or Turing is just like any other activity abroad. However, I will put the clichés aside and give you the key reasons why Erasmus+ and Turing are unrivalled in their benefits for young people and their educators.
Enter the Unknown
With any given vacation, the traveller is in control of their daily routine. Putting together the itinerary, organising bookings, buying tickets, making appointments with familiar faces – a lot of the experience is planned and often predictable. Take Erasmus+ or Turing however and for the first time, the participant has to adapt to new activities and tasks that are presented before them. There is usually a jam-packed schedule to guide you along the way however this also means escaping your comfort zone, trusting the organisers and being an active member. It may seem daunting but with an easy-going approach, this element of mystery can be really fun! These programmes are a gateway to greater self-discipline and open-mindedness, so you’ll discover a lot about yourself along the way!
Embrace the Uncomfortable
Challenge is a key aspect of every Erasmus+ and Turing programme – pushing each and every participant beyond their existing credentials towards new horizons in skills and methodology. Therefore, these programmes are a first-time encounter with projects, activities and tasks that previously seemed impossible to achieve. Whether it’s creating a virtual reality production or writing an e-book or experimenting with life-saving medicine, these programmes usually conclude with a wonderful sense of accomplishment. I remember an Erasmus+ workshop where my task was to write and perform a poem, inspired by the biography of an African migrant who travelled to Andalusia. In the centre of a Roman amphitheatre, with an awkward stance and shaky voice, I took on the persona of this heroic character and I loved it! In Milan, I had to present the results of our school’s peer evaluation scheme at the Regional Education Authority to politicians and educators from Northern Italy. It’s these nerve-racking moments that unleash our potential.
Enliven your Untapped Skills
Projects within school can be a lengthy process – teachers and students are trying to combine so many deadlines and assignments all at once, you’re constantly juggling the endless to-do list. This can often create a staggered and spaced-out process of personal development where you attend one seminar or read one section of a text and then another obstacle comes along and breaks the flow. It is all too common for students to forget or to regress from a new topic in the classroom when tests and assignments get in the way; teachers may begin training in a particular area and then the commitments of the school calendar leave their progress disjointed. In contrast, Erasmus+ and Turing programmes allow you to dedicate the time and space to be fully immersed in your area of focus. It’s a window for creative and innovative thinking with minimal distraction. The accompanying schedule usually includes time for setting goals at the beginning and also evaluating results upon completion, allowing your development to go full circle.
Experience the Uncommon
Yes, travel is an eye-opener - that is a given - but tourists cannot always reach the heart of a foreign culture in the way that Erasmus+ and Turing can. You are collaborating with locals in a short and intense period of time for most of the day. This opens up the opportunity to discover everyday moments and experiences that are missing from the guidebooks. For eight days, our school enjoyed an Erasmus+ mobility in the depths of northern Finland. We were housed in a remote boarding school surrounded by snowy hilltops. Some of my students had never seen snow before and for eight days, they were learning the secrets of husky sleigh riding and carrying the firewood to heat the dining room.
Expect the Unplanned
Sometimes these programmes do not always go to plan. Flights may be cancelled, someone may not be feeling well and disagreements may arise. Working within a large group of people means learning to appreciate differences and compromise with the aims of the programme in mind. The flip side of the drama is that educators and students learn to adjust to changing circumstances. Learning to think on your feet, problem solving a challenge that suddenly pops up, anticipating possible risks or setbacks – these are skills that Erasmus+ and Turing provide in between the bullet points listed on the official schedule.
Enjoy the Unforgettable
Erasmus+ and Turing programmes will feel like they’re happening at lightning speed but they will leave their mark for life. Teachers witness their career development evolving in leaps and bounds with an enhanced CV, a broader professional network and a deeper knowledge of their field. The world of education is flourishing thanks to these programmes that have enabled teachers to join forces and share examples of good practice. Students get a taste of the workplace and independent living whilst building friendships and connections with a whole new circle of contacts. They are transported to a welcoming environment where they discover talents and abilities within a new version of themselves, as young and responsible citizens of the world. The entry into an Erasmus+ or Turing programme is a one-time prospect with infinite possibilities.