From the 7th of April to the 10th of April I had the opportunity to join the Erasmus Generation Meeting in Porto. Erasmus Generation Meeting is an international event where you can meet with representatives of all the ESN sections from all the ESN countries and share your experiences with them, together with improving your (not only ESN related) skills during the workshops and sessions.
My journey started in January. I filled out the registration form and later my application was accepted. A few days later I joined the participant's group. I was scared - it was my first International event this large, the first time this far from my hometown and also the first time on an aeroplane. Before the start of the event, we had 2 meetings with delegation leaders - Miška Horníková and Adél Smejkalová and with other participants. We were told what to do, what to bring, and what the event should look like and we could ask everything, we wanted to know - it was really helpful.
6th of April, 3:00
I woke up, dressed up, grabbed my stuff together with fresh “bramboráky” and headed for the bus to the airport. On my way we met with some other participants - together we joined the rest at the airport. I was really nervous about my first flight, but thanks to other ESN members and especially thanks to Adél and Miška, my first experience was really pleasant.
We arrived at our final destination in the afternoon. At the airport, we met a few ESNers also heading to EGM. I met my first friend Jeroen from Luxemburg. After we accommodated ourselves we had the whole afternoon to explore Porto, try Pastel de Nata and prepare ourselves for the next day.
7th of April
After a rich breakfast in our accommodation, we went to the Casa de Vilar for our registration, where we got our welcome packs, name tags and wristbands. The most amazing part of the welcome pack was the water bottle and hat. After lunch - we had francesinha together - we had time to prepare ourselves for the Flag Parade. We painted our faces with Czech flags and went to the park, where we met with the rest of the participants - imagine 800 ESNers together. It was amazing. After we all arrived, the flag parade could start. We went together with all of our flags, music and good mood through Porto from the park to Casa de Vilar to join the welcome ceremony. During the welcome ceremony we were introduced to the event, all of the international students and volunteers cheered there and we had the opportunity to listen to all the amazing people of ESN. This day was full of emotions and an amazing atmosphere. I was so happy to see my new friend from the day before again. We went to bed earlier today because we knew that in the next few days we won’t even want to go to sleep.
8th of April
This day was in the name of career and training. The whole day we had the opportunity to visit stands of potential employers during the career fair. In between, we also joined sessions, workshops and EGM talks. I personally joined 3 EGM talks - the first one was about environmental sustainability, the second was led by a member, who was inspired by Erasmus to start his business and the third one was about using our skills for applying for a job. I have found all the talks really inspirational and interesting. Hours run so fast when you have fun - and sure I had. During EGM we could also use a quiet room, creative room or room, that you could use for the team cooperation. I think the idea of having these rooms was really nice.
In the evening I and other volunteers went for the International Dinner (ID) preparations - where I could take my “bramboráky”. The concept of ID is really easy - all the country representatives were presenting their country's food and some drinks together with their culture. Czech delegation was really active - considering that we weren’t the biggest delegation, we for sure had the most food on our tables. Next time we should discuss with ESN Slovakia, which food is really Slovakian and which one is Czech, but I think we will never find out the truth.
This whole day was full of new friendships, full of new experiences and full of food. We ended around 2 AM and prepared ourselves for the next day.
9th of April
Day full of mobilities. As the day before, we started with plenaries. After a brief introduction, we were able to listen to people, who were on their mobility programmes. During the day all of the participants were able to represent their universities - I was there for UCT Prague (VŠCHT Praha). We were able to walk around all the stands in the meantime when we weren’t at our stand, and we could discover all the universities for the mobility exchange - it really inspired me to go abroad during my studies. I also visited the stands of international teams and our partners. I was really interested in ITcom, Social Impact Team, Responsible Party and Solidarity Corps stand.
It is unbelievable, but during this full program, I also had time for joining the poster session and session about using our impact on international students for discussion with other NGOs. I really enjoyed both of the sessions. During the poster session, I discovered some interesting projects from other ESN sections and other NGOs. During the session, we had the opportunity to create a plan for events, which were connecting our goals, the goals of other NGOs and our interests. This part of the program had a really huge impact on me. Thanks to it I realised where I want to move in my ESN future, I also that I really do want to go on my mobility and met a lot of new friends.
In the evening we could experience the taste of Portugal during the Portuguese Dinner.
10th of April
This day can be defined as a day full of celebration of networking. After coming first again, we joined other plenaries and EGM talks about the expansion of ESN. In the afternoon, the huge part of this event came - ESN Awards, where ESN CZ won its award for a mentoring program, in which I could also participate. Thanks to it I know that our network is full of active and creative people making huge events for international students and for volunteers. I also know that next year our section should apply as well because I have found out that events, which are casual for us, maybe interesting for other sections and may also be awarded.
As all of you know, all achievements should be celebrated - so we had our Gala night. Suddenly all of us changed into princes and princesses. All people in elegant clothes, sitting in the huge hall with long tables, wine and food were served and after all of this, we also had the chance to have our last dance together. We ended late - and if we could, we would never end. I did meet lots of people, I made lots of friends, I experienced all the new stuff… This event changed me a lot and who would say that just a few days abroad would have this huge impact on one person. All of this ended with a night, a night celebrating all the impact, new friendships, and all of our volunteering work and did make EGM the best event I have experienced.
Day after was time to go home. Most of us arrived late in the evening and went directly into bed. Some ESNers stayed in Porto. I believe that all of us wanted to wake up and stay in Porto. The impact of the event was huge.
If you would ask me: “How was in Porto?”, I would not be able to speak and it is possible, that I would say: “It was great!”, but this short sentence really doesn’t describe the event. Behind this short sentence, all of my passions, experiences, new friends, inspiration and happiness are hidden and I can’t even describe all of this in my own words. I would need at least two weeks to really describe these 5 days and I believe even after my speech, I would be able to find something new to say to you.
There is still stuff to be improved, I was really upset with being behind the agenda on the first day - and then I did get used to it. I wasn’t satisfied with a few more things, but all of these negative experiences were actually killed by all the positive stuff.
I would love to end this article with this: If you will have a chance to go for an EGM in the future and you will not be sure if you should go - go for it! This decision will change your life forever and will have a positive impact on your life.
ESN UCT Prague