Section in the Spotlight: ESN en UV
Here is the Section in the Spotlight for April - ESN en UV! Let's get to know the biggest section in Valencia and its fantastic initiatives.
ESN en UV was founded in 2011 by five members, and here they are today with 80 active volunteers. With the motto “there is strength in unity”, they work tirelessly together with their neighbours ESN Valencia UPV and ESN UCV to promote their Mediterranean city full of magic and ensure an amazing mobility experience for incoming students and trainees.
When you look at their event calendar you will see that they are busy as a bee but it is certain that they have fun at the same time. They organise many activities, ranging from parties to sports events, from trips to social responsibility projects and many more. Alongside their fixed calendar (different theme parties and International Dinner every other Tuesday, beer pong on Wednesdays, cultural events every Sunday, and beach cleaning every month) they have organised various health and well-being activities such as surfing, running, zumba, volleyball, dodgeball (yes!), etc., plus some unique events such as soap making, zero waste tour, axe throwing (taking the necessary safety measures of course), and 8th of March Banner Workshop. When it comes to parties, the variety is large - they have Spring and Easter Parties, Traffic Light Party, their famous Meeting Points, and multiple Fallas Parties to celebrate the festival in Valencia with the well-known mascletà (a firework show during the day). But do they organise trips? Say no more! They arrange plenty of trips within the city and country, and they promote ESN Spain’s National Events as well. They even hosted the Evento Nacional: Valencia in October last year for the second time since 2019.
However, in ESN we do not only have fun and travel, and they know that very well. They are very good at implementing multiple principles of ESN (the so-called Causes) in their events. For example, they organised an Erasmus in Schools project on Christmas combining it with social inclusion by motivating local students to write Christmas letters to elderly people. Bringing up this subject, we should not forget their other inclusive initiatives such as LGBTQ+ friendly events (Rainbow Meeting Points), safe zones for both members of the community and women, and activities with refugees and elderly people held jointly with local associations.
On their superb Instagram page, besides the colourful memories from their events, ESN en UV often marks important days such as International Women’s Day, Transgender Day, Equal Pay Day, Day of Women and Girls in Science, Day of Persons with Disabilities, etc. It should be noted that their posts are in English, which also is proof of how inclusive they are, and through their communication they promote the responsible drinking campaign within the Responsible Party initiative.
The section has many local partners that can be found on their website, highlighting an interesting partnership with the tattoo studio Inkpulso within which they provide discounts for the Erasmus Memories tattoo collection so that the mobility people remember their experience for good.
But how do they cope with multitasking? Well, the answer is hidden in their comprehensive structure and volunteer management strategy. Every local board member of ESN en UV has their community. This helps with the division of tasks in the short term and preparing future board members in the long term. Additionally, they have groups for the different Causes, which is the reason for the diverse and rich activities the section organises. Yet, “ESNing” does not always mean working hard but also having fun and bonding with other volunteers. ESN en UV sustains their members' motivation by keeping their WhatsApp groups active and sending funny memes (who doesn't love that, right?). They hold local platforms to discuss their strategy but also regularly meet online with their buddy section in Italy - ESN Torino, which expands their members' network. They try to meet outside of ESN, particularly inviting newer members as well since this strengthens their internal communication.
ESN en UV is a pretty active section constantly trying to improve the experience of thousands of mobility students and trainees coming to their city every year and to organise impactful activities enriching society. They have learnt to never give up in the face of a challenge and always try to make progress. Their Communication Manager Rocco Gargiulo says, “ESN is like a place where you can make mistakes, the important thing is to learn from them. If you have an idea, we can do it, we can put the idea into reality.”
Written by Deniz Hızlı
Section in the Spotlight: Bonded with international students - ESN CZU Prague
There are around 380 international students coming to the Czech University of Life Sciences Prague each semester. Now, there are around 13 active volunteers of ESN CZU Prague that make sure those students have the time of their life.
ESN CZU Prague works with the university to enhance the quality of mobility for incoming students. The University often contacts the section to show up at the events organised by different faculties. This is a great opportunity to talk to local students and tell them more about the opportunities for youth, but also the ESN section itself. Additionally, there is cooperation between ESN CZU Prague and student associations that results in networking and joint events. The section also has an alumni network they collaborate with.
On the first days of introducing students to life in Prague, they do campus tours and in the evening ice-breaking games at the pubs. Up next - and cannot be forgotten - the city tours! Prague is a real gem to discover. On the Welcome Week weekend, small Prague trips are organised, to beautiful places also outside the city.
They make trips around the Czech Republic for international students - it’s an easy way to stay connected. It happens often that international students take part in trivia organised by the section where they can gather in a pub or cafe and get warm and cosy.
"Being part of the team is one of the most exciting things, showing students around, and guiding them with information. Every time we make a trip, we can see the gratitude. Making the trip happen is difficult, but when it's done, it’s rewarding!" - says, the current Communication Manager of the ESN CZU Prague, Jana.
Copyright: ESN CZU Prague
When asked about their ways of keeping the international community engaged, they explained that communication is the key and a proper way - an impactful way of addressing things to others. Giving people more information and answering their needs leads to success.
"I think we are engaging the students to stay with us; it’s based on the relationship. We are with them from the very beginning. The Welcome Week is the most crucial one to make all the connections. Students really need us, and they know we’re there for them. That’s also why they join our activities and events", continues Jana.Balance between life and organising events
Of course, sometimes it may be difficult to find time and meet all the demands.
"Staying in the community of Erasmus people is the best. They are open-minded, and it’s easy to talk with them. Our section is full of great people, we’re like another small family. When you do the events and you get feedback from students, asking for even more - that’s my motivation. When we joined ESN, it was during the pandemic, and we did it because we wanted to meet people. It was also after my Erasmus and I wanted to stay in that community", shares Jana.
Copyright: ESN CZU Prague
By the initiative of one of the members, the section started to work with a calendar to plan everything. It’s just another step that helps out in making even more diversified activities.
They also post on Telegram and try to reply to all of the questions. Students share feedback with them after the events, but more often they come to the members in person during the events.
Copyright: ESN CZU Prague
"I just stepped into ESN and took over. When I think about doing something, I stick to that. As the President, I’m determined to take care of my section and motivate the members. Sometimes, there is lots of pressure and information coming to me, however, I won’t give up. I wish more people would go with me to the statutory national events and there were more members, to have more support, knowledge for the section as there has not been enough knowledge transfer", - says Teresa.
What can be therefore a takeaway for all the ESN volunteers that want to promote their initiatives among incoming and local students?
"Take advice from the experienced ones, don’t panic if there is a problem. You’re doing it for students and we’re volunteering. Do it for fun because fun is what you want to take from the events", - says Teresa.
How can ESN make an impact on your mental health? - ESN Venezia and Activity in the Spotlight
How can being a volunteer help you improve your mental health? What can we do to improve the lives of the Erasmus students coming to our city? Why should mental health be that important in our lives?
These were some of the questions that led ESN Venezia to organise “Volunthealing”, the event that won the Activity in the Spotlight of October. How is an event like this born? Let’s dive in ESN Venezia!Life in the Laguna
Venezia is a city in the North East of Italy, built on 118 small islands, all located in the Venetian Lagoon (or Laguna Veneta in Italian) and separated by canals and over 400 bridges. It has been the capital of the Republic of Venice for more than a millennium, making the city the most important centre of trade and commerce.
It’s no wonder that approximately 1000 students decide yearly to come to this city for their Erasmus. ESN Venezia is always ready to welcome them and make their experience meaningful.The Importance of Mental Health
Mental Health has always been an essential topic to the ESN volunteers of Venezia: as most of them are not from the region, getting settled in such a particular city as this one can be tricky, if not impossible. ESN gave them a lifeline, and this changed their perspective on volunteering.
When the situation presented itself, the Section members didn’t think twice. They started drafting an idea that soon became a reality.
They wanted to organise an event that focused on the importance of volunteering on mental health for everyone, from the volunteer to their target audience, the Erasmus students. Thanks to the help of the ESN’s Eduk8 team, a project which focuses on developing the skills of young people through non-formal education, and the Italian Pool of Trainers, “Volunthealing” was born, and they drafted together a Training Session Outline (TSO) for the Event.The Event
“Volunthealing” lasted for three days. It was composed of different events targeting different audiences, from the local community to the international students of Venezia.
The local environment played an essential role in this event, granting a more personal approach to it from the volunteers and giving a more significant social impact to the Section; this allowed ESN Venezia to explore new possibilities.
On the first day of the event, the Section organised two sessions, both held in Italian, about the importance of volunteering on mental health: the first one was a lesson held by a psychotherapist that focused on the impact that volunteering can have and how it can be one of the best ways to express one’s love for life; the second session was a training organised by Pool of Trainers.
Starting from simple questions such as “What are the things that can influence the mental health of a foreign student when coming to Venezia?” the training moved to a proactive approach on how to address these issues: how can the Section, the University and the Institutions intervene to make the process of settling in easier?
The second day began with Venezia Football Club giving ESN Venezia tickets for a match: supporting the city's football club was an opportunity to make the Erasmus Students feel like citizens and not tourists for one day. This was a unique and complete experience: the stadium is located on an island, so you can reach it with a vaporetto and have an aperitivo before attending the match. “Mens sana in corpore sano”; after the game, to help achieve a healthier mind thanks to a healthier body, they organised a yoga lesson in Sant’Elena. Besides the activity, the participants also had the opportunity to experience a view of the Laguna and St Mark’s Basilica.
On the last day, ESN Venezia organised a round table during an aperitivo: the focus of the open discussion was about what ESN could do to positively impact the mental health of exchange students and make them feel part of the city they’re studying in.What’s Ahead of Us
This event led the Section to start wondering about their position in the city of Venezia. New activities they are organising aim to make ESN Venezia more involved in the city’s society and engage in something that can benefit Venezia thanks to their strength and proactivity.
Now the Erasmus students have stopped being only the target of the activities; they are active participants, making a massive difference for the city.
Some events that ESN Venezia is organising involve Addolciamo l’Autismo, a pastry shop run by people in the spectrum and a retirement home: during the last few weeks, several Erasmus students baked some typical, traditional pastries. They also participated in one of the most traditional activities of winter holidays, a Tombola in the retirement home.
This event and what the Section is now doing because of it is the perfect example of how a simple concept (the importance of mental health) can influence us and our work as volunteers to have a positive impact on the local communities, bringing the international students closer to them and helping their integration through active participation and volunteering.