Mexican Emilio is an active member of the Erasmus Student Network Groningen. ESN helped him to discover Europe and to enjoy his time as a student.
In July 2022 Emilio (24) moved from his home country Mexico to study Mechanical Engineering at Hanze. ‘In the beginning it was difficult. I was so far away from home. I missed my family, I had to make new friends and adapt to the Dutch culture.’ Emilio quickly made a lot of new friends from many other countries. Now most of these friends have left the Netherlands. ‘I stayed here’, he says. ‘Joining ESN helped me not to feel lonely and sad.’
WHAT IS THE ERASMUS STUDENT NETWORK?
ESN is a student association for international students. It was set up to offer students the best international experience while studying in Europe. Non-international students can also join one of the local ESN-unions, Emilio explains. ‘So Groningen students are very welcome at ESN. We are a platform for making friends and to feel included. Joining us helps you to enjoy your student time.’
‘ESN is perfect for people that are studying in a new place and who want to get to know more people and have nice things to do at the weekend.’ According to Emilio, ESN-members can sign up for activities every weekend, things like pub quizzes and parties at Copas. ‘That is how you meet a lot of people from different backgrounds. It is not just about going to Copas at night, but it is more structured and gives you a feeling of community.’
WHAT DOES EMILIO DO AT ESN?
There are eleven different committees at ESN, each doing something different for their members. Emilio is president of the excursion committee, where he helps to plan excursions. ‘Each semester we have two big excursions, and two single day excursions in the Netherlands. The last one was at Giethoorn, we visited the canals, drank some beer and just had a nice time.’
Apart from their committee responsibilities, active members like Emilio engage in numerous social events. Every semester, the group embarks on a weekend retreat, fostering a stronger international community and deepening connections among members. ‘These outings include trips, movie nights, and engaging in entertaining games’, Emilio smiles. Additionally, the group gathers for dinners during committee meetings. ‘This not only adds a fun and relaxed atmosphere but also provides an opportunity to connect with individuals who share similar interests and goals. Everyone involved is driven by the desire to go above and beyond, to do something extra and to forge new connections.’
AFFORDABLE TRIPS WITH LOTS OF ACTIVITIES
Members can sign up for the ESN trips. Emilio and his companions try to make these trips as accessible for students as possible. ‘We have to be able to get to the places by bus and keep it within a certain price range. Antwerpen was 180 euros, Copenhagen 190, that includes transportation, accommodation and activities.’
HOW MUCH TIME TAKES ESN COMMITTEE WORK?
On average, Emilio works two to eight hours a week for ESN. ‘It is easy to do the work for ESN alongside your study programme. Sometimes I have the feeling I do too much because I have two other jobs. That may sometimes feel as putting too much weight on my shoulders, but all in all I must admit that I still have time left to study.’
Emilio has met a lot of new people thanks to ESN. ‘I really love the fact that I constantly travel and get to know more people. I had never been to Antwerpen and Copenhagen. With ESN I could discover those cities with friends and meet some new people along the way.’ The shorter trips in the Netherlands have brought him much joy as well. ‘All Dutch cities are very beautiful. People are very friendly. When I try to speak Dutch to them, they become even friendlier. They seem direct and truthful to me.’
WHAT HAS EMILIO LEARNED FROM ESN?
There are also other advantages of working for ESN. ‘Once I joined ESN, I realised how good it was for my personal growth’, says Emilio. ‘When it comes to organising these trips, I think it is good to learn that you’re capable of organising things yourself and getting the tasks done. It can be tough. We have seven committee members but in Antwerp, we were responsible for 82 participants. We had to manage everything for them. But it’s okay to challenge yourself. In this committee you constantly have to get to know new people and sometimes you may feel awkward. My experience is positive, though: when I overcome this awkward feeling, it changes into something nice and exciting.’