Encouragement to Potential Participants to Use Erasmus+ Opportunities, and all the UNEXPECTED BENEFITS
This is an open invitation and encouragement to all those organizations or enthusiasts who are thinking about applying for mobility grants, but are still on the fence: absolutely DO apply for a European grant. While sometimes, especially for novices, it is not clear or easy to grasp the long-term benefits of investing time and resources into Erasmus+ workshops, info-days, webinars and many other ways one can learn about the opportunities Erasmus offers, whatever the call/sector may be, the greatest benefits are not quite tangible, nor can be quantified in the application form. The values of the results so drastically outweigh the time and trouble you invest in the preparation and application that it is hard to imagine any organization working in the Adult Education sector that would not benefit from applying. Let me try to explain:
A group of enthusiastic, but inexperienced staff members of an Adult Education school timidly decided to apply for a KA1 grant. The School for Elementary Education of Adults Sombor, Serbia took part in two mobilities, with modest goals, and even more modest expectations. The hosting organization we opted for was right next door - in the neighboring country of Croatia - only 70km away from our location (even though our project idea was very sound, we were hoping that the proximity and low travel cost would play a part in the application evaluation – it did not, and hardly ever does). However, it was still in the EU, and the most valuable benefits were not the ones we outlined in our project application (though they were quite substantial, too).
The time spent in the host organization provided much more information and guidance than we had planned or hoped for. If there was any doubt about the benefits of cooperation with EU based organizations before, due to completely different systems, now they have completely vanished and gave room to radiant enthusiasm and a complete shift in the paradigm and the thought processes of the individuals who have directly or indirectly experienced the results of such activities.
Namely, what was once typically seen as an insurmountable obstacle, now is just a challenge. Errors are no longer points of no return, rather, they are just lessons.
The number of our school’s staff members who would like to contribute and participate in Erasmus+ and other activities has doubled, as the perception has changed and awareness increased about some (but not all, as we keep finding out about new opportunities) of the many ways in which the quality of classes, school management, fund securing and many other aspects can be significantly improved through such activity.
Without finger-pointing, the situation in education in Serbia is substantially behind the EU. This often results in ever growing cynicism and disappointment in all the people involved – the employees, students and their families. Schools are not popular in Serbia, and for a good reason. The sad truth is, once the school employees manage to complete the pile of red tape their work entails these days, not much enthusiasm is left to even think about developing a project idea, let alone applying for a grant.
However, what our project has taught us is that we can start adopting many of the best practice examples from our peers abroad, that both the school as a whole and all the individual staff members can significantly improve their competences, expertise and experience even though we are still not part of the EU. Programs such as Erasmus+ may have been available before, but only after finding out about the Tempus foundation have we realized that there are real, tangible opportunities, and in such abundance that we are now forced to choose between several beautiful projects, as we cannot delegate that many members of the staff to projects. However, the enthusiasm and willingness in the entire school is now such that our productivity is increased – which is no surprise, since the results of our efforts are present in almost all areas of school work.
To conclude, if you have an idea brewing, but are still unsure - go through with it! Contact your local Erasmus+ organization and they will help you through the fine points. And if you still do not have an idea, well there are many best practice examples published here and elsewhere, that is exactly what these examples are for: if a creative solution solved someone else's problem in the past, it can probably solve yours, too. You can also find partners for your idea and enjoy many other benefits the community and the platform have to offer. So go ahead, do whatever it takes to start preparing your application and remember – the entire process is a benefit in itself!