Belgium,1990

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A fairy tale called Erasmus?

Once upon a time – this is how lots of fairy tales begin – a new programme was launched, the one of international mobility within Europe. However, the 30-year-old story of international mobility sometimes seemed far from being a fairy tale – at least from my angle as an administrator in the whole process of shifting students and staff to and from across Europe.  Perhaps considered from the students’ point of view, after having heard and read the many very positive reports of the young people who lived the experience of an exchange, one could indeed believe in a fairy tale more than once. As many of the mobile students ended up in getting married abroad, having children and living long and happily ever after… why should it not be called a fairy tale after all?

Having been active in the international mobility administration for over two decades, starting in the middle of the nineties, one could indeed consider me as a kind of pre digital relic, since at that time the main communication tool was the written letter, which took ages to result in some kind of concrete plan of cooperation between partner institutions in different countries. Next to the very expensive international telephone calls, the fax medium was the second best communication tool to get things done. It was considered to be a kind of direct written communication tool, faster than a written letter and cheaper than a phone call. Unfortunately too often faxes did not reach the person they were meant to reach. They were misplaced at some wrong office, got lost or were even thrown away due to not understanding its contents... thus making faxes not always the trustworthy means of communication one would have wished them to be. Speaking of communication, the language skills of some partners abroad were not always as evident as nowadays, when – luckily! – many or most of the international contacts master the English language to the level of proficiency.

No roses without thorns. What makes a rose attractive may it be its colours or its smell, the thorns are also inextricably linked to this rose, these thorns must be the administrative (over)load for all and this – to my regret – has not improved over the three decades the programme exists, rather to the contrary. Despite the overload of new communication media, to our regret they do not seem to result in simplified administrative procedures.

Even so, within this E.U. (fairy) tale one, unquestionably, very good thing was and still is the bonding between partners through the administration, keeping up the spirit when it all became too much…

sdm from BE