Why 509 University of Luxembourg students left the Grand Duchy this year.
Florence Fournel says: “Studying about history and art in Paris was the perfect thing for me.” She is a European culture student at the University of Luxembourg who went on an Erasmus exchange this academic year.
In fact, hundreds of local students go abroad each year using the Erasmus programme, an EU initiative that launched in 1987.
“Erasmus is the biggest channel from which we send our students,” says the university’s head of the student department, Eric Gary. There are two other options offered by the institution: the Global Exchange Programme, which sends students to schools in the Americas and Asia; and the “free mover” scheme.
But Gary explains that “Erasmus is the most successful programme because it’s the only one that offers a scholarship.” The students generally receive €500 a month while abroad. That is an amount of money that some judge insufficient in comparison with the bursaries offered by other European countries.
Still, Erasmus gives students a valuable, and different, perspective. “I liked learning about the French culture and subjects like French history,” says Yasmine Belkeiri, another student at the University of Luxembourg, who spent six months studying French literature in Aix-en-Provence.
The young women were not the only ones who chose France, which is the second largest Erasmus destination for Luxembourg students after Germany. During the most recent winter semester, from September 2015 to January 2016, a total of 249 students went abroad via Erasmus. During the same period, 136 Erasmus students came to Luxembourg, led by Germans and French.
“There was more freedom to speak”
Fournel and Belkeiri were both pretty satisfied with their Erasmus experience. “I really liked visiting the Versailles museum, as part of the Erasmus events,” says Fournel. In addition to the social aspect, Erasmus offers students the opportunity to be more open-minded. Fournel feels “there was more freedom to speak” at the Sorbonne.
“In Aix-en-Provence, we had a discussion about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict,” says Belkeiri. “Everyone was free to express their own opinion without any judgement.” She claims that this is less likely to happen in Luxembourg, where some of her classmates can be less open-minded.
“I was alone and that was a difficult time”
Like any experience abroad, the students faced some difficulties. “It’s not easy to find a university and an apartment alone,” notes Belkeiri. Fournel was in Paris during last November’s terror attacks. “I was alone and that was a difficult time,” she says. Despite this, the students admit they were quite sad to finish their Erasmus séjour.
“It’s true that Paris is a very expensive city for students, but I got used to the city’s fast rhythm and to living alone,” says Fournel.
When Belkeiri came back to Luxembourg in February, she promised to visit her friends in France soon. “Last week, I was in Aix-en-Provence and I stayed there for nine days. The atmosphere even encouraged me to think about living there in the near future.”