In summer semester 2020, the coronavirus had the everyday lives of students around the world in its grip and also presented international programmes at universities with significant challenges. The Erasmus+ programme, a European Union educational programme which supports cross-border mobility for students within Europe, was among the schemes impacted. To deal with the new situation in future and to continue to enable students’ mobility, the EU Commission has relaxed the programme conditions: as of winter semester 2020/21, study or internships abroad that take the form of virtual study or ‘blended mobility’ can also be funded through Erasmus+ for the first time.
The HAW Hamburg’s application and selection processes for a study semester at one of the European partner universities in winter semester 2020/21 took place in February and March 2020 – when corona was still barely an issue. The students’ preparations since the beginning of April have been accompanied by a great deal of uncertainty. Because of the continued spread of the virus and the resulting restrictions, many students have given up their study place or postponed their stay until summer semester 2021.
As of 28 August, 49 HAW Hamburg students were set to begin their stay abroad in winter semester 2020/21. Six of these students will spend a full study year abroad. The destination countries include France and Spain (10 students each); Great Britain (six students); Denmark (four students); Finland, Ireland and Italy (three students each); Austria, Sweden and Turkey (two students each); and Iceland, Poland and Latvia (one student each). Almost all the students are still planning to physically travel abroad for their stay, despite the changes to the programme which allow the stay to be started virtually and – where possible – continued in the destination country. The rules at the partner university and the country’s pandemic-related regulations regarding entry, quarantine and hygiene play a decisive role here. Participants receive the financial support once their physical stay in the host country begins.
Interest in travelling abroad among HAW Hamburg students has not declined, as the applications for the Erasmus+ internship stays also show. Here, too, at least 16 students will start their internship stay abroad in the coming months. The destination countries are Austria (four students); Great Britain (three students); the Netherlands and Spain (two students each); Denmark, France, Greece, Ireland and Slovenia (one student each).
The idea behind Erasmus+ is that students complete study or an internship in the host country. Living in the host country lets the students in the programme experience the other culture in the most direct way possible. They gain intercultural experience and skills – in addition to the academic or practical experience – which supports a European identity. Although the virtual mobility option will alter the experience, an Erasmus+ semester will still provide students with new perspectives that enrich them personally and academically, whether they complete the semester virtually from Hamburg, in the host country, or as a ‘blended learning’ format.
Author: Marina Leß, Erasmus+ coordinator