Learning with Erasmus+ is a Lifetime Adventure! (Tips and tools to get the financial support you need)

Learning with Erasmus+ is a Lifetime Adventure! (Tips and tools to get the financial support you need)

Do you feel inspired when you identify new solutions and tracks for your personal and professional journey? Have you already found these opportunities, but still looking for financial support to achieve your learning goals? You should then try the Erasmus+ program.

By now, you have probably searched and looked into various possibilities to get funds. You have been struggling to navigate through the amount of information available while projecting in your mind the daunting perspective of an intricate process. Indeed, sometimes this seems like a discouraging task.

Learning is a Lifetime Adventure!

As an English teacher, I have always been interested in my CPD. From the very beginning, in my second year of teaching, I managed to win a Comenius scholarship (Exeter, England, 2011). Later, I successfully applied for several Erasmus+ grants. The one I am particularly fond of is the project I won for my institution with Erasmus+  Key Action 1. This gave me and my colleagues the opportunity to attend professional development courses in various countries (Portugal-Porto, Spain-Benalmadena, Finland-Helsinki) and also to study at Bell Cambridge. Indeed, this represented a milestone in my teaching career. 

Many colleagues, as well as partners from abroad, asked me for advice on how to write a successful application. So, I decided to write this article to share some guiding principles and useful tips.

To begin with, it is not that complicated as it sounds at first. However, you need to be aware that it takes time and energy to plan well every detail. Of course, if you use some efficient project management tools you can optimize the entire process. 

First, I will outline my Erasmus+story and the impact it had on me. Then, in the second part, I will provide useful tools and resources for project design and management. Last, but not least, I hope this will encourage more teachers to benefit from this incredibly rewarding opportunity.

My Erasmus+ experience 

Sicily, Cambridge, Exeter, Porto, Helsinki…what do all these locations have in common? Well, these are not only unforgettable places from my mental map. They are also exciting professional and personal experiences from my Erasmus+ story.  

“Downloading” some thoughts and memories from my Erasmus+ story.

I have fallen in love with Sicily…not only because it breathes Greek mythology through all its pores and stones… but also because of its stunning Mediterranean landscapes and architectural masterpieces. Add the fantastic cuisine with the unique flavors of pizza, gelato, granita, arancino, and pistachio specialties and you get an indelible experience. 

Needless to say, I enjoyed every moment spent on the shores of the Ionian Sea! Our time in Sicily was intensely diluted due to our dedicated Italian host Istituto Comprensivo Salvatore Casella. They had meticulously planned every detail to provide us a fully immersive in their culture experience! We had a lot of takeaways from the artistic moments, the science-based activities as well as from the Olympic Games! I particularly loved the insight into their amazing robotics course and lego-based transdisciplinary learning activities!

How to encapsulate in just a few words the essence of this experience? Generosity, warmth, friendliness, collaboration, enthusiasm, and the list could go on! The tears of joy from our pupils’ eyes at our final meeting were vivid proof of the quality time together! Undoubtedly, we all witnessed the unbelievably strong ties our students had developed with the host families and their international peers! Both parents and school staff had been fully committed to ensuring the best Sicilian experience for both pupils and teachers!

I must confess that I had learned a lot from our guided tours! We explored both less known places like the lovely town of Acireale with its fascinating Museo dei Puppi (Puppet Museum), as well as popular ones. I can still vividly remember the vibrant streets of Palermo, the picturesque Taormina with its breathtaking scenic landscapes, charming location, and archaeological heritage.

Erasmus+: an inspiring journey filled with ‘aha’ moments

I was really inspired by the rich history of Palermo, with its Norman cathedrals and Baroque churches! Similarly, the impressive acoustics of Massimo Teatro, the exquisite Palatine Chapel, and the Norman Palace (Palazzo dei Normanni) with its unique Arab-Norman-Byzantine style left an indelible mark in my memory. According to our guide, this palace was the former seat of royalty during the Norman domination. Now it serves as the residence of the Sicilian Parliament and a Unesco World Heritage site. However, beyond the architectural value dating back to the 12th century, it is an outstanding emblem of multicultural collaboration. Actually, it is vivid proof that witnesses the possibility of harmonious coexistence between these three major antagonistic religious traditions.

I will definitely keep these invaluable memories, deep within my soul, where time’s corrosive acid cannot alter them! Undoubtedly, I have learned so much from the vibrant spirit of Sicilians, from their vitality and hardworking determination in front of the capricious face of nature!

Even now, I am still puzzled by the passionate and strange way they cherish and love their „mother Etna”! Indeed, its fertile lava soil provides rich harvests and exquisite wines. From my insightful conversations with the locals, I realized they still filter their reality through a mythological lens. Curiously, they often associate the mount with Medusa, the mystical symbol of the island, found on almost every trinket and souvenir.

There is something incredible in their power to look at life, in their gratitude and contagious positive energy! They deliberately chose to remain on the island despite the unpredictable threat of living at the foot of Europe’s highest active volcano! Every time I browse my photo gallery I childishly feel like on a roller coaster ride through indelible memories, nostalgic thoughts, and enchanting experiences!

What is Erasmus+? 

For those teachers who are not yet familiarized with Erasmus+, you need to know that this is the European Union program for education, training, youth, and sport. It challenges organizations across all sectors of lifelong learning, including school education, further and higher education, adult education, and the youth sector to apply for funding each year for life-changing activities. Briefly, the main aims of the program are:

  • Young people can study, volunteer, and gain work experience abroad, to develop new skills, gain vital international experience, and boost their employability.
  • Staff can teach or train abroad, to develop their professional practice, build relationships with international peers, and gain fresh ideas.
  • Organizations can collaborate with international partners, to drive innovation, share best practices, and offer new opportunities to young people.” (https://www.erasmusplus.org.uk/about-erasmus).

The Programme is made up of three so-called “Key Actions” and two additional actions. . For more details, you can visit their official website: https://eacea.ec.europa.eu/erasmus-plus_en.

 How can you prepare a successful application for Erasmus+ Key Action 1 (KA1) Learning Mobility of individuals for school education staff?

Overview of general aspects.

You need to know that there are some great course providers that offer support for filling in the application form. For example, in my case, it was Euneos, a trustworthy Finnish course provider. They have provided lots of support materials to be adapted for our school and invaluable help with the process. You can find or contact them here http://www.euneoscourses.eu.

Tips on how to start writing the KA1 Erasmus + project for your school.

 Use efficient project management tools.

My advice is to start with a thorough needs analysis of your institution. Thus, you can identify the key areas of improvement.

A great way to do this is to use logical tools like the problem tree/ the solution tree analysis. This is a really helpful tool to organize your ideas in a clear way. If done systematically, it can definitely ensure the success of your entire project.

Let me give you an example to understand better. For instance, in our case, we aimed to approach two strategic priorities from the wide spectrum of identified needs for our school. Our first area of improvement which we had diagnosed revealed the necessity to implement a long-term policy plan on internationalization. Secondly, we established the need to promote innovation and quality in education. More specifically, for our school, it was vitally important to exploit the potential of digital technology in the didactic process. 

What is a problem tree/solution tree analysis?

This tool provides an overview of all the potential causes and effects triggered by an identified major problem. This is essential in planning because it gives a better understanding of the context. A problem tree involves writing causes in a negative form (eg. lack of knowledge, of time, financial resources, etc).

“Reversing the problem tree, by replacing negative statements with positive ones, creates a solution tree. A solution tree identifies means-end relationships as opposed to cause-effects. This provides an outline of the project plan, including the activities that need to be undertaken, the goal and the outcomes of the project as well as the range of projects or interventions that need to occur to solve the core problem.” (http://evaluationtoolbox.net.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=28&Itemid=134 ).

Many teachers tend to take for granted this stage and treat it superficially. Actually, this is by far one of the most important stages. You will definitely not regret it if you spend more time on it. Personally, I spent a few days only to clarify this part! Indeed, I agree it looks time-consuming. However, I did not regret doing this! Especially after the feedback given by our National Agency which evaluated our application among the first 12 from over 500 submissions!

In our next post, we will be sharing strategies on how to develop a coherent  European Development Plan for your institution. This is another essential part of your application form which weighs a lot in the evaluation process.

Keep in mind the deadline and don’t postpone until the last week! Unquestionably, a well-written application needs quality time and reflection to ensure its success!

Good luck and should you have any questions, feel free to contact us! Dare to apply, enjoy writing your project, and let us know if you were successful!