More than 400 young students from Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy and Poland have landed in Zaragoza to do their VET internships in local companies
Mundus. Filip is 18 years old and studies Gastronomy in Stargard (Poland), his hometown. His dream is to become the chef of his own restaurant. Until this summer, he had never left Poland. It was with his recent coming of age that Filip decided to carry out his Vocational Training internship abroad and through Semper Avanti, his sending coordinating entity, and Mundus, his host coordinating entity, he has landed in Zaragoza. Filip will be working for 3 weeks in a restaurant in the city and he says that at the moment what he likes the most is the atmosphere and everything they teach him: “It’s a great opportunity to open your mind”.
Filip is one of those hundreds of young students that are right now in Zaragoza thanks to the Erasmus+ programme. This programme allows them to do a VET internship focusing on their field of expertise in another country. Only during the 3 first months of Summer, more than 400 students from Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy or Poland have arrived in the capital of Aragon. The number might be doubled from now to October.
The long break caused by the pandemic has not stopped the desire of doing the work experiences abroad. As soon as the international mobilities have been reactivated, many VET centers have wanted their students to enjoy this opportunity. Since the current circumstances regarding the pandemic are still complicated, the Mundus team informs young people of all the rules they must follow and also all groups are accompanied by a teacher from their educational center who also ensures their safety.
Gastronomy student during the internship
In this first wave of arrivals, the students are between 16 and 20 years old, most of them are from the specialties of Administration, Computer Science, Agriculture, Mechanics, Tourism or Gastronomy and they usually spend a month in the city. During that time, they also take the opportunity to get to know the town and even the surrounding areas of the province. For example, they enjoyed a city tour, a visit to La Lonja and they went to El Juncaral eco-park, a multi-adventure park located in Villanúa.
Mundus organizes all the logistics of the mobility (the journey, the cultural visits and the accommodation in Erasmus flats or in hotels in the city) and the search for companies. Jorge Zarazaga, business prospector at Mundus, details this process: “The first thing is to identify the professional profiles of the students to focus the search.” Jorge says that Mundus has a large database with companies and if none of these entities can offer internships for a specific specialty, new ones are found.
In addition to logistics and the contact with companies, Mundus is also in touch with the similar entities from Bulgaria, Croatia, Italy or Poland, which are in this case in charge of sending students, and the hosting team guides the students from beginning to end of their stay.
The coordinator tasks
Normally, when someone thinks of an Erasmus student, what comes to mind is a university student who decides to go to a foreign country for a year. But the truth is that there are Erasmus of different ages and in the case of the students who have come to Zaragoza through Mundus, many of them are still minors and, for most, this is their first long stay abroad. For this reason, Mundus not only takes care of all the logistical tasks, but the coordinators of the entity guide them in their day to day to solve any problem that may arise: “We make sure that each group feels at home and can make the most of their internship experience abroad ”, it is explained on the organization’s website.
During their working day, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., the coordinators are at the disposal of the groups. But in addition, there is always an emergency phone so that any problem out of office hours can be solved too. Guillermo López, from the Mundus coordinator team, tells us that one weekend a teacher from one of the groups called him because she had problems with a bus ticket: “The company works under several names and the ticket showed a different one than the one indicated on the station’s panel”. For someone from our country, this is not a problem because we all know the company, but Guillermo clarifies that for a foreign person it can be a problem, a problem that Mundus easily solves with a simple call.
Arrival Training for Erasmus students
The coordinators’ work is much more than just the emergency phone, it begins from the moment the students arrive in the city until the moment they leave it. Upon arrival, Mundus picks them up and takes them to their accommodation. Once accommodated, the groups attend an Arrival Training in the Mundus office or in spaces prepared to gather large groups. There, they are explained what they are going to do during their stay in Zaragoza, the Erasmus+ programme is presented in detail, some points they should know about accommodation are listed, leisure and cultural activities are presented and also, the coordinators very clearly explain the anti-COVID measures that they must follow.
Kike Miana, coordinator, explains that after the Arrival Training his tasks and those of the rest of the Mundus team are to accompany the Erasmus students on their first day of internships in companies, have 1 or 2 tutorials per week with the students, contact the companies on a regular basis so that they also feel accompanied and, before the students return to their countries, they carry out a final evaluation of the entire experience.
«A life experience»
Kike has already carried out dozens of final evaluations with students and that is why he affirms with so much confidence that Erasmus+ internships are “a super beautiful opportunity that everyone should have”. Kike explains that it is an experience that allows them to know a totally different way of working and helps them a lot to grow professionally and personally. Arantxa Sevilla, head of the Logistics Department, agrees when hearing her colleague speak and cannot help adding that it is “a true life experience.”
Students are not the only ones who benefit from all of this. Many companies contact Jorge Zarazaga to tell him how enriching the experience has been for them. “Those responsible for companies often say that students bring joy and another vision of the tasks,” says Jorge.
“Together we overcome difficulties, together we are stronger”
“Together we overcome difficulties, together we are stronger”
And finally, the coordinating entities, that chain that links Erasmus students with local companies, are also proud when mobilities become a reality. “When the groups leave, you see that they have learned a lot, but that you have also gained a lot with the experience of accompanying them,” says Noelia Rodríguez, Mundus coordinator. She and Ania Kurska, her colleague, say it is a unique opportunity to grow.
For Denitsa Andonova, from Horizont Proconsult (sending coordinating entity of the Bulgarian group), it is a reward after two years of work: “Due to COVID, last year this mobility had to be cancelled when it was fully prepared. I am very happy to see that, despite all the obstacles, it has finally been possible”. Denitsa is working on the final evaluation of one of the groups and explains how satisfying it is to see that it has been a success and that the comments are so positive. “This has been possible thanks to the collaboration of Mundus and Horizont Proconsult. Together we overcome difficulties, together we are stronger”.
Enrique Miana, president of Mundus, is equally grateful to the coordinating entities of the different countries that trust Mundus during the month of July, such as Semper Avanti, Horizont Proconsult, Mode Foundation, OpenCom, Uniser, Educational Trip, iFOM or CBDS, SICO, PARNUMA. The president of the entity also highlights the strength of the network of companies: “We have to thank the companies. Normally, it is already difficult to welcome students without experience, who leave their countries for the first time and whose internships usually last only a month. Now, to all this, we had to add the COVID situation”. In the same way, he wants to thank the support of the educational centers that continue to send students and the Mundus staff: “Everything has been possible thanks to that great human team”.