Did you know one can travel in Europe with mobility programmes? There are plenty of mobility programmes supporting people to travel in Europe, and this is what we will look into next.
This might not be a regular travel blog post, but mobility programmes in Europe play an important role in helping people with limited means travel the old continent. It was my strategy for some time before I landed a full-time job and could afford regular holidays. Therefore, I prepared this guide to share my knowledge of mobility programmes in Europe and help people who wonder how to travel in Europe with little to no money?
What are mobility programmes?
Over the years, the European Union has created many initiatives to help Europeans and residents of Europe discover, learn, travel or work in another European country. These initiatives were part of the EU integration project and supported people living in Europe to travel, pick up a new language, work and exchange knowledge with people from all over the continent.
Mobility programmes are, as the name suggests, funded schemes that help people study, work and travel to a different EU country than their country of origin. By the end of the exchange programme, participants would have experienced a different culture, lived in a different country, picked up a new language and even developed some new useful skills.
Mobility programmes are very popular, especially amongst young people. However, there are some mobility programmes targeting adults too.
The most popular mobility programmes in Europe
Probably the most famous mobility programme in Europe is Erasmus+. Formally referred to as the Erasmus programme, this mobility programme has helped millions of Europeans and European residents study, travel and complete internships all over Europe.
The idea behind this programme is the same to other EU mobility programmes. Thanks to the Erasmus+ programme, people can move to other countries (different to their country of origin/residence) to study or complete an internship for up to 12 months. The main requirement is that you need to be a student.
The Erasmus+ programme has a big advantage because as an exchange student you don’t pay any tuition fees to your host university. For example, I studied a 4-year degree and have only been charged for 3 years because I completed one year abroad as part of the Erasmus programme during which I did not have to pay any fees to my host university in Spain.
The programme covers all your expenses, including accommodation, food, entertainment etc. To access the programme, you must get in touch with your home university. It’s usually the study abroad department that deals with mobility programmes. However, every university is different, so you will need to do your research.
You can access an Erasmus scholarship as a BA, a Masters or a PhD student. More so, you can combine an internship and a study period abroad which is what I did. I moved to Spain and studied for 1 academic year in Granada. I then moved to Malta and completed a 3 months internship on one of the most beautiful islands in the Mediterranean sea. If you’ve never heard about Malta, have a look at this blog post.
Fun fact about the Erasmus+ programme: Apparently, over 1 million Erasmus babies were born in Europe as a result of this initiative. Their parents met thanks to this programme, fell in love and decided to start a family.
Another mobility programme is called Eurodyssee. This initiative is not known that well, despite being an excellent opportunity for young people to travel, train and study a foreign language in Europe.
Compared to the Erasmus+ programme, Eurodyssee has some limits. Not all European countries take part in it. Therefore, some people cannot apply because their region has to be part of the programme.
For those of you lucky enough to be able to apply, the programme offers various rewards. Similar to Erasmus+, it’s fully funded. Apart from offering participants the chance of accessing paid internships, the programme also provides language courses. Depending on the candidate’s profile, the programme offers internships for up to 6 months.
Tip: if you want to extend your stay in the host country, you could look into accessing national mobility programmes. I extended my stay in France for another 5 months, following the end of my Eurodyssee placement, thanks to a French national initiative called Service Civique. You can learn about my experience in Besancon, France, where I lived for 1 year in the blog post below:
European Voluntary Service
The European Voluntary Service (EVS) initiative is yet another chance people have to move and travel in Europe. Similar to other European exchange programmes, this one is also fully funded. You can complete a European Voluntary Service exchange anywhere in Europe. Sometimes, depending on the project, people are offered the chance to complete an EVS project outside Europe too. Although, these projects don’t happen that often.
The difference between an EVS exchange and an Erasmus+ internship, for example, is that with an EVS exchange, you can also access more hands-on projects. Not all of them have to be an office internship. In fact, the vast majority of projects funded under the EVS scheme involve teaching activities, organising events, gardening projects etc. So, if you are a more hands-on person, an EVS project might be the right one for you.
The length of an EVS project can vary. While the average is 6-7 months, people can sign up for 1 year projects, but also for short-term ones.
Short term exchange/training programmes
If you don’t have time for long-term mobility programmes, there is something called short-term mobility programmes. These are initiatives that usually last up to a week and allow participants from all over Europe to gather, exchange knowledge, learn from each other and travel.
Organising Cultural nights is a common practice among short-term exchange programmes. Cultural nights are excellent opportunities for people to learn about various European cultures and present their own traditions to the rest of the participants.
These types of projects are usually advertised online. The best way to find them is through Facebook groups. This is where most of these projects are advertised. You must know that you cannot participate in short-term mobility programmes by yourself. You will need to find a sending and a host organisation.
Similar to all the other EU exchange programmes, these short-term projects are also fully funded. Sometimes host organisations charge participants a fee to take part in these programmes. It’s up to you if you decide to pay for it. I have never taken part in short-term projects where a fee was required.
DiscoverEU is the latest initiative aimed at financially supporting young people to travel across the old continent (mainly by train) and discover the cultural diversity of the European countries.
It can be a good way to kick off your first international trip while knowing that the transport costs are covered.
The benefits of participating in European mobility programmes
There are many benefits of taking part in European mobility programmes. Some of the most obvious are:
- European mobility programmes are an excellent way to slow travel across Europe and experience the culture of the host country.
- You can use European mobility programmes to learn a new language, pick up new skills and meet new people who can become lifetime friends.
- European mobility programmes are fully funded and don’t request a participant fee. There are some exceptions when it comes to short-mobility programmes, but you can simply opt-out of those. Generally speaking, European mobility programmes are free, and none of the ones I took part in requested any participation fee.
How to access European mobility programmes?
To take part in European mobility programmes, you must find a sending and a receiving organisation. While European mobility programmes aim to support individuals, they need to be managed by organisations who take care of the logistics, paperwork and manage the participants selection process.
To begin with, decide what type of programme you are interested in. Then, get in touch with the coordinating organisation. They will be able to advise what the process entails and where to start.
How long can you live abroad?
Thanks to mobility programmes, participants can live abroad for up to 1 year. People with less time to spare can also opt for short-term projects of up to 6 months or even a 1 week.
Who can take part in mobility programmes?
European mobility programmes aim to support Europeans who want to travel across Europe and learn about different cultures. While having a European passport is one of the participation requirements, many European residents can also access European mobility programmes. You need to check carefully the requirements of each project before applying to make sure you meet the eligibility criteria.
The downside of European mobility programmes
Like everything else, travelling through European mobility programmes has its downside as well.
- The application process is bureaucratic. You will need to fill in applications, prepare CVs and even cover letters. But it will all be worth it when your application is accepted.
- Mobility programmes can be competitive. Because they are fully funded, mobility programmes attract many potential candidates. You need to be prepared for rejections and even reconsider projects if you cannot get accepted. Sometimes applications are treated like job interviews, and only the best get accepted.
- Some mobility programmes are not available everywhere in Europe, so not everyone can take part in every single mobility programme. Before even considering applying, you need to make sure your country of residence does take part in the programme.
- Taking part in mobility projects is a lengthy process. It takes time to find the project you want, apply for it, get accepted and finally start.
- Most of the European mobility programmes have age requirements and target primarily young people (18-30-year-old individuals). However, there are some mobility programmes targeting adults and entrepreneurs and do not have an age limit requirement.
Despite its downside, mobility programmes are an excellent way to travel in Europe. They appeal to people because they are fully funded and are an excellent way to discover new cultures and meet new people. Have you ever participated in a mobility programme in Europe? What was your experience?