Mª del Mar Guerrero Manzano
Mª del Mar Guerrero Manzano
Vice Rector, Institutional Relations and Internationalization, University of Extremadura
- When I meet once a year with the students our university has selected to take part in a mobility and exchange program, I like to start by congratulating them for the great opportunity ahead of them. It is a challenge, but one I am sure they will embrace intensely to make the best of their international stay outside of the University of Extremadura.As the recipients of an exchange scholarship, they can live a dream. During their months abroad, everything is possible and new. Whatever their destination through any the different programs available, the study abroad opportunity has become one of most differentiating elements in the student education. Mobility is an added value one of the most valuable factors for entering the labor market. In our current global world, companies value the differentiating competences that an international stay affords –social skills, initiative, mobility and a global world view. These are but some of the qualities these young students acquire during their experience abroad, while building their academic background. Is there any company today that is not keen to include young graduates with this profile in their teams? International students are willing to face the challenges of a multicultural environment and, above all, are flexible and adaptive to changes in their careers –and they are proficient in a foreign language.Recruiting Erasmus is a good tool to achieve this. The need to attract the best professionals and talent is greater than ever. All companies agree –students with an international background rank high on their recruitment agenda as they are prepared to take on the challenges involved in expanding into new markets. Dynamic, energetic and enthusiastic, through their stay abroad these young students have developed different skills from other students and have become the true entrepreneurs we need.Experiencing a new academic and educational tradition, different from the UEx, delivers clear advantages. And above all, there is a personal plus –enjoying unforgettable experiences, making friends for life, traveling the world, etc. This type of scholarship is very special, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that changes lives and ways of thinking. In brief, a broader outlook and wider social networks. At the same time, language skills improve as well as problem solving skills and maturity.In the words of Sofía Corradi, who was instrumental in the development of the ERASMUS program and one of the latest recipients of the Charles V European Award from the European Academy of Yuste Foundation, "Being an ERASMUS -and by extension any mobility and exchange program-, makes you a better person."To reap all the above benefits, the scholarships must be sufficient and suitable, to ensure nobody who qualifies is left out due to lack of financial resources. For this reason, the recent decision made by the Secretary of State for Education, Vocational Training and Universities to increase the funding of international mobility programs will allow low-income students to take part in different ERASMUS+ programs. It is also very helpful that the financial aid provided will cover seven months instead of the current maximum five. We hope it will cover the full stay very soon, regardless of its length.It is also great news that the Spanish Ministry for Education, Culture and Sports has unified the mobility programs "Erasmus.es" and "Erasmus+" into one single program, in line with the demands that Spanish universities have been making for a long time. Managing both programs, one funded by the Government with more generous scholarships and more stringent academic requirements, and the other funded by the EU, was the source of significant problems for the universities while creating confusion among students. Unifying both initiatives is very positive.Unquestionably, the University comes out stronger from this process. In our campus, the international component is part of our everyday life. In a context of growing social and economic globalization, the internationalization of the universities is no longer marginal and has become of the utmost importance. Internationalization is a key element of the European Higher Education Area, and part and parcel of the process of modernization of the University, a cross-sectional driver for development. The 21st century university is international or is not a university –both concepts are necessarily entwined.