It was 11 o’clock in the morning, when I rung the bell of Erasmus Students Network (ESN) office. Three out of five board members were already there, two arrived a few minutes afterward, but Secretary General at that time Simone Dalle Nogare was still sleeping. However, my interview about ESN was scheduled exactly with him.
ESN - supporting and developing student exchangesLast year ESN celebrated its 20th anniversary since they are supporting and developing student exchanges, mainly bringing together local students with Erasmus and other exchange students. Local students are there to help international students in anything needed, starting with answering to questions about accommodation, best phone card or party places and finishing with the explanation about the studies at the university, professors and other hints. says Simone.
“ESN section in each city is there to help you,”That is exactly what Simone did last year, when he joined ESN Verona back in Italy and organised cultural trips, language tandems and parties. Before that, he was a typical Erasmus student in France, spending a year of his life abroad, learning French and appreciating this year so much that still now he says – it was the best choice of his life. he recalls.
The best choice of his life
“I wanted to learn another language. I did not want to learn English as the first foreign language, because then for sure I would not learn any other language. Let’s try French, because I like French. I just tried and it was wonderful,”When he decided to apply for Secretary General of ESN, the only paid position in its headoffice, he had no idea what is coming up. He remembers:
“I thought – ok, let’s try to get to Brussels, it could be interesting. When I got here, I did not know what is going to happen exactly. I had a general idea, but that was all. For the first couple of months it was summer and nothing was really happening. It was a bit boring, but from September on my life really changed. I am very happy about that.”However, he does not seem very happy to describe the tasks he needs to do in the office as they are mainly administrative ones – taking minutes of the meetings, checking the post etc. – so to say, repetitive tasks. But Simone can be happy, because ESN International board members have been very supportive and have given to him other tasks as well, e.g., coordinating the project which fights against racism. he admits. Before moving to Brussels, Simone was studying philosophy and now will gain his second master – this time in economics here in Brussels.
“I am not a typical Italian”
“This year has been very different from the one before. In my last year in the university I was quite a good guy, all the time there. This year I saw at least 14 countries and I was in the plane every two weeks. I saw a lot of Europe and many people - it was really interesting. I am not a typical Italian with mama, house and her doing everything. I love staying abroad, meeting new people and having new experience,”The choice what to do after one year in ESN Headoffice was not an easy one. In the last general assembly of ESN he run for a board member position, but was not elected and his chosen post went to his friend. Nevertheless, Simone did not give up his motivation and will stay in ESN House in Brussels as a resident as some of the rooms in the same house are being rented out to fellow youngsters, one of them being Simone. he explains and later ads that ESN plans to introduce a permanent Secretary General, meaning a person who would stay in the same position on a long-term basis, not changing every year as the rest of the international board. adds Simone.
“If you have just one year here in Brussels, you cannot contribute so much. That is why I wanted to stay – to have somebody for two years,”“I think that it will give some kind of stability to the organisation, because the board changes every year and there should be somebody a bit more experienced who is staying,”Now when his mandate is finished and the new Secretary General this time from the United Kingdom just took over, I ask him – what has he learnt in the past year? At first he says that is the orientation skills he has gained as before so many trips he was able to get lost almost everywhere but it is not an issue now. After another round of questions, he admits – it is definitely soft skills he has learnt, including events management and communication with others. ex Secretary General of ESN says very passionate in the end of our interview.
Make a difference!
“It was the opportunity of my life. Everybody goes to the university, studies and learns, but being involved in an international organisation made a real difference for me. I would suggest everybody to try to join any student organisation. Doing something else than your studies can really make a difference! If you do not really try, you cannot understand how it works and it is very hard even to motivate you,”