The Inaugural Session of the European Student Assembly took place from the 3rd to the 4th of March, 2022, in Strasbourg, (France). The event was hosted by the University of Strasbourg and co-organised by Grenoble-Alpes University, Sciences Po and CY Cergy Paris University under their respective European University Alliances EPICUR, Unite!, CIVICA and EUTOPIA.
Leonie Steffan, Magdalena Kwiecien, and Helena Berkmann met with other Ulysseus students as well as students from 38 European alliances – which together form the European Student Community - to discuss key topics for the future of Europe and formulate recommendations to be later presented before the European Commission within the framework of the Conference on the Future of Europe. “It was inspiring to see that there are so many engaged and motivated students that all work towards a better future. There were no discussions about nationality, gender, or sexuality. We all aimed towards one thing: to help Europe grow and tackle the problems of today,” said Helena.
Even more so, in such sorrowful and harrowing times, such events encourage and strengthen solidarity among the community of European students as Leonie explained: “During such dark times in Europe, it was important to feel and express the solidarity we all have with the Ukrainian people. I think it is safe to say that everyone’s aim at the Assembly was to get one step closer to united solutions for common problems like the war, climate change or the pandemic.” As Magdalena also points out: “I think the most important outcome of the event will be the assurance that even in the times of war and crisis, we are all together and we all work for a better future.”
Supported by experts within ten thematic panels, students got a chance to discuss, among others, the following topics: European common values, cyber-attacks, the pandemic and the need of a European Health Union, sustainability, an economic model for the EU, democracy, digital regulation, climate refugees or the future of the higher education system.
Prior to their participation in the European Student Assembly, the European Student Community developed a Position Paper on the Future of European Universities for the Conference on the future of Europe that will be brought out within the Conference on the Future of Europe. This position paper was drafted based on a collection of ideas and wishes of Ulysseus students gathered during a co-creation session during an Open Event held in Seville in December 2021.
The opportunity to work together and to formulate recommendations plays a fundamental role in building and consolidating European citizenship. “Besides the wonderful atmosphere, I got to experience how I – as a European citizen – can draw the Parliament’s attention to current issues and bring my ideas forward with an initiative proposal,” said Magdalena.
This type of event also participates in encouraging and creating vocations. As Magdalena, who wishes to pursue a career in EU Institutions, explains: “You can’t talk about European Union without mentioning Strasbourg, so to finally be able to go there and see it with my own eyes made me realise that with hard work and commitment I might be able to live the career of my dreams.”
The European Student Assembly is great platform for European Students to have their voices heard as Helena points out: “The Assembly promised us young people a stage to promote our ideas and make our voices heard”. She also insists: “If you have to say something – Say it. Of course, there is a chance, that no one might hear you, however, if you do not raise your voice, no one hears you either. So, I can only try to repeat my message: Engage, participate and raise your voice!” Leonie adds, “Hopefully the politicians within the European Commission and the European Parliament will continue to listen to the opinions and ideas of Europe’s youth and take them into account in future decision-making.”
This event was also a perfect occasion for our students to develop their network as Magdalena declared: “The amount of people I’ve met during ESA is incredible! Participants came from universities across Europe, but most importantly – from different backgrounds. I have met the heads of European Student organisations, Fridays For Future activists or young entrepreneurs. Not only did it give me a possibility for collaborations and joint projects in the future, but also a different perspective to look at problems with.”
Ulysseus is one of the 41 European Universities selected by the European Commission to become the universities of the future. Led by the University of Seville together with five other universities in Europe (the University of Genoa, Italy; Université Côte d’Azur, France; the Technical University of Košice, Slovakia; MCI | The Entrepreneurial School®, Austria; and Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, Finland), the project will allow students, researchers and graduates to move freely between universities, carry out internships in companies and start high-impact research projects.
As a partner university of the European University Ulysseus, three MCI students had the opportunity to travel to Strasbourg and participate in the event. ©Helena Berkmann