When students decide to study abroad, the majority think of adventure, broadening their academic horizons, exploring a new country and, needless to say, drinking the local tipple- whether Sangria or Schnapps. However, there is one consequence they don’t account for – falling in love.
Last month, the EU Education Commissioner Androulla Vassiliou presented the results of a recent study analysing the success of the Erasmus programme. The study was based on an online questionnaire completed by over 75,000 Students and 650 leading companies throughout Europe. The Erasmus programme, which was first introduced in 1987, is an EU scheme designed to support European students wishing to study in fellow union states. The budget for Erasmus has been set at approximately 15 billion Euros for the next 7 years.
According to the study, this is but a small price to pay, as Erasmus participants have considerably improved career prospects compared to their peers. Almost two thirds of employers asked in the questionnaire actively seek to only hire graduates with international experience. Unemployment among previous Erasmus participants is also significantly lower than among other students.
However, aside from the economic benefits of Erasmus, the study revealed one rather heart-warming piece of evidence for the benefits of studying abroad: since the conception of the programme in 1987, approximately one million “Erasmus-babies” have been born in Europe!
Finding love abroad
During her presentation in Brussels, Vassilou admitted that this discovery had been an unexpected, yet very pleasant surprise, as the focus of the study was initially on the economic rather than private benefits of Erasmus. Needless to say, once this discovery was made, researchers decided to delve deeper into the more ‘personal’ consequences of spending time studying or working abroad. The results were clear – the chances of finding your life partner during an Erasmus exchange are remarkably high.
Of the ex-Erasmus students consulted in the study, over a third had long-term foreign partners. A staggering 27% of all Erasmus participants had met their long-term partner during their semester or year abroad on the Erasmus scheme. Vassilou added that many of the young students who found their partners during their time abroad went on to marry them and start a family. In comparison, of the students asked without experience living abroad, only 13 % went on to have foreign partners.
It was based on this data that the commission estimated the 1 million “Erasmus-babies” born in Europe since the introduction of the scheme in 1987. Why “Erasmus-couples” have such a high success rate in terms of staying together remains unknown, although Vassilou noted that many students relocate to be with their partner following graduation from university, proving a certain level of commitment to the relationship from the couples in question.
Erasmus students more attractive to employers
According to the study, time spent abroad does not just make you more attractive to the opposite sex, but also to employers. Between 2006 and 2013, the percentage of companies which cited work experience or study abroad as crucial criterion for applicants rose from 37% to 64%. 64% of employers also stated they were more likely to entrust managerial responsibilities to graduate employees with international experience. This may be because the characteristics required for integration within in a foreign country, such as good communication skills, determination and flexibility are also sought-after assets within the modern workplace.
However clear the direct correlation between studying abroad and a successful career may seem, these results should be treated with caution. For example, the study did not take into account the social status or financial situation of students before they left their home country. Are employment levels among Erasmus graduates higher due to the privileged upbringing of those involved in the scheme? Or is it simply the case that students willing to immerse themselves in a foreign country are more attractive to employers?
One thing is for sure: as increasing numbers of students head to unknown shores to further their education, there are more and more globally-minded Erasmus babies to come.