The EU provides dozens of educational and career programs for students. Probably almost all of us have heard about the Erasmus+ program and academic exchanges with EU universities. Many students also know about programs in different European countries, such as DAAD, Chevening, Visby, or numerous scholarships from university organizations. But how not to get lost in this whirlpool of opportunities and choose the most effective way to quality education and career? I will tell you how to build your own map of development using EU tools.
Start with non-formal education opportunities
When a company releases a product, it must first be checked in a focus group. The same should be done with your educational and career goals. Non-formal education programs will help in a short time to get acquainted with various topics, gain minimal experience, and get inspiration from other participants. In Ukraine, the EU funds a non-formal education program for EU Study Days students. The program is aimed at getting acquainted with Ukrainian reforms, relations between Ukraine and the European Union, as well as the development of skills and competencies of students. The biggest advantage of the program is a wide range of topics and speakers that will be of interest to all areas from the public, to the corporate and business sectors. During such programs, you have the opportunity to find what affects you the most and where you would like to develop. And also to get acquainted in more detail with the prospects of education in the EU countries.
Draw a tree of interests
Often there are so many interests that it is very difficult to choose the next path. To do this, there is a rather time-consuming, but useful exercise: write down all your interests (do not limit yourself to the main and secondary, write everything), group similar interests into small blocks (e.g. volunteering, analytics, marketing, sports, etc.), assign a weight of 1 to 5 for each interest. As a result, you will have a tree of interests, which will show your life and career priorities. Although this map will not resolve all doubts, it will help structure thoughts and identify key areas of work.
Once you have selected the program, you should consider all the requirements, break them down by deadlines and visualize them. The easiest way is to draw timelines, which will clearly show the intermediate dates of all tasks. For example, if the final submission of documents for the program before February 1, the IELTS should be completed by the end of December (because the results must wait almost a month), and the request for recommendations should be sent in November (as the process may be delayed or need to look for another recommender).
Networking with like-minded people
People are the main resource when it comes to education, career, or finding inspiration. When it comes to enrolling in a foreign university, you will need formal advice, advice from former entrants, and just moral support or role models. Do not neglect the opportunity to meet outside of university or work, join informal groups of interest to you. For example, the aforementioned EU Study Days initiative has an alumni community that brings together students and beginning professionals with already experienced professionals and alumni of ranked foreign universities. Such communities provide an opportunity to seek advice, avoid basic mistakes, and gain motivation on a difficult path.
Initiate your own small projects
Created a small volunteer association during the corona crisis? Or maybe you run a telegram channel that explains in simple terms how to create petitions or change the electoral address of students? All this is not only experienced, but also an indicator of motivation, which is very important for universities and employers. And if you create a project that is close to the topic of your studies - feel free to talk about it in a cover letter, because business is the best illustration of ambition.
Consolidate knowledge in practice
Among the existing European programs, there are not only interesting educational programs but also internships. Internships in the European Parliament are available for Ukrainian graduates (but good language skills are important), and some initiatives will open during their studies. Don't neglect informal and project internships. For example, if you are conducting research as part of a study at a European university - its results may be of interest to specialized think tanks. Such collaborations will not only expand your portfolio but can also present new unexpected projects and collaborations.
Finally, I want to emphasize that any educational or career path should start with exploring all possibilities. However, no courses, scholarships, or programs are a self-sufficient way - they are just a tool to expand your potential. It is important to have flexibility and be able to give up some opportunities in favor of others. So, go for it and create a great future for you!