From serving at a hostel in Prague, to becoming a European Ambassador, Caroline De Souza tells us her inspiring story about Erasmus+.
Carolina De Sousa is 19 years old from one small village in Portugal called Casalinhos de Alfaiata, near Lisbon. She is the part of a Portuguese scout group, passionate lover of nature, travels and challenges. I met her in Prague, in Hostel Homer where she was doing her training, during her Erasmus+ Internship three-month programme.
The first thing that was so charming about her was that Carolina was working hard on the first side, and playing hard on the other. She had a lot of productive energy, strong concentration on priorities and things that she wanted.
During those three months she had travelled in four different countries by her own such us: Austria, Slovenia, Poland and Slovakia. She also managed to become the best trainee and representative for Erasmus+ in Portugal.
We can say that her decision to do a gap year after her high school and to start one beautiful travel full of learning, adventures, amazing stories about meeting new people and cultures, was a great opportunity for professional and personal growth.
This is one inspiring story about how everybody us can change our lives in a way to use every single opportunity and every day of our lives. Sometimes we just need to wish and then to focus all our energy on the realization of our dreams.
Of course, sometimes we need some help and support, Caroline got it from Erasmus+ so she decided to share her Internship experience and knowledge with us.
Carolina, could you please tell me how you first heard about Erasmus+?
I heard about Erasmus+ in the last year of high school when our teacher introduced us to the Erasmus+ Internship programme, then I saw a great opportunity to spend my time after finishing the last year of school and I decided to apply.
This internship had the duration of three months but beside that, I had experience in two internships that were the part of the vocational course – the first one in the Azores Island and the second one in a surf school in Costa da Caprice.
Why did you decide to apply for this programme?
I decided to apply for this programme because I saw a unique opportunity to experience working abroad and also to be able to live autonomously in another country like I had already done it before on a Portuguese island.
It was clear that this would result in many advantages such as: more autonomy and independency; professional growth; greater ability to solve problems; more tolerance towards others; sense of belonging. All these positive points were the ones that led me to sign up for Erasmus+ project.
Would you like to describe more precisely your Erasmus+ Internship Programme like a brief guide for all those people who are waiting for their opportunities?
After applying for the programme, you have an interview, which can be really stressful for all of us, because you cannot be prepared for all questions that are coming one by one, especially if the wish to become the part of Erasmus+ is bigger, that the fear is stronger.
I would recommend to everybody to be themselves, to respond sincerely, at the end, you cannot escape from what you are, so it is better to be self-confidante than terrified.
After a few weeks, the response of Erasmus+ is coming, and the rest is history, according to the fact that every experience is unique and different.
But what is the same for everybody is the program form: Internship program is consisted of two parts: vocational course and an internship/ trainee in a company. The internship is about three months in another country where you get opportunity to learn how to become professional in the field that you are interested in and also to improve our capacities as humans.
What was happening after you received email of confirmation that you are in? Why Prague and how was hard to have one intensive training there in Hostel Homer? We should also mention that actually you are working and learning in the same time and that Internship Programme is serious professional preparation for the future challenges.
Some weeks later I received an email with the positive answer and when I saw Prague on the destination city, that fact made me very happy because Prague was my first choice.
Why Prague? As I said I like to travel and I saw a great opportunity to live in the center of Europe and to visit new countries around Czech Republic.
About all the experience in the Hostel Homer I can say that it wasn’t expected but it was amazing. It wasn’t expected because what I like to do it’s not hotel and accommodation part of tourism.
Of course that being part of a great staff with such a beautiful vibe at work helped a lot in my integration. But on the other side, work in the Hostel Homer reception gave me new great abilities like a dealing with difficult clients or situations, being more patient and also I learned how to use new programmes in computers like the reservations system.
What happened after Prague, when you went back home? It seems that your Erasmus+ travel didn’t finish?
After returning from Prague, the opportunity arose to apply for a new project related to the Erasmus+ project – Euro Apprentices. I was submitted to an interview and then I was chosen.
What this new project intends to do is: to give the personal story about your opportunities, increase the visibility of the Erasmus+ programme in Portugal, at regional and local level and help motivate other trainees to participate in mobility and increase the attractiveness of Vocational Education and Training.
And all of this is what I am doing at the moment for the National Erasmus Agency in Portugal!
What is exactly your role in National Erasmus Agency in Portugal?
My role as Euro Apprentice is to share my learning experiences with all young people who would like to know more about this mobility. The best part? It doesn’t just pass through Portuguese territory.
Every year, the Euro Apprentices network gathers trainees in an Annual Meeting, held in different locations in Europe. The meeting is an opportunity for Euro Apprentices to share their individual mobility success stories abroad, meet other European trainees and apprentices and reinforce their identity as a European network of colleagues.
This September, now is official so I can share with you, I am traveling in Finland. Throw all this work I have opportunity to learn and practice modern knowledge that is necessary now this days: I already had the opportunity to hold a workshop on how I improved the ability to produce an elevator speech, how to develop story telling and also how to record a video for social networks with a mobile phone – all tools that I can use being a member of this project.
What would you recommend to young people wanting to follow in your footsteps?
What I have to tell to young people it’s kind of an advice that is never stop of believe in themselves because there are lots of programs that you can apply for and also programmes of voluntary work not just internships in companies.
I have my example I did kind of a gap year because of this Erasmus+ experience and I don’t think that it was a bad experience to lose one year of University because I can get there next year and use this one to improve myself in new areas. You can always find a programme that meets your goals. And remember, we all have the world waiting for us!
Erasmus+ Network is full of opportunities. If you want to start to translate and build your CV, you have chance to do it with Erasmus+, if you want to join volunteering program, you can do it.
If you want to learn and to develop new skills, you can do it. Like Shakespeare said: Where there is a will, there is a way. If we are not missing something in this centuries those are opportunities.
You only need to think what is inspiring you, what knowledge would you like to acquire and to be persistent regardless of circumstances.
Sometimes you will win, sometimes you will lose, but keep going straight to your goal. At the end, the only person that you should believe in is you. Keep going.
People, like Carolina, are broadening their horizons and changing the world – like Dylan Bokler.
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