The Erasmus Student Network (ESN) in Agder is celebrating its 15th birthday this year. ESN is Europe’s biggest student organisation. With their motto “unity in diversity”, their goal is to bring local, national and international students together
Text: Ingrid Dihle
ESN Agder is a non-profit international student organisation. Their mission is to represent international students and provide opportunities for cultural understanding and self-development under the principle of “Students Helping Students”. They mentor exchange students and host social events in both Kristiansand and Grimstad.
Ida Marie Norin is the current national representative of ESN Norway and was the previous local president of ESN Agder. She has been an active member in the organisation for the last 3,5 years.
“ESN Agder is a great organisation which focuses on international diversity. We have a great unity within our organisation. It creates an arena where students can learn about other cultures and grow both personally and professionally,” says Norin.
ESN Agder organises up to four events every week, such as coffee hour, language cafés, the international pub, and Sunday hikes. They also host several events such as movie nights and theme-parties. All events hosted by ESN are open for all students at UiA.
“Being a part of ESN Agder has been so valuable for my personal growth. I have worked a lot with the administration here at UiA, and it has helped me build a stronger network. I have also had the opportunity to work with a lot of different people from all around the world, while representing Norway and Agder,” says Norin.
ESN Agder coordinates between 80 – 100 buddies each semester as a part of their mentorship programme for exchange students. It is also possible to join as an active member, volunteering throughout the semester by hosting events and organising trips. According to Norin, being a buddy or an active member of ESN Agder is a great opportunity for student to expand their international experience.
Mette Høgbråt Pedersen works as an international coordinator at the International Office at UiA. She started ESN Agder in 2004 with the idea of creating a mentorship programme where local students could help international students feel welcome at UiA. She visited the University of Gent in Belgium to learn more about the ESN organisation.
“In 2004, ESN Agder started with one student who wanted to work with internationalisation at UiA and now they have over 100 active members each semester,” says Høgbråt Pedersen.
ESN Agders’ main task is to welcome international students and integrate them into the local community. They also collaborate with other student organisations and activities to make UiA a more internationally focused university. According to Høgbråt Pedersen, UiA is lucky to have so many students who are engaged in internationalisation.
“I’m very proud that ESN Agder have so many internationally oriented and engaged students. Some of our presidents throughout the years have become presidents or members of the board in ESN Norway,” says Høgbråt Pedersen.
ESN is the biggest student association in Europe. It was officially registered in 1990 for supporting and developing student exchange.
ESN is present in more than 1000 Higher Education Institutions from 39 countries. It has approximately 13,000 active members, involves more than 40,000 students and offers its services to over 350,000 international students every year.