At the ceremony held in the University of Novi Sad Rectorate Building on June 21st, 2019, the student volunteers engaged through the Erasmus Student Network (ESN) were awarded with the certificates of acknowledgments by the University of Novi Sad, for their support in the realization of the incoming and outgoing student mobility within the Erasmus+ programme.
The success achieved by the University of Novi Sad in the field of the international student mobility so far has been achieved also thanks to the support and engagement of ESN and its Buddy network that gathers student volunteers that support the integration process of foreign students in a new academic environment. In this manner, ESN has significantly contributed to the process of internationalization of the University through mobility.
“The internationalization is today one of the key factors of existence and development of the universities”, highlighted the Rector of the University of Novi Sad Prof. Dr. Dejan Jakšić on this occasion, expressing his thanks to the students for their support.
“The enthusiasm that you have demonstrated through participation in the activities that support the international student mobility is truly admirable”, said Rector Jakšić. He also added that the University of Novi Sad strives to build a respectable image in the international academic community as a pleasant, inviting and hospitable place for foreign students. “I am convinced that this is also a great life experience for all of you who invest the most. By spending time with foreign students, you meet new people, get to know new cultures and enrich yourselves through these experiences. Through your engagement you deliver something that characterizes us as a nation – hospitality. That is why this idea of student network came into life so naturally and spontaneously”, said the Rector. He concluded that the cooperation between the University of Novi Sad and ESN in the areas of common interest remain the priorities for the future to come.
The students were also greeted by the Vice-Rector for International Relations Prof. Dr. Dejan Madić. “We can have the best curricula and the best professors, we can have the most beautiful city, but if we don’t have the people, we are not successful”, said Vice-Rector Madić, adding that the human interaction represents one of the most important aspects of good reputation. Professor Madić wished students good luck in their activities to come and also announced the continuation of the support by the University leadership to future ESN activities at the University of Novi Sad.
According to views of the foreign students that spent their international mobility period at the University of Novi Sad, ESN represents one of the most important factors for the successful realization of the mobility. The significance of this kind of support also reflects in the fact that foreign students have been the best ambassadors of the University of Novi Sad at foreign universities, beside the UNS students who have spent their mobility period at other foreign universities.
The President of ESN Novi Sad Una Galečić, who is a student at the University of Novi Sad, said that the certificates of acknowledgment awarded by the University of Novi Sad have an important role in recognition of volunteer work and University student activism.
“Through this kind of acknowledgment you have made our work more recognizable and appreciated, not only within the University boundaries, but in much wider sense”, said Una Galečić. She also stated that the cooperation between the University of Novi Sad and ESN has reached a higher level. Furthermore, Una stressed that the activities of student volunteers are realized continually and on every-day basis and that ESN network exists thanks to devotion of many students who participate in them. “We all agree that the time is not spent but invested. We grow to become better individuals and we gain new skills, important not only in life but in business as well. By doing so, most importantly – we gain friends”, concluded Una and expressed her desire that the number of student volunteers continued to grow every year.
The ESN Serbia National Representative Maksim Karanović said that the Erasmus Student Network Novi Sad has been active for 12 years. “Our volunteers are recognized not only within our University. Our volunteers have been active in other fields as well. We have volunteers who engage in the activities of the European Youth Capital, as well as in other organizations. It shows that they are extremely valued and capable. We can attribute that to something what is a main activity of our organization, and in one word, that is – education”, said Maksim.
Maksim thanked the University of Novi Sad for the certificates awarded on this occasion and also added that this is one of the first examples in Serbia that an institution has recognized volunteerism in a formal way. He announced the conference on internationalization and mobility that will be organized by ESN in Novi Sad which will be the first meeting of this kind in Serbia.
For their support to the international students mobility through Erasmus+ programme in the academic year 2018/2019, 39 students were awarded overall with the certificates of appreciation by the University of Novi Sad, in categories Volunteer (22), Volunteer and Buddy (12) and Buddy (4), as well as with one special recognition that was also awarded for the contribution to promotion of academic mobility through volunteer engagement within ESN. The certificates were presented by Rector Jakšić and Vice-Rector Madić.
The Erasmus Student Network also awarded the University of Novi Sad with the certificate of appreciation. The certificate was presented to Rector Dejan Jakšić by the ESN National Representative Maksim Karanović.
The Erasmus Student Network strives to create more mobile and flexible educational environment and to support the development of student exchange on different levels, as well as to offer intercultural experiences to students who have not been abroad for studies. The Network works on improving the social and cultural integration of foreign students and promotion of intercultural understanding and respect of cultural diversity. Through its many activities, ESN creates an environment for personal development on “students helping students” basis. Beside promotion of studies abroad and helping students who come to Novi Sad, the Network also engages in promotion of volunteer activism, sport and healthy life styles among domestic and foreign students at UNS.
ESN offers support to incoming students through a variety of activities, such as finding accommodation, registration in police, administrative procedures at faculties, organization of cultural and social events. On the other hand, domestic students gain the possibility to learn and perfect their foreign language skills, get to know different cultures and meet new people.
Student hosts are often students who already participated in the foreign exchange programmes and understand the needs of foreign students. However, the Network also includes students who have not participated in the international mobility but want to gain new experiences, as well as communication and organizational skills.
The University of Novi Sad Student Buddy Network was established in 2011 by the University International Relations Office, according to the first mobility opportunities for foreign students at the time. By the end of 2012, the Buddy Network became integral part of ESN that closely cooperates with the University International Relations Office in organization of different events, creation of promotional materials for foreign students and in other supporting activities.
The engagement of the University Buddy Network has served as a model for other Serbian state universities to establish their own student networks (University of Nišu, University of Kragujevac).
Between 2013 and 2016, the University of Novi Sad through its International Relations Office coordinated a three-year EU Tempus project SIPUS that focused on internationalization of higher education. The University has also invested in the development of the Erasmus Student Network through its participation in projects, one of them being the EU Tempus SIPUS project that included ESN as one of the partners during project preparation and its successful realization later on.