Vicenza in Italy instead of Buxtehude in northern Germany, Malta instead of Berlin: Prattheepan Thavarajah and Julia Bülow went abroad for a few weeks during their training and still remember the language and friendship barriers they overcame, as well as betting with colleagues in Italy or spontaneous trips to Malta during the corona pandemic. The European exchange program Erasmus has made this experience possible. Many people first think of students who have devoted time abroad through the program for 35 years. But the European Union’s Erasmus+ program is also aimed at trainees.
As a young baker in Italy
Prattheepan Thavarajah had just returned from her morning shift as a baker at a café in Hamburg when she told about her time in Vicenza, Italy. It’s been four years since his first trip to northeastern Italy in the summer of 2022, but he still remembers it vividly. At that time he was an apprentice in Buxtehude, a small town near Hamburg. He was three weeks initially in Vicenza, no longer possible due to the upcoming exams in Germany. “I bet with my Italian colleagues – if I pass, they have to visit our bakery,” Thavarajah said. He passed, colleagues from Italy came to northern Germany, and he himself went to Vicenza again in 2019 in three months.
Overcome language barriers abroad
“Administrative clerk with language project” is the name of the training decided by Julia Bülow. And so obviously he will also be going abroad as a trainee. But the transition from a district office in Berlin to a vocational school in Malta was not that easy during the corona pandemic. The original plan was for a five -month stay, but it turned out to be only six weeks. And for that to happen, Bülow had to react quickly. “My vocational school teacher approached me and said, Malta is no longer a dangerous place – it’s best to plan today and fly tomorrow,” he recalls. This week is important for her English skills. Because even though he learned English vocabulary in vocational school, the weeks in Malta were a very important lesson for the 21-year-old: “Especially the language barriers, the fear of talking to strangers-surpassed that’s not it. ” Thavarajah recalls the very special method of communication: “We talked with hands and feet and wrote numbers in flour.”
A program for everyone
Thanks to funding from the EU program Erasmus+, Bülow and Thavarajah were able to spend several weeks in Malta and Italy. The program aims to support cooperation across Europe in all fields of education, with a total budget of approximately 26 billion euros available from 2021 to 2027.
It provides an opportunity for trainees to undertake an internship abroad. The Erasmus+ scholarship includes accommodation and travel costs – this usually covers at least most of the costs. Another decisive advantage: During the stay abroad, trainees continue to be paid by their training company.
For most, an Erasmus exchange means more than a few weeks abroad. The rest are, for example, new friendships. “I’m still in touch with my host mother,” Tharavajah said. When there was severe flooding in the Ahr Valley in Germany in 2021, he asked her if she was safe. “Such contacts last a lifetime,” he said. He wants to travel to Vicenza again soon. Bülow will finish his apprenticeship in August 2022 and then he wants to go abroad again. “I’m already looking.”