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Are We Born Europeans Or Do We Become So Along The Way?

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Mihai Leontescu, founder of the Erasmus House social media project got in contact with us to tell us about its aims and goals. Here’s what he had to say.

If you are reading this blog, most probably you come from Europe and you are evidently a European. And if you are not, you may wonder what a European actually represents. A person who’s living in Europe, sure, but is that all? And is it all that evident that a person who comes from Europe is indeed a European?

Few years ago, while reading an article titled “The myth of Europe” in Foreign Policy which basically argues that “the European Union was built on the myth that we are one people with one common destiny”, I stumbled upon a quote from former Polish Foreign Minister, Bronislaw Geremek which triggered an ongoing puzzling process in my mind. “We have Europe”, he said, “now we need Europeans!”.

After reading the article I started questioning myself “Are we born Europeans or do we become along the way and most importantly, how?”. In other words, “what should we do and learn to do, how should we live and think in order to be entitled to call ourselves Europeans?”. Some possible clues started flooding my mind. To speak at least one foreign language or more, perhaps a common language among us too, I wondered? To know the difference between the EU institutions, what they do and what people are behind them? Or to participate in at least one mobility program such as Erasmus or Comenius during our educational path by living for a period of time in another European country? Or maybe to have at least 20% of our Facebook friends from other European countries? Or, simply, to hold a passport on which it states “European Union” in any of the 24 official EU languages? Do any of these things make us (more) European?

Because of this ongoing puzzling process and my interest in European affairs I initiated a project that promotes cultural awareness and youth mobility in Europe with the help of social media. I wanted to find more clues to shape the puzzle picture and interpret its colours and forms better.

Every day, myself and other young European souls from around Europe are shaping Erasmus House, a project present on social media through which we portray our lives, interests and activities, different as they are, in the pursuit of reaching a better understanding of what Europe means and looks like, to us. Interacting with other young European souls just like us also helps us stay connected with reality and how it appears, differently, in all corners of Europe.

So, Erasmus House is about Europe, people and life components, values, traditions, art creations, music, festivals, food, fashion, travels, landscapes, museums, history, restaurants, sports, leisure activities and many other cultural bits and pieces that represent Europe, as shared by Europeans themselves. In other words, glimpses of Europe through the eyes of Europeans themselves. On our Facebook page (www.fb.com/ErasmusHaus) we often have Q&A contests about cultural curiosities from around Europe and to those knowledgeable and active on our page we send postcards from each country we represent as Ambassadors. We believe it’s a nice way to “inter-culturalise” and make new friends all around Europe and people seem to appreciate our way to combine the virtual world on social media with the physical, more tangible world through our handwritten postcards that we send to our community.

At a political conference filled with European leaders in Dublin, early 2014, Bono from U2, who was invited as guest speaker, said that “Europe is a thought that needs to become a feeling”. His quote made me imagine that this feeling he is referring to may very well be comprised of millions of multicoloured and multilingual atoms that feel differently who are also free to interact anytime they want, wherever they want in this entity called the European Union.

I believe the solution to ignite such feelings remains in this latent ability that very few atoms are making use of nowadays and that is “interaction”. Could it be that interaction among young European atoms can build an emotional binding over the notion of European identity? And who knows, could it be that more interaction among Europeans is what it takes to help us define Europe better and prove Gareth Harding (the author of the article who puzzled me) that Europe is not just a myth?

Check them out online.

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