... and ride for your rights! If you loved your Erasmus year and - like Umberto Eco - think experiences like that have potential to create a European identity, here's a fun way to speak out about issues of student mobility while getting a good workout at the same time! E&M asked Julian Walkowiak from Ride for your Rights! why we should go out and bike around Europe, be it from Łódź to Katowice or from Tbilisi to Anaklia.
E&M: What is Ride for your rights! all about?
JW: Ride for your rights! is a project led by Campus Europae and the Erasmus Student Network. Young people take their bikes and cycle across European countries in order to raise awareness about obstacles to student mobility and at the same time promote such opportunities to students and stakeholders.
E&M: Can you give an example of a tour you thought was especially fun?
JW: My personal favourite this year is the tour taking place in Georgia. Our team was absolutely thrilled when we found out that the idea of Ride for your Rights! travelled as far as Tbilisi. Students will cycle from Tbilisi to Anaklia and join the Georgian International Forum of Student Unions.
E&M: And what else are you planning this year?
JW: 2012 is a very symbolic year, since we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the ERASMUS programme. At the same time we're debating and preparing the upcoming European programmes 2014 - 2020, such as the "Erasmus for All" programme. It will be an opportunity for the riders and partner organisations of the project to voice their opinions about the future of the Erasmus programme.
E&M: You have a manifesto that makes clear that the promotion and improvement of student mobility is the heart of your project. Why?
JW: When we think of education as a European matter, student exchange programmes start playing a pivotal role in the educational path of a young citizen. We see it as necessary to create a Europe and a European Higher Education Area in which qualitative exchange experiences become the norm for youth. Unlike any other "platform", student mobility enables young people to breathe, live and contextualise the notion of European identity.
E&M: I'm sure a lot of Europeans can identify with that - how can they get involved?
JW: For the time being, everyone who identifies themselves with our goals can sign our manifesto, available on our website, and join one of the tours on offer. The more signatures we collect and the more people we can actively involve on their bikes, the bigger our voice and visual impact will become. In the long term, we are aiming for legislative changes. Before we get there, we must try to remain visible with our concerns and pressure decision-making bodies to keep European educational questions high on their agenda. I truly hope that eventually students in more countries will pick up the idea of Ride for your Rights! and use it as a fun and symbolically strong tool to draw attention to violations they are faced with. Anyone who is interested in working with us or organising his or her own tour in the years to come can always contact us at all times.
E&M: Thanks for the interview, Julian!