1. Can you please introduce yourself (who are you, where are you from, what do you study)?
Before introducing myself, let me thank you all for giving me the privilege to write to the Slovakian network! I became close to your former President, the insane Martin who was a very strong ally and friend through-out the last year not only through my candidacy but also as mates on the National Presidents' community.
Well then, my name is João Costa, I am of course Portuguese and in case you wonder, my name truly is weird to pronounce but just cover your nose and you will almost get it. I was born and mainly raised in Porto, the second biggest city in the north of Portugal. From there, when I was 17, I went to the USA to do an exchange programme to finish high school while living with a mexican family. The international bug bit me there as I almost didn't go study Biomedical Engineering upon returning to Portugal and being place at the University of Minho in Braga since I had the feeling that my true path was in international relations and management. Everything happens for a reason since ESN came to fulfill my needs on this matter I ended up starting a PhD in Medical Physics but that I am postponed since I have a very interesting job as Scientific Officer at the European Research Council Executive Agency of the European Commission - position that I got mainly because of everything that I've done in ESN in parallel to scientific research and my degree that made me stand out among all the other candidates for the same position.
2. How long have you been a member of ESN and what were your roles before becoming active in the international world of ESN?
I kind get track on when I officially started in ESN so I had to go to galaxy and it seems that I've been active since November 2013 and joined the local board in January 2014 of ESN Minho. After a couple of months I got elected as President of the section after being Project Manager and briefly Local Representative of the section while joining both IT and ICE where I am still active. From there on, I have been involved in the international level in a way since I accumulated the role of local President with Coordinator of ExchangeAbility on the International level. After both those mandates, I elected national President of ESN Portugal and soon after Liaison Officer towards the European Students' Union (ESU) and "recently" added the Lifelong Learning Platform (LLLP) into my portfolio. Additionally due to my previous experience as president with a strong focus on institutional relations and the education field, I got nominated Education Officers' Community Manager within ICE.
3. What is your position within [Committee/Project team] and how long have you been doing it?
As mentioned before, within ICE I am the Education Officers' Community Manager and have been doing so over the last months while at the same time working together with the committee as LO.
4. Can you describe your main tasks and responsibilities?
That is an interesting and complicated question. My main task is to coordinate and stimulate this community which is some countries is still not very much established and/or recognized while at the same time trying to get a clean history of what was done in the past since there was a lack of a structure due to the constant evolution of the role within the network. My own strategy and vision for the role had to be adapted and many of the my initial goals had to be postponed in order to properly create the backbone of this position, learn from the past so that we don't repeat mistakes and therefore damage the perception around this position and the persons that take upon this challenge.
5. Can you describe some other interesting tasks on which [Committee/Project team] is working on?
Many changes are coming related with the ESNreview but independently of such an intense restructure of the network, the whole strategy proposed and now being implement by our President on the "creation" of an Education Department are for me vital for the future of our network in many different levels. The lack of a structure based the proper acknowledgement and analysis of what had been done would have been avoided with what would come from such a department since we would instigate the debate and trade of documents, views and testimonials among the different positions which would "fill the holes" and allow everyone to contribute on achieving ESN's goals on a systematic and structured way.
6. What was your most valuable experience connected to being in [Committee/Project team] so far?
Being able to connect my former experience as President, into my work as LO and in the future the support and training of a new generation of EOs which I strongly believe will take a vital role on what ESN will become! I truly believe ESN will grow into THE reference on the education field not only related to Higher Education and mobility but also into the whole concept of an united Europe through culture with tourism on this field as a flagship. We will then take all the benefits of running from the idea that ESN is all about party for our Higher Education Institutions and they will then look at us as real partners and support us in growing and being there throughout the entire process!
7. What were the most challenging tasks that you had to deal with?
Going over thousands of emails and many folders with unsorted documents and make sense out of all of them!
8. Have you attended any international events related to [Committee/Project team]? If so, which ones and what was the best about them?
I've attended many ICE meetings and LO meetings among others and the best I take from them is the brainstorming sessions and open discussions where you are able to debate and create new thoughts that you can later on transform into initiatives, projects or just new friends!
9. What is your message for people who can’t decide whether to join [Committee/Project team] or not?
I usually have some cliché sentences that I follow or repeat on my mind that make me keep on going and risk new things but one that I think is the most relevant is "Knowledge is power". I take it very seriously independently of my task or role as I consider that it is a shame that we keep on losing time, specially considering that we are volunteers, not knowing the full picture of our actions and not understanding where we came from. This is valid for our future work life as well since it no longer is valid that as soon as you finish your studies, there will be a job waiting for you! I mean, how many people graduate per year in your city? What about your country? What about in Europe? How will you compete with all the others? Well, you have to have something that will distinguish you from all the others, that thing called added-value that we so much say in ESN and that it is hard to "touch". I can tell you that I am a living proof of what that added-value can do for your life! I was stuck in a routine job, considering my PhD as such, and had a shot at the Commission because of what I have done in ESN - I was called to create initially presentations to a multicultural audience taking into account if they could hear or not and if they were able to follow-up on long documents, something that I had done over and over in ESN and I knew how to put in my CV. Believe me, everything happens for a reason and through bad and good times, there is always something you can learn from embracing such an experience either to help on your future life or even (which sometimes is even better) to help on your self-development as an individual!