You are young, vigorous like a cheetah, curious and eager for adventure, but…
- isolated at home, feeling like everyday is the same and the longest relationship you had seems to be the one with this Gloomy Routine
- finishing your studies soon and you have no idea what to do next (no, you shouldn’t set fire to your diploma right away)
- strapped for cash and even considered selling your clothes at the flea-market for some extra hundies.
… and many other things that leave you frustrated and unsatisfied with your current state and place in life. Does any of these apply to you?
Despair not, ‘cause in a short while after things will finally calm down you will be able to play the nomad game, taste the adventure you were dreaming of and travel farther away than your fridge for little money, without having to sell your clothes. How, you may wonder, and why should i even think about it now?
Well, because the opportunities that you will discover here need some planning in advance. So if you think about travelling this autumn, THIS is a good moment to start. Keep on reading!
YOUTH EXCHANGES are the opportunity to travel around the world cheap and meet new cultures while learning and developing yourself!
So, what kind of sorcery is this?
To put it short, a youth exchange is an activity focused on specific topics with the purpose to help young people (between 13 and 30 years) increase their experience, abilities, skills and attitudes. They usually last between 5 and 21 days during which participants gather together to discuss ideas, exchange viewpoints, share, have fun and learn. Sounds super interesting, but… what’s the catch? Well, in order to be able to participate you have to first find a youth exchange that interests you, read carefully the infopack provided and see if the travel dates and conditions fit you (some require a specific nationality and age, and for some you get an advantage if you are part of a minority or a vulnerable group etc.). Next, you will need to apply for it a few moths before – making your interest in the topic clear . And finally, wait and hope to be among the lucky accepted ones. Depending from project to project and the time of the year, the competition can be very though or not at all, meaning they will accept participants even in the last minute.
Because Erasmus + finances them, you don’t have to worry about the accommodation and the flight ticket. So the only thing left for your expense is a small participation fee, but that’s not always the case. However, in the first instance you still have to buy the ticket by yourself and only after the project ends you will get reimbursement. But if you are organized enough, you can use the reimbursement for your next YT and become an Erasmus rabbit, jumping from one YT to another (for more information about YTs click here ).
The projects usually allow 2 to 6 extra days for traveling (either before or after the exchange) when you’re free as an elf to do anything you want. So make sure to really use them for visiting and exploring the nearby cities or interesting places of the country you’re traveling. However, keep in mind that you DO NOT get accommodation covered during these extra days. I suggest you use sites like Booking, Airbnb, Couchsurfing (a friendly advice: avoid Tinder), to find a warm place to stay.
In other words, the European Union is „paying” you to develop yourself, to learn and to grow as a person by traveling and connecting with people from different cultural backgrounds. How cool is that? Even better, they also give you this Youth Pass document that serves as a certificate to recognize your non-formal learning, which turns out to be pretty useful. For even more spicy information, continue the clicking series here: Click,click,click!!!
In the end, these kind of experiences will bring you much more than just a few Instagram pictures in nice places. They will bring you life-long lessons by inviting you to step out of your comfort zone and meeting incredible people all around Europe.
Don’t believe me?
To stand as a proof, I gathered some testimonials from the Romanian team of my last YE – Outline. The project aimed to create space for intercultural dialogue among people, to foster critical thinking, inclusion and active citizenship through seeing connection points and sketching out an identity that privileges culture over country. During the 10-day long youth exchange we have created the outline of our own personal and cultural borders, including all the places that made us who we are now. 40 young people participated from 8 countries.
“In a nutshell: I ate too much sugar- in every possible way:
Physically– the cookies in the breaks were amazing! I just couldn’t…
Emotionally– all the positive and warm feelings I had, the enthusiasm, the curiosity, the joy!
Intelectually– I’ve really learnt new and interesting stuff, something that I wasn’t even thinking about before.
This was my second Youth Exchange and it came just in the right time, when I felt like I could really use a change of scenario. And maan, what an experience! Probably the biggest surprise I had was to meet my lithuanian friend from the first youth exchange that I took part into. What were the chances for this encounter, anyway? I realised that even if the Erasmus+ world seems to be such a diverse world, it is, in fact, small.
This project was a great reminder for me to stay present. All the activities that we did, the debates, the moments- everything needed all of your focus. Why? Because if you are thinking about „green horses on the walls” (one of romanians’ favourite slang, meaning to be lost in thought) you are going to waste the opportunity to create the best learning experience for you. And this applies in our everyday life too. If you are going to think about that past moment, about your home back in your country or your job, about your cat or about that cute guy that you probably won’t meet again anytime soon, you won’t have the right attitude to open yourself up to the stimuli that create your current life situation. Hence you’ll miss the chance to enrich yourself with new feelings, new information, new insights.
To sum it up, Outline was a great learning experience. It gave me the chance to discover how the past experience is affecting me. I was happy to meet amazing snowflakes, to hunt down new information and to take a break from my routine.”
“After ten days in the project, we were more than just stereotypes. We were a bunch of 40 friends trying to learn as many as we can about each other; from words in mother languages to personal passions and dreams. We learned how life truly is in these countries, why people love their hometowns. I discovered why they chose to remain there and why are they proud being part of their country.”
“During the project we had plenty of dissemination activities, which helped me a lot to understand what I was learning. Aside from the theoretical knowledge about human rights, immigration and national identities I feel that I developed a stronger critical thinking on the subject, I became less tolerant with intolerance. The power factor was however what I have discovered about myself and about myself in relation to others. This youth exchange brought to me important lessons, some new, some forgotten along the way, but lessons which are valuable and worth spreading:
It’s easy to lose from your eyesight the big goal when you are busy creating problems.
Judging and pointing fingers has immediate impact, making it almost impossible for the victims to prove their good intentions
Some things are worth giving up your most precious things for
Stay honest to yourself and people will be honest to you. They key is dialogue.
And the most important – You are the creator of your own experiences.
The project aimed to unite people, to create connections beyond differences and borders. I remember when the trainer told us in the first day that this project wasn’t going to be like anything that we expect. I was intrigued at first, but here we are now; not two months passed and every few days I receive another notification from our common facebook group, with a picture of people from different cities or countries which met in the project and decided to meet again. I would have never expected that in that first day and it fills up my heart with joy every time there’s a new picture. Especially, when my turn came to post one. 🙂”
‘The Outline project was my first one. I went to Nea Makri with curiosity and thirst for new knowledge, new people and experience. I can say that everything I felt, learned, tasted didn’t only met my expectations, but actually exceeded them. To the activities in particular, I think they managed to put in motion everybody and brought to light deep feelings and beliefs. It was quite challenging at first to explore the surroundings while collecting life stories from the locals, but it turned out to be so pleasant and educative in the end. It helped a lot to better understand the local community we lived nearby for 10 days.
What I liked the most was changing the working teams at every activity. This helped me a lot at getting to know everybody at least a little bit. The diversity of origins, life experiences and skills was the core identity feature of the group up to a point when it was almost overshadowed by our strong connection and intense common experience that we enjoyed. After the project I came back home with an even greater curiosity. I gained back the trust in myself that I misplaced and lost at some point in the past and I started packing for the next one.’
“As a first timer both in any kind of Erasmus+ project and as a group leader, I was quite taken back by with what I learned. About the group as a whole, I was amazed seeing how fast everybody managed to integrate. Everybody seemed very open, sincere and the group <<adopted>> even the shiest of us were by the end, which shows how much magic this kind of projects can bring. I felt at home and quite blissful during the group activities.
All in all, this experience is a big part of the road that I started a while ago; to discover myself and expand my social abilities. The people I met in Outline, together with the new insights I have into socializing with the people that I already knew, still help me do exactly that. I am very grateful for everything and everyone I met!”
Don’t think twice! Start researching and be ready to hit the road, Jack! I promise you this will really impact your life in a positive and meaningful way (you’ll probably get the Erasmus Fever afterwards, seeking to leave again and again… personal note: does anyone have a cure for that?).
In case I convinced or at least I made you consider this great opportunity, I will hand you my last gift- THE RESOURCES BOXIE (=the Erasmus+ Facebook Groups and blogs that you can follow in order to find opportunities and always stay up to date with what’s happening in this diverse -but, trust me, small- word):
Article brought to you by Ruxandra Pasăre a.k.a “The Energetic Strawberry” from project Outline. Revised by Andrada Boldiș. Special thanks to everyone for sharing your experiences!