Hello everybody! My name is Marija and I am 25. Do you want to start traveling and get addicted by discovering something new? Read my stories carefully, and I am sure you will get interested in this projects.

I hope you read my first article, how my story started. Well, this is how it went with the projects called Youth Exchanges. Since April 2014, I participated in six Youth Exchanges, in six different cities, of five European countries. Talking about traveling and visiting other countries, you will for sure see other cities on your way, because you will travel by plane, so you need to wait in one city, then go to another by bus or train and this is how you discover more about the country. Another way to discover the Country, is the part when you make international friends. That is when you meet people from the country you went for the project. That is when you are ready to think out of the box, to go out of your comfort zone…

One well prepared and organized Youth Exchange would look like this:
At first, you arrive at the place, together with your group from your country. Next, you usually have activities in the evening which includes tasks; through non-formal ways of getting to know each other.
Often there are some games, energizers, short work in international groups etc. The next days you usually have four sessions per day, in which you are also divided in international working groups and you work on given tasks. Through these activities, you will not realize it in the beginning, but you make friends, you have fun, you learn, you discover yourself, you push your limits, you give yourself a chance to live out of your comfort zone! One main point to mention about work in groups, is that you need to speak in English. In my opinion, this is the best way ever to improve your English, your vocabulary, your ways to express feelings and needs. Speaking about the English language, on my first YE, I was reeeeally afraid to talk in English. I thought that I have no idea what to say, that I am lost, I was ashamed of sharing my interests and needs! But then, other important moment was when I realized that nobody there is native English speaker! So we are all, more or less, on the same level, and that is the moment when I slowly started speaking in English. Day by day, project by project, my English was getting better! My friends were the first who said that. After, I made self-reflection and I understood that they are right. My English was better for real!

Ah, and yes. There is always a facilitator- man and/or woman. Usually, they divide the participants into groups. Those tasks are connected with the topic of the YE. The topics of the Youth Exchanges I was participant in, were: “Small steps, big effects” in Turkey, “Different cultures- common goals” in Portugal, “Take active part” in Lithuania, “Organic Farm for Youth” in Wales (UK), “Community Leadership” in The Netherlands, “Share Diversity- STOP Radicalism” in Portugal.

In the end of the project, day before the last day, you usually do a reflection on the whole project, you share your opinion on what you liked the most, what you enjoyed the most, what you didn’t like, you will have a possibility to describe the project in one word etc. You will fill an evaluation form as well, which goes to the hosting organization. The last day, comes the saddest part. You need to say goodbye to friends that you made, with the ones that you know you can always count on if you go to their country, as well to the ones whit whom you didn’t get along the best. On your way back home, you realize: I liked this week. I hope I will have more projects like this…

P.S. Do not be surprised if you meet the same person from Georgia (my example), on two different youth exchanges! Those Georgian people are amazing … One of the lessons I learned was: You cannot generalize things, we are all sooooo different as individuals and you cannot say Germans are like this, or Portuguese are like that… You just need to be open to meet new individuals and to learn from their stories, they perception of the world, their culture. That is how you get experience.

Author: Marija, participant of the EVS project “Act to activate”

The European Voluntary Service project “Act to activate” is organised within the framework of Erasmus+ and financed by European Commission.
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