Last week we received some messages on our Instagram profile asking to share some stories about youth projects and people who did those. We had a short discussion about this in our team and… we this it‘s a great idea! As we absolutely love this idea, we have decided to kick off right away and start with Lithuanian guy – Nojus Sungaila. He is 18 years old and currently study at Šiauliai Didždvaris gymnasium. He is into reading, self-improvement and travelling so will be a perfect person to have an interview with!

 

 

Hi Nojus! Could you tell us more about yourself?
– Hey! I’m Nojus, a student at Šiauliai Didždvaris gymnasium ant volunteer at youth camp “Draugai”. I’m very interested in various youth projects and other activities that improve me as a personality.

 

– Nojus, our readers are interested in international youth projects and we know that you have some experience in those. Could you tell us more what these projects were about and how did you get involved in them?
– In general, I have participated in 5 youth exchanges. My first YE took place in December 2017 in Mažeikiai, Lithuania. It was about entrepreneurship and leadership. I got involved to this project by my English teacher. This YE project was a big change in my life, it encouraged me not to be scared to try new things and get out of my comfort zone. Random fact: I even changed my school after this project! Second YE also was in Mažeikiai (April 2018). This time the theme was leadership through sports. It wasn’t as good as the first one, but I still enjoyed it. I found the application to this project on Facebook and filled it. The latest YE that I participated in, was in September 2018, in Krakow/Zakopane, Poland. It was about ecology. I got involved to it by my biology teacher. The theme of it was very interesting for me, so I had a wonderful time between all the like-minded people. I brought a lot of ideas on how to be eco-friendlier and save our planet’s resources.

 

– Why have you decided to take part in youth activities?
– Actually, I have no idea. At first, it looked scary to try this kind of thing. But after I overcame my fear in the first YE, I started wanting more challenges, such as living in a different environment with people I barely know and speaking in not my native language. So probably the desire for new challenges encouraged me to take part not only in youth activities but in all the projects that I participated in.

– Did you learn something during those international projects?
– Firstly, I learnt to be brave enough to express my ideas and feelings. Secondly, I understood that teamwork is way better than the individual. Also, I learned to say some words in few different languages; how to express my emotions and feeling with hand in the way that Italians do; improved my entrepreneurship and leadership knowledge and many other things.
At one project our and polish teams were discussing our common history. Suddenly, we started talking about famous writers and reached Adam Mickiewicz. He is regarded as a national poet in Poland and Lithuania, so we had an intensive discussion about which country “owns” him. At the end, we agreed that Adam Mickiewicz is the connection between our countries, and we can friendly share him.

 

– Which country do you admire the most? Why? Which country you would like to visit in the future?
– Absolutely Romania! If there was a Romanian group in the project, I would always find friends in it. I don’t know why, but I feel very close to these people! Even now I’m still communicating with some of the Romanians that I met in the projects. Sadly, I’ve never visited Romania before, so I really want to go there.

 

– Oh well, I have a feeling where your next youth exchange will be! Haha 😛 Have you tried writing your own project and if no would you consider doing that?
– I have never tried to write my own project application, but I’d like to. It looks not so easy to undertake this job but I’m sure that at the end, it would pay off in all the good emotions that you had while implementing your dream.

– Thank you for conversation and we wish you to visit beautiful Romania one day!

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Youth exchanges allow groups of young people between ages of 13 and 30 to meet, live together and work on shared projects for short periods. Youth exchanges last between 5 and 21 days, so it’s plenty of time to discover other cultures and make new friends.

 

Youth exchanges should be managed by open youth centres, youth organisations or other organisations who are taking care of informal groups of young people. Although sometimes we see that some organisations hire trained professionals to implement youth exchanges and this brings harm because:

  • instead of being actively involved young people become passive users or even consumers of the project. These professionals take away learning opportunities of young people on how to manage the project what leads to developing such a great competence as time management, being able to deal with money, being able to make agreements with people from different cultures, being confident and experience group dynamics.
  • usually these organisations are not focused on quality, but on quantity. In most cases topic of youth exchange is not important for them – they just want to accommodate and feed people as cheap as they can and charge them as much as they will pay. And to get rid of them on the last day to host a new group.
  • the EU grant supports travel as well as practical and activity-related costs necessary for the exchange. So basically, it’s possible to participate in the project without money at all. The sad part is that instead of trying to involve young people with fever opportunities some organisations are charging young people with a fee for a programme which European Commission already paid for. And it’s already paid from our (taxpayers) money.

 

Yes, it takes time to prepare a quality application form and sometimes it could get rejected by assessors especially if it’s your first one. But we have a strong hope to keep youth exchanges real learning opportunities for young people – if young people keep trying to apply by themselves. In that case, it’s absolutely for free!

 

If you are a young person, don’t pay for youth exchanges and rather go to your local youth centre, ask for a help of youth worker and organise youth exchange by yourself. If you don’t know how to start – just drop us a message and if you are interested in other youth opportunities contact Eurodesk.

If you are a youth worker, remind young people that there are plenty of opportunities for them for free! Keep youth work real!

 

Written by “Keep it Real” team

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“I realised that prejudices don’t really mean much at all. I have heard a lot of life stories and I have got to know myself and my limits more.”  – Máté Venter talks about his experience with Erasmus+ Youth Exchanges.

 

What is a youth exchange? How can one get involved?

Youth exchanges are projects subsidised by the European Union, where the young people of different European countries can get to know each other. They will talk in foreign language, learn and have a great time. To be able to apply for them, you do not need anything special. I saw the projects advertised in a Facebook group and applied right away.

 

Why is it worth applying for an international programme like this?

It is a great experience with lots of new adventures and you can learn a lot about various topics. You can improve your English, as this is might be the working language and it can be a really intensive learning experience to be listening to this language for days or even weeks. You can get to know a lot of new people and you can learn to work in a team with them!

 

Which one was your most memorable exchange? What topics were dealt with?

So far, I have participated in three exchanges. In Norway, nature was in the limelight, in Boldogkőváralja in Hungary, health and lifestyle was our main focus, while in Belgium, we dealt with hiking, nature and sports. I cannot highlight one as the best, all of them were special in one way or another. In Norway, it was the place itself that blew me away, for example, it was a memorable experience to be sledging in the snow in April and to play snow war, build shelter and hike. In Boldogkőváralja, there was more emphasis on group work, I really grew as a person. And in Belgium, it felt like we were inside a survival show. 5 days in full gear with the added details of rock climbing (with closed eyes), zipping and caving.

 

What kind of experience have you gained?

I have learned how to work in a team, together with strangers from different countries. I realised that prejudices don’t really mean much at all. I have heard a lot of life stories and I have got to know myself and my limits more. But of course, I have learned a lot more than this. For example, after bathing in the river for two weeks in Belgium, I have learnt to appreciate the luxury of having a warm shower. I now know how to climb rocks and to secure others, I have learnt how to bake a pizza and I can already tell some basic words in at least 6 languages.

 

Where can you make use of these things?

It is obviously not a disadvantage that one learns to communicate with foreigners or to cooperate with them. Through others, I have learned a lot about myself and my needs. I would definitely think differently if I hadn’t participated in youth exchanges.

What kind of plans do you have for the future?

I am planning on participating in another project in Poland. Project deals with environmental protection and I feel that’s inportant for me.

 

To whom would you recommend this opportunity?

To everybody. Although a huge amount of courage is definitely needed for it. Mostly, we have to take care of the travelling ourselves, the costs of which are reimbursed later. For those who would like to see the world, these kinds of projects are obligatory!

 

Written by Holczer Mónika, translated by Judit Molnár, edited by Keep It Real team. 

Firstly published in European Youth Portal.

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