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.