Take a few seconds to picture these: An overwhelming number of friend requests waiting for your approval in your social network of choice. Thousands of photos waiting to be thoroughly downloaded to your computer and organized afterwards. All kind of mementos from countries you have never visited coming out of your backpack. Notes from activities, workshops and energizers about various and interesting topics packed inside a bunch of different scribbling surfaces. Countless new experiences to share with friends and relatives starting to fade out from your memory.. Some could say this is the outcome of almost any long term travel, but to the trained eye it would be a clear indicator of the shocking return to reality that happens after a youth exchange.
Truth is, this is a way of travel which could not be preferred or recommended to all kind of travellers, but once you have made your mind about it, it is definitely one of the most rewarding, both in experiences and in expense-savings.
Since 2007, when the European Union started the current iteration of the Youth in Action Programme, thousands of young travellers have embarked in one or more of the alternatives that this wonderful idea provides. Some of those, like EVS, have been previously discussed in AWTT, reason why I would like to write exclusively about Exchanges today.
Before starting to get any deeper into the topic, note that the program itself is supposed to run only for a few months more, however this does not necessarily mean that you should be freaking out and rushing to enroll into your local youth organization. In fact, the program has already a continuation in the form of Erasmus+ , an upcoming program, that will take the good ideas and experiences from Youth in Action (YiA from now on) and develop them further, probably with an outreaching budget, that will comprise the Europe-wide famous Erasmus grants as well.
Enough history lesson for today, what is in a Youth Exchange for you? Well, for starters, the possibility of engage into an European Program and get an unforgettable experience while learning non-formal education skills like organization or communication, not to forget meeting people from all over Europe and some neighbour countries like Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan and many more.
One of the main incentives is the built-in funding since all this is funded by the European Union, which in practise translates to having the travel costs covered up to a 70%, and accommodation and food costs completely usually included. Does it sound good enough?
The steps are quite clearly specified in the links provided, however, we would like to make it even easier for the readers. So, to sum up, if you are between 16 and 30 years old and willing to participate in such programs pay attention:
Firstly, contact your National Youth Agency, every country has one but it is not always in charge of the Youth in Action Management. Nevertheless, they are the ones that can point you in the right direction, and most importantly, facilitate the contact with local associations, which are the ones in charge of the bureaucracy attached to any kind of European Program.
Once you become a member of the local group/association, ask about the ongoing programs. If none, do not panic, you are still eligible to join programs organized by other associations by merely send a joint agreement (called Part Three) between your organization and the host one. Nowadays, searching for open vacancies is easier than ever, just follow one or more of the numerous Facebook/mailing groups created for this purpose like Youth Exchange Projects or Mevlana Youth.
That’s just about it. Surely you will be required to contribute with whatever you can, ranging from traditional dances to local food preparation or facilitating some workshops to share with the rest of the participants. The details may vary, however the experience will always be great.