Are you interested to know more about the experiences of our DiscoverEU travellers? Read some of the stories here below!
Exploring Europe and the challenge to become more independent
Slovenian traveller Neža Musar saw her DiscoverEU trip as an opportunity to challenge herself. “I have Asperger’s syndrome, so I wanted to experience what it’s like to travel on your own – to make your own decisions,” she said. “If there are any problems, you are the one who has to solve them. You can’t just call your mum – you have to figure it out yourself.”
This was Neža’s first time venturing alone, which gave her the opportunity to learn crucial skills in the process. “I’ve always wanted to travel around Europe because I come from a family who didn’t travel so much. DiscoverEU seemed like the perfect opportunity to start,” she said. “Now I’m more open to talk to new people because I know that if something goes wrong, I’m able to solve things on my own. I’ve become more mature in terms of things like organisation.”
Neža felt that her journey was made easier thanks to the help, advice and friendliness of the people she met along the way. “I realised that no matter if I was 2,000 kilometres away from home, I felt at home wherever I was because of the people and their kindness. I feel more European now than I did before,” she added.
Based on her experience, Neža offers some advice for people considering applying for their own DiscoverEU pass. “Simply apply. You have nothing to lose but so much to gain,” she said. “Go and enjoy the experience of a lifetime.”
Neža Musar No: Slovēnija
Parliamentary pilgrimage: Why one DiscoverEU traveller used his pass to learn more about European democracy
Growing up in Budapest, German-Hungarian traveller János Székely has long admired the Hungarian Parliament Building, situated on the banks of the Danube river. “Since I was a child, our parliament has been very important to me. I’m proud of it’s neo-Renaissance building – I think it’s the most beautiful building in the European Union,” he said. This sentiment inspired János to use his DiscoverEU journey to fulfil a life-long ambition to visit as many national parliaments as he could. “I wanted to see what the parliaments of other countries looked like.”
Touring the Swedish, Latvian, Lithuanian, Polish, Hungarian and Austrian parliaments, János was surprised by what he learned. “It’s interesting to look at the national and political symbols of each parliament. The style, the national symbols and the flags are all incredibly different,” he said. “The guides who showed me around each parliament told me a lot of things about each country, such as how the president of Austria will be elected, or how the coalition government in Latvia is formed from 5 different parties. It was really exciting to know.”
János’ parliamentary odyssey cemented his feelings about the European Union. “Europe was already an important thing to me,” he said. “When someone asks me ‘what nationality are you?’, I will always say ‘I’m European, firstly’. I really loved the European Union before DiscoverEU, and now I love it more. It’s easier to love Europe if you know the different nations and people.”
János Székely No: Vācija
A night at the opera: Understanding Europe through music
As a music student, French traveller Venise Cornet wanted to use her DiscoverEU pass to visit some of the iconic locations in European musical history. “I’d heard that Mozart had performed one of his first operas, Don Giovanni, in Prague,” she said. “I went and visited the opera house. They had some sculptures of him, as well as some of his masterpieces.”
This experience inspired Venise to immerse herself in music from other cultures. “I listened to Czech music while I was there and German music while I was in Germany.” Meeting new people while travelling also enabled her to get tips on what to listen to. “There was a guy from Lithuania who told me all about traditional Lithuanian music,” she said. “The songs were nice.”
Talking to other travellers allowed Venise to see the similarities between cultures in Europe. “We met some girls from Poland and we realised that we liked the same music and TV series. They were just like us. It was only the names of our countries that were different,” she explained. “There was there was something linking us – the fact that we were all European. We really felt like a community.”
Venise’s exploration of other cultures extended beyond the end of her DiscoverEU journey. “When I went home, I saw that one of the travellers I had met during the trip was visiting Paris with other people from the DiscoverEU Facebook group,” she said. “They were asking if a local could give them a tour, so I met them and we talked about their countries.”
Venise Cornet No: Francija
Admiring architecture throughout the ages with DiscoverEU
Have you ever considered what you can learn about a city from its buildings? Although Romanian traveller Ivett Dénes has always had an interest in architecture, getting to experience the streets of Rome first-hand gave her a new insight into the city. “It made me want to learn more,” she explained. “I came home and I researched the Colosseum, learned about Rome and about the houses and buildings. I took photos of the street names and of the houses and palaces I’ve been to, and now I’m researching them.”
The mix of historical architectural styles on display in the Italian capital is what especially impressed Ivett. “It was quite amazing to see Ancient, Baroque, Renaissance and Modern architecture in a city like that,” she remarked. “It was incredible to see so many historical periods mingling together!” Walking around the city gave Ivett the opportunity to consider how Rome has changed over the years. “It has so much culture,” she said. “I felt like I was stepping on history with every step.”
But Ivett gained more than just an appreciation of Italian architecture from her DiscoverEU experience. “I learned that I can do whatever I set my mind to,” she said. “I learned that even if I’m a young girl, I’m not as naïve as others think I am. I also learned that I really can travel abroad. It made me very secure about going away from my family before university.”
Ivett Dénes No: Rumānija
Backpacks, budgeting and bears: The story of one DiscoverEU traveller’s wild encounter
When traveller Ada Trzaskowksa left her home in Poland to begin her DiscoverEU journey, she didn’t realise that she’d soon be coming face-to-face with a family of bears. “Visiting the mountains in Romania was an awesome experience. It definitely wasn’t something that I expected to do, and I think it’s one of my favourite memories,” she said. “On the other side of our campsite, 4 bears came out of the forest – it was the mama bear and 3 tiny baby bears. It was absolutely incredible!”
However, it wasn’t just bears that Ada saw in the mountains – she also gained a unique glimpse into Romanian life. “It definitely gave me an insight into what different countries really look like. It gave me a more detailed cultural experience,” she said. “I also learned budgeting skills. We were travelling with our tents, so we were trying to make it a low-budget trip. It was 3 weeks of incredible experiences in places all across Europe, and we didn’t spend much money.”
Aside from bears and budgeting, Ada also felt that DiscoverEU helped to confirm her feelings about Europe. “I’ve always had a strong sense of belonging to the European Union. It’s always been important to me as it’s allowed me to travel more freely. And I love connecting with people from other places – the European Union has made that easier for me,” she said.
“I’m also studying in the Netherlands right now, so I constantly feel the presence of the European Union and the way that it makes my life easier.”
Ada Trzaskowska No: Polija
Vocabulary voyage: How one DiscoverEU traveller learned to speak French
While a textbook can teach the basics, the best way to learn a language is to find opportunities to practice with the people who know it inside out. This was a lesson learned by German traveller Caitlin Arnold, who used her DiscoverEU experience to explore the Pyrenees mountains. Her trip reignited a passion for French and gave her the opportunity to learn the language from the locals.
“I took French classes at school,” she explained. “But I noticed in France that I had a limited vocabulary – I always had to pull my phone out and use a translator to find specific words.” To improve, Caitlin decided to learn straight from the locals. “I felt really welcome everywhere and everyone was treating us so well. A lot of people started talking to us on their own initiative,” she said.
Caitlin’s DiscoverEU experience encouraged her to keep learning French – even after she returned. “I wanted to have French as a third language to use in my day-to-day life. Now that I’m at university, I’m taking French courses so that I can improve,” she said. “In a year’s time I’m going to move to the Netherlands as part of my studies. I’d also like to do my Erasmus+ as an internship in a French-speaking country.”
For Caitlin, the journey gave her more than just an insight into the French language, but into the importance of European solidarity too. “The EU is only possible if we, as neighbouring countries, take other countries into consideration,” she said. “It’s important to see how other people live – you can learn so much from them.”
Caitlin Arnold No: Vācija
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