How to take part in a youth exchange
The youth organisation ‘Beyond Barriers’ in Tirana (Albania) is one of the Erasmus + national contact points in this country. In the last ten years they have organised more than one hundred youth exchanges, seminars and trainings for young people abroad. Their EVS programme manager, Ira Topalli, explains what to do to take part.
What is a youth exchange?
A youth exchange is an activity that allows groups of young people to share experiences by living together in a different country from 5 to 21 days.
During a youth exchange, participants carry out a work programme on a topic, supported by youth leaders. For example, they might work on environmental issues, health education, intercultural learning, etc. The exchange consists of a mix of workshops, exercises, debates, simulations and even outdoor activities designed, and is prepared by the participants before the exchange.
Who can take part?
Everybody aged 13 – 30. A youth exchange involves a minimum of 16 participants and a maximum of 60, excluding the group leaders.
How can I find out about youth exchanges that are looking for participants?
You can contact your national Erasmus + contact point or even different local organisations that work with Erasmus+. You can also find information on new calls on specialist websites as well as through social media. For example, you can check the Facebook group Beyond barriers.
What should I do in order to participate?
You have to contact the organisation and let them know that you are interested in participating. If there are a lot of candidates, the association may ask you to send your CV or a motivation letter.
If you are selected, you must fill the application form the organisation will provide and they may ask you to meet with them. “We bring the group in our offices, we give them training before their departure, we follow their activity when they are abroad and when they come back, we engage them at local level,” says Ira Topalli. “For instance, at the moment we are preparing a group of six young people, together they will go to Italy at the end of the month for a youth exchange about environmental issues and how to fight stereotypes among young people.”
I don’t speak English very well… can I still participate?
“As an organisation, we try not to put too much criteria to participate in a youth exchange, because for us the most important thing is the inclusion of everybody. That is why we include in the youth exchanges young people who don’t speak English so well, because other young people can support them with translation and that shouldn’t be a reason to exclude them. It can motivate them to study the language later on.”
Participation is for free?
Yes. In most cases participation is for free. Besides, according to the rules of the programme, accommodation, food and daily needs of the project are all covered by organisers. The flight tickets are also included. Usually we buy the tickets for the participants in advance and our partner reimburses us later. Sometimes the tickets can cost a bit more than the allowance provided according to the distance calculator and people might pay the difference by themselves. In some case, organisations can apply a participation fee, but it’s not the majority.
Why would you recommend taking part in a youth exchange?
“Take the chance to join these activities. It allows young people not only to develop their competences in various fields, but also to become socially aware of different topics and areas that are not usually in their everyday life. As an association, we encourage young people to explore new cultures, new habits, new lifestyles, to learn with young people similar to themselves. This is the best thing that they can find in a youth exchange, to learn and to improve their skills. There are people who are different in cultural backgrounds but they share similarities. We focus on the similarities to make young people aware that they are the future and tomorrow.