Europe offers a great variety of options for leisure and tourism, for all tastes and budgets. But what if I said Europe offers a way to travel with absolutely all expenses covered, what would you think?
There is a “Youth Exchange” programme part of Erasmus+ that allows you to travel and improve your curriculum, besides other abilities and attitudes.
First, I’m going to tell you briefly about what this programme is all about and then what my experience has been.
About Erasmus+ “Youth Exchange”
The Erasmus+ programme is part of the Europe 2020 strategy, the Education and Training 2020 strategy and the Rethinking Education strategy, and it covers all education, training, youth and sport initiatives. It started in 2014 and it will last until 2020 for now (I assume depending on the results, they will either expand the programme or create a new one with similar features).
Any organisation or social enterprise active at the European level and addressed to young people — among others —, will set up an exchange programme in its country with a specific theme. These themes can include topics such as Cinematography (and films), arts, Gastronomy, Environmental activities, Sports and many others. Other organisations from other countries (Spain, for example) will be responsible for selecting the young people they send in the exchange.
What are the requirements?
Aged between 13 and 30 (although most programmes focus on people over 18). Being a student is not
Residence in one of the countries involved in the project.
English isn’t necessary either, but it’s highly recommended and valued by these organizations.
And once selected…
The organization in charge of the exchange will require for you to meet a small amount of money for administrative expenses. The price depends on each organization but varies between 25~30 euros. You will then be given the contact details of the other team members from your own country (including the group leader). I travelled from Spain with an organization called, “Viaje a la Sostenibilidad.” The duration of the programme is from 5 to 21 days.
What does it include?
Transport costs (varies according to distance): From 170~620 €. For example, if you travel from Spain to France or Portugal you will be given up to 170 euros. If you participate in a programme inside your own country you will only receive 20 euros. You have to buy your own tickets and when the programme end, a refund will be given (it takes up yo 3 months).
Accommodation: Depending on the situation and how it is organized, houses with kitchen, bathrooms, living room and several bedrooms will be provided. It may also be the case that you are accommodated in hotels.
Food: All included, except alcohol and other whims.
To see more associations in each country click this link: List of associations
About my experiences with Erasmus+
I have had the opportunity to make two youth exchanges. One of them thanks to Elementerre (Toulouse), and the other to Concordia. If an metaphor could compare both experiences, it would be the image in which a road is divided in two: on the left you see a beautiful landscape full of flowers and birds singing, while on the right there is only death and destruction, and a few crows crowing. Something like this:
Toulouse: First Youth Exchange
In the program carried out in Toulouse – where I met Valeria –, everything was smooth as silk. The first day we were picked up in Mercedes vans at the airport and taken to the rural hotel where we were going to stay most of the days (a couple of nights we stayed in a hostel, in Toulouse). The place was marvellous: an old house renovated in stone and refurbished interiors. Outside there was a terrace overlooking sunflower fields and other crops.
The food was great: it was 100% vegetarian, so we didn’t eat meat. There was no shortage of French cheese, jams, fruits and greens from the orchard; bread, cereals, coffee and French wine. Before you go, the organization requires you to tell them if you suffer from any allergies or intolerances.
The theme of this project was “Sustainability and the organization of sustainable events”. I already knew a lot of things because I’m an environmentalist,
but truth is, a lot of things were taught about recycling, agriculture and ecological products, renewable energies and many more things. For a couple of days we helped around an ecological festival. We did various tasks from traffic control to cooking.
The 8 days we spent in this programme flew by as we did a lot of activities related to this theme and about the culture of the other participating countries (France, Romania and Spain). We tried cuisine from these countries, we learned “useful” words, traditional dances, etc. At the end they gave us a t-shirt of the organization and took us to the airport.
Project final score: 8.5 / 10
Amiens: Second Youth Exchange
The second program I attended to has “War and Trees” as its theme, and it was held in a small town in Amiens (you can read the post here), but the organization was quite different. I will tell you some points that made it different from the first project in which I was the leader of the Spanish group.
Reception: We were not picked up at the airport at even at the nearest city (Amiens capital). We had to take a train that stopped at the town. The picture was a little bit of a horror movie. The train stopped and just us 3 members of the Spanish team were the only ones descending. There was no light and the station looked abandoned. After walking a few steps a shadow appeared: “Bonjour, Je suis Marie!” There she was, the event organizer, with a smile.
Food left much to be desired. The first day we had lettuce and half a baked potato for dinner. For the next two or three days the variety and quantity remained small. Things improved afterwards, but it can’t be compared to the delights we enjoyed in Toulouse.
The organization had beginner’s mistakes. I mean, if we’re 25 participants, how do you get cars for only 19 people? It was a SERIOUS MISTAKE, the same happened with the food (but I’ve already said that). In addition, the project lasted 15 days and there were no activities for that long. We had some truly boring days, locked up in the house “big brother” style because we had many rainy days. The house was very different: it had stables and the rooms were on top. There were horses, ducks and many other animals (sometimes we were tempted to eat one).
The theme: It was very interesting. To know the effects the First World War had on the region. We saw the trenches, the huge craters and the museums dedicated to the subject.
The people: It was wonderful to meet people from Italy, Greece, Russia, the Czech Republic and France. Although there are always “characters”, most people were very pleasant (in both programmes). It is true that the leader/organizer would get angry from time to time but someone had to take the lead and organize 25 people.
Project final score: 5 / 10
At the end of the programme you are given a “Youthpass” diploma detailing the skills acquired during the exchange.
In short… I do recommend you live this experience. You can learn from everything and it’s fantastic to get to know the culture, gastronomy and the people of other European countries. You will improve your English and other life skills and attitudes. We are the future of Europe and we must learn from each other.
To see the associations that exist by country see this link: List of associations
Remember that we are expecting to see you on our social media… If you have any questions about this type of ERASMUS+ trip, leave us a comment and we will get back to you right away! Also, if you have done Erasmus+, tell us your experience and opinion!