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USE+FUL | The difference between “Youth exchange” and “Training course”

Hello to everyone, my name is Kaloyan Myanov. I am twenty-one years old student from The St. Cyril and St. Methodius University of Veliko Tarnovo. I will tell you more about my experience with Erasmus+ projects and the difference in my opinion between the two types of projects: youth exchange and training course. Everything started two and a half months ago. I was going to join the acting class, when I saw on the front door of the building a poster about one event called “The Circle Table”. It was an event for a youth people who are searching opportunities for career development, it was also having a lot of political subjects, which was discussed. On this event I met the founder of the NGO “Institute of perspectives” and after some conversations he suggested me to join a training course about volunteering by the Erasmus+ program which was going to take place in Sibenik, Croatia. It sounded very interesting to me to meet people from a lot of different countries in country where I’ve never been and together to learn more about this wonderful topic. I really liked it and immediately after my return home (in Bulgaria), I’ve joined another project, but this time it was another type - youth exchange, which was this time took place in Cosenza, Italy. The sending organization this time was “International Center for Development of Education and Training (ICDET)”.

The difference between the two types of projects is that the youth exchange the program is not so tense, most of the time you play games, energizers, do some easy and nice task, while the training course is more serious, the events are mixed between lessons and games and here you increase a lot of soft skills. Everything else in the both programs is very similar: you meet people from different countries and learn more about their culture and countries, you learn more about the Erasmus+ program and its opportunities, also about the European Union and its structure. In Italy we had a meeting with a guy who is working in the European Commission and also having a business with olive oil. Also, if you have some troubles with your English language, this program is the place where you can really improve it. You become more knowledgeable in every area, more confident in yourself and all of this is happening until you are having fun! In the projects we were having early session which were beginning at 9:00 a.m. until 12:30 p.m., then the late session was from 3:00 p.m. until 6:30 p.m. Before the first session we were having a breakfast which in Croatia was cheese, ham, bread, yogurt, eggs, tea or juice and in Italy was cookies with chocolate, chocolate, chocolate spread, bread, some cheese, fruits and for drink coffee of course! In Italy they definitely prefer coffee and they like it strong! After the breakfast and the first session, it comes of course the lunch time. In Sibenik we stayed in a hostel where they were making wonderful lunch including fish, seafood with rice, zucchini with tomatoes, potatoes and carrots, pasta and others. In Cosenza we were accommodated in the campus of the University of Calabria where are studying around 30000 students and all the campuses are in one place. There the party for sure is great with so many people! Тhere we were having lunch in a student restaurant where they were cooking for us pizza with mashed tomatoes and mozzarella (the traditional pizza which Italians are eating and you can find it everywhere), all kinds of pasta, eggplants with tomatoes, steamed vegetables and salads. In the past I knew that Italy is the home of the pizza and pasta, but I haven’t really realized that they are usually eating so much of them, almost everyday! So enough about the eating, I’m sure you already understand that you wouldn’t stay hungry on both type of projects. After the lunch we were having little time to chill or exploring the place, the town where we were living or going somewhere for a while. Then we were starting the second session. In these “classes” as I call them, we were playing interesting games which purpose is to get to know each other better or to understand more ourselves. The other activities are for example in the training course about volunteering: we’ve prepared a lot of materials which include all kind of strategies for attracting volunteers, for support them in the missions which they are involved, we’ve invented some ways for rewarding the volunteers after the projects, also we‘ve invented a campaigns about helping drug addicts, saving the environment or stimulating the youth people to find their missions in life and more other things. After finishing with the preparation of the materials, we explained some of our ideas them in front of the rest of the group or the guests which were there, trying to show them the strengths of the concept and answering the questions which this project brings up. We also went outside making interviews of random people asking them for some ideas how to manage people, how achieve personal development, how to start a business and a lot of other different things. The organizers supplied us with different statistics for example the people’s migration in the big cities or the population of the emigrants in Europe and then we discussed these problems and searching ways to resolve it.

In general, this is how the classes are done and they are running with a lot of dances and smiles, containing a lot of energizing games which are very interesting, my favorite one is called “ninja”.

After finishing the second session, we were having a dinner, then usually we were going to have fun/party somewhere in the city, beach, rooms where the real interesting things are happening. In Italy we have been involved in the college parties which were really fantastic, all the people were dancing, having fun, the music was fresh, and you could communicate with a lot of people. When I was in Croatia the tourist season in the city was already finished, there weren’t many open bars or some places to go out, so we were taking some drinks and going to the beach with the all group, where we were playing different games, then continuing with a game which in Bulgaria we call “Bottle”, because of it sometimes was getting awkward, also there I’ve learnt how to play “ninja”. In all projects by the Erasmus+ program there are intercultural nights, in these events you represent your home country, you bring traditional food and alcohol from it, you show the participants of the project some interesting facts and videos about your country and usually then this night pass into a party.

Of course, while being on the projects, you have the opportunity to visit a lot of things like landmarks, national parks and reserves, other cities. The organizers usually provide at least one trip on places like this or free time, so you can organize your trip and visit the place which you want to visit.

In general, this was my personal experience with Erasmus+ and I highly recommend to everyone.

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