What makes a Youth Exchange good? How to design it? How to make learning for young people more powerful and impactful?
All these and many other questions were in my mind when I was applying for the “Star of Europe” training course.
If you have ever had similar questions about developing an international youth exchange – this training is the best and the most helpful solution. This is exactly what I was looking for. I could ask any questions during this project and I’ve got all the answers what I needed to continue my work.
What is “Star of Europe”?
It is a well-organized, fully practice-based, high quality program, which gives a clear imagination about each step while you are working on a Youth Exchange’s development. Each training course’s session was supported by different tools and methods used in a non-formal education. For example, we had simulation sessions, during those we were put into circumstances very closely matching to the reality settings, so we could fully experience how to deal with real cases under certain circumstances. How to keep updated your partners about your job while working on a same project? We were literally dealing with it in different rooms during the session and had to find a way to communicate.
Another example of a very useful tool – “the box of problems”. Have you ever thought what can happen during a youth exchange? Very practically, we just collected fears and situations from our heads, as potential organizers. We have to be prepared for everything, even if it is about loss of passport or fire in a hosting place. Luckily, very experienced trainers came up with the solutions right on the spot, so we could discuss it and write down for ourselves.
We also talked a lot about quality, but not directly. “There is not bad Youth Exchange experience until it is safe”. But as a youth workers, we can make a high quality projects with understanding what can make their quality higher. Nothing special, step by step: only a good-shaped idea brought by young people, well-described application by the support of a youth worker, turning it into the implementation with the help of National Agency and Erasmus plus program.
Moreover, “Star of Europe” is a great opportunity for building new partnerships. This is priceless to meet people all around Europe and ask them, what’s in their focus, what’s the need of change in their local communities. And if you have the same need and vision for solution – here comes the partnership.
And what’s inside of the project? What’s the heart, the core of every Youth Exchange?
Young people themselves. Designing something for them should be not shaped based on individual or organizational need. If we are doing a project for young people, we have to ask young people, what they want to learn, what they want to discuss and exchange with others. From this point there is no questions about motivation anymore, because they will be involved in something what they like, what is created by them. If they are part of the developing process, it will be grown by their interest, and this is the key.
Youth Exchange is a dialogue between cultures but we have to learn first how to speak about our own culture: how to express it on personal and deeper level, avoiding usual stereotypes and misleading pre-conceptions – this is what we have to learn and bring with us to any international exchange program. Only this level of awareness to our cultures can really have impact on a society, bring tolerance and empathy to each other.
I went to “Star of Europe” training course as a youth worker and educational program’s designer. Before I had an idea about Youth Exchange in my mind, and for the moment I feel myself able to finalize it, because the whole development process became sharp and clear in my mind. I am very grateful for having this opportunity.