Erasmus+ is offering so many opportunities for youth, but until last year I did not know about youth exchanges, training courses and EVS. As soon as I found out about this I joined all Facebook groups about Erasmus, started checking NGO’s websites for new exchanges and planning my new adventures. In one year I attended two youth exchanges and one training course wishing to attend even more. Still I met so many amazing people, visited places where I probably would not go and got three Youthpasses that might one day get me a job.

Here are 5 things I wished I knew before going on Erasmus Youth Exchange and even after the first one I still get surprised by some things.

1. Schedule can be adapted

Every youth exchange and training course has a schedule of activities, which can be adapted, especially if it is a youth exchange. Youth exchanges are more flexible in this matter. My first youth exchange took place in Istanbul in December and although weather was very nice all the time, we got two afternoons free to discover city because it was really sunny. Our work did not suffer because of it, as we were all more engaged in activities to finish them sooner. But at the end everything depends on participants and organizers.

2. It is not free, but still cheap

Some NGO’s promote youth exchanges as a free way to combine traveling with non-formal education. It is not really free, as you have to buy plane/bus/train tickets, which can sometimes cost more than amount of money for reimbursement, health insurance, food and drinks for intercultural evenings and all other expenses that come with traveling (souvenirs, party evenings, entrance fees, etc.). How much will you spend is entirely up to you, but for me it was a lot less than I usually spend when traveling.

3. Reimbursement of travel expenses can take time

Money for travel expenses can be reimbursed in cash at the end of the exchange, it can be transfer later or there also might be some problems with it. On my first exchange I received it in cash. My travel expenses from training course in April are still not covered, and I expect money from last exchange in following month. Other participants that were on more exchanges than me shared stories about not ever receiving money. Do not make this stop you from applying on youth exchanges and training courses because most organizers will do their best to make sure everything will be all right. If some problems do occur you can always contact National Agency.

4. Not everyone on youth exchange speaks English perfectly

If your English is not perfect do not worry. You are not the only one and you won’t be lonely. Most participants will try to include you in activities and socializing by translating or trying to speak your language. The purpose of these exchanges is for you to work on your key competences and communication in foreign language is one of them.

5. Once you start, it is hard to stop

Meeting new people from all over Europe, learning about their cultures, trying their traditional food and drinks, exploring new countries and cities was my dream come true. As soon as I come home from one I start searching for new opportunities. Erasmus+ is not the only programme promoting intercultural youth exchange but it is the most popular and a great way to start builidng your international network.