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Where do I start with getting a Youth Exchange going?

So, maybe you’ve heard about Erasmus+ and think international activities would be a good thing for you and your youth group to get involved in. Or maybe your group already know they’d love to do a Youth Exchange. Either way, I bet your next questions are: Where do I start? How can I make this happen? Well here are some pointers on what might work for you!

First off, chat with your youth group about what they would like to do or learn:

  • Do they want to meet a group from another country? Do they want to travel to another country to meet the group, or would they prefer to start by hosting a group in their own locality?
  • What kind of topics or themes are the young people interested in exploring? Do they want to share cultures? Do they want to talk to others about issues that are affecting them, such as peer pressure, identity, education or employment? Would they like to share a skill they have, for example media production, drama facilitation, or active participation?

Now, think about how the group likes to work best:

  • Do they love to use outdoor education or sports, are they motivated by art or drama, is music something they connect with?
  • Explore how these methods can be used to address the topic or theme they want to work on with the partner group.

Now that you know what you as a group want to work on, and the methods you love to use, the next step is to find a partner organisation to carry out the project with. There are a couple of ways to do this:

  • Sign up to the partner-search facility on the SALTO Youth Network. Fill in a profile to register your group as actively looking for a youth exchange partner. You can also search for possible partner groups from across Europe and email the interesting ones directly.
  • Sign up to the Léargas Youth and Adult Education newsletter to get regular updates on training events and other opportunities to meet international partners.
  • Take a look at the training opportunities on the Salto Training calendar and check with us in the Youth and Adult Education unit to see if we are supporting people to take part. There are many thematic training courses with the added opportunity to meet youth workers from across Europe, and there are also dedicated partnership-building activities to attend.
  • Check out what groups in your area have done in past international projects. Have a look at our funded projects lists, or browse the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform by searching ‘Ireland’ and ‘Youth Exchange’. Local groups will be an amazing resource of information, and hopefully will be generous enough to share their international contacts with you! There is nothing better than personal recommendations.
  • Ask your county or city council if they are engaged in a Town Twinning project—they may have good contacts to share.

Once you have found a potential partner, you’ll need to take some time to get to know each other and build a strong relationship. Get in contact by email, phone or Skype and chat about your group’s challenges and talents, your values as a youth worker and the values of your organisation. Discuss what gets you motivated and how you like to work.

If you have that excited feeling and believe you have found your perfect match, the next step is to get the facts about Youth Exchanges: when to apply, how long the project must last, and the application process!

  • Begin with a look at our ‘How to..’ section, and then check the specifics in the Erasmus+ Programme guide. We realise it’s pretty heavy on information so we have created a shortened summary guide specifically for non-formal learning Youth activities.
  • Know the Erasmus+ deadlines: there are three every year for Youth activities. Decide which one suits best for your planned project, but remember that the project dates include preparation time for your group, the exchange itself, the evaluation and follow up phases. It’s best to pick the deadline that gives you the most time for preparation before the actual exchange. Think of extra time to get those flights cheaper, extra time to get the group ready, extra time to secure the perfect accommodation…basically, extra time = less stress!!
  • Léargas hosts application clinics prior to each deadline to help you finalise your project plan and navigate your way through the electronic application form. These will be announced in our newsletter and listed on our calendar.
  • Read our application tips blog and learn how to avoid common submission mistakes!
  • If it happens that you’re not successful on your first application attempt, don’t despair. You always have the option to reapply under a future deadline, so all that hard work is not lost.

Remember that Trisha Wilkinson, Inclusion Officer at Léargas, can support you through this process at any point and is happy to chat with you or meet you to help you make your young people’s dreams come true.

And finally - good luck!! It is a life-changing experience and worth all the effort!

If you’d like to follow a Youth Exchange project in progress, check out this blog from Cobh YMCA: www.ireland2iceland.blogspot.com.