As part of Youthlink Scotland’s Policy Convention, our Youth Development Worker, Gillian McDiarmid, was asked to contribute an article about her experience of exchange programmes and their value within youth work.
In September, Gillian was invited to Poland and Hungry for two separate training conventions, both of which were funded by Erasmus+. Flying out two months later, Gillian soon found herself surrounded by 50 professional youth workers from across Europe.
“I had no idea who I would meet, who the trainers would be, what the accommodation would be like, what the food would be like. Yes, all of the exact thoughts the young people we work with have before taking part in any of our activities.”
The first course, “Sharing Learning from the Past” took place in Krakow, Poland, and the second course, “Let’s Go!”, was held in Holloko, Hungary. Both projects employed well-established youth work processes to make participants feel at ease and in an environment where they could build trust and share knowledge. For Gillian, this reminded her of the leverage that such opportunities hold both for youth workers and young people.
“I started off my youth work career in Poland in 2002 on an exchange programme. Since then, I have worked for organisations that either focused on supporting young people to take part in exchanges or referred young people on to take part in them.
“The two weeks in Europe reminded me just how important these opportunities are for young people and youth workers. Ultimately, it is the young people who benefit.
“I felt a range of emotions, trying to process everything that had happened. I felt that I had pushed myself to engage fully in the process – I was exhausted yet invigorated; I was hopeful, motivated, and inspired!
To read Gillian’s full blog about her experience, and the importance of exchange programmes, click here.