When it comes to Erasmus+ projects, I am not a newbie, but I have never taken part in youth exchange (YE) before. When applying for the position of youth leader of Czech group for the project Bees Inspired, I wondered if I am really able to take care and responsibility for 4 young girls and take them to an unknown country. Wooow! But I also thought about: overcoming new challenges, being on your own, going where you have never been – all of these aspects are an inseparable part of entrepreneurship.
When my passion for designing educational workshops came together with the amazing idea of this project – to support young women to start up their own business – I just clicked on “apply” and do you know what? I was accepted and there was no way back!
Even though it was my first time attending an Advanced Planning Visit (APV) as a participant, in this article I would like to summarize a few points about organizing APV that can be useful for:
– those who have never participated in APV and maybe want to know a little more about the experience from the point of view of a participant,
– those who are in the process of preparation of their own APV,
– those who are just interested how our APV went in Ommen.
Don’t forget to build a team
It is obvious that when you have 42 youngsters on YE you really need to put a lot of effort to help them to get known each other. But remember that the same effort you should put even into planning teambuilding activities for your APV, even though it is a smaller group consisting mainly of adult people. In Ommen, it was the first time for most of the participants they met each other. And the good thing was that organizers kept in mind this rule. After really nice and useful teambuilding activities (common, we exchange sticker of fish for thermos flask within teambuilding activity Mission impossible), we started with planning and the group dynamic was perfect.
Venue for APV = venue for YE
In first infopack it was declared that the APV will happen in Utrecht and the real YE in Ommen. When it was announced that the APV will take place in Ommen, exactly as the YE, I was kind of “whyyy?” But after all, I am 100% sure, it has to be like this. First of all, travelling by train in Netherlands is really good and easy. I can say now I am thankful that I travelled from the capital Amsterdam to Ommen (the end of the Netherlands world) while changing 3 different trains. Now I am sure, I can take my young girls safely and with no headache to venue.
Second, if you plan to stay in a camp during the YE, don’t book a five star hotel for the APV. Staying at the group accommodation during the APV allows us as youth leaders to be well informed about what to say to our youngsters (and parents!) if they ask: where we will sleep? Do I have to take this or this? What about bathrooms or toilets? …and I would find many other reasons why it is good to organise APV in the same venue as YE.
Delegate tasks, set up communication and deadlines
Talking about next steps and working on activities for YE during your APV is nice because people can get so motivated and passionate to start working on the project! But then they go home in their real lives and it may be hard to continue and make all ideas happen. So invest time in dividing tasks – of course the coordinating NGO will have more things to do for the YE than the sending organisations, but they shouldn’t do everything. Try to divide and delegate as many activities as you can on (which I think we did very well) and set up the future communication flow. Don’t forget about deadlines! Don’t be afraid to get different countries to prepare the sessions together, we live in the 21st century and Skype is a very good invention.
You don’t need an exact schedule
I am a kind of an organized person and in reality the fact we did not receive any schedule for the APV made me little crazy. But after all, not having scheduled what I have to do in the evening (as I know from my previous projects) was very useful. And also when if there is a moment, that you as organizer feel like you should maybe work more and deeper on one specific topic, you don´t need to apologize for the rest of the program. APV’s purpose is to plan the activities of the YE in advance and you cannot know which sessions you will need to invest more time in.
So these four points came to my mind, when I decided to write about my first experience with APV. I can say it was really a pleasure to work with such inspiring people and I am sure in January we will rock! One more point in the end: it was so great not to feel sorry saying goodbye in the end, because I could be sure that all these awesome guys I will see again in less than 3 months.
Author: Petra Bilíková from Czech Republic attended the Advanced Planning Visit of the project Bees Inspired: A Hive for Female Entrepreneurs organised by the Dutch informal group Bees Empowered and funded by Erasmus+ of the European Union.