Europeer story

Nikola Hrnciarova

I will never forget my very first youth international exchange. The project took place in Hungary two and half years ago and involved a two day long expedition to the mountains. We were given a rope, a sheet, a compass, a phone, some food and a map. They divided us into two groups in which we barely knew each other. The trick was that the map my group had was in fact the route of the other group‘s journey and vice versa. We only had 30 minutes of call time to communicate with the other team to find out where we were and how we could get to the final meeting point in the mountains. It took us 10 hours to get to the meeting point having used up all of our minutes at the very first stage of the expedition. We eventually got lost and had to carry heavy backpacks. But at the same time, we quickly learnt how to cooperate, overcome problems as a team, laugh, use our intuition, support and encourage one other and it gave us an opportunity to appreciate the beauty of the outdoors. When the night came, we used the rope and sheet to build a shelter. The weather was cold and, once again, we found ourselves doing whatever we could to keep warm and secure; sharing clothes, sleeping bags and using our backpacks to build to a small fence. I realised that something like this would never been taught at school – we aren’t taught to leave our comfort zone. It allowed me to find out so much about myself as a person and the desire to discover more lead to participating in another 5 youth exchanges, studying one year at uni in France and doing my internship in London for another half a year while still being at university. I’ve never had to challenge myself as often as during this youth exchange. It was one of the most stimulating and rewarding experiences of my life.