Making the diference

Making the diference


Hello, my name is Kristaps, and I was one of the Latvian participants of the project which happened in Alter do Chao, in Portugal, from 19 till 27 of April '17. I am going to talk about my expectations before the youth exchange, my experiences gained, as well as things I liked and disliked.

The first thing I would like to talk about is expectations before starting the youth exchange. While going through the provided information, I had a feeling that we are going to have a very busy week in Portugal. I was hoping that we would ride a horse every day, for about 1 hour and would do other tasks regarded to horses, like cleaning the cages, washing, feeding and taking care of the horses, and helping students in their daily activities in the school. I liked the idea about dinner in students houses. I was expecting clumsy meeting with their parents, who don’t speak English, typical food and to see how people live here. I would be so great to see this, however now I understand that students don’t live here with their parents and it was hard to organize. Also, I was expecting a typical ERASMUS+ youth exchange atmosphere, with team building activities, energizers, games, and problem solving tasks. We would live in one place all together and spend all days in activities and socializing with each other.

Next thing I want to mention, is all the good things that happened in this youth exchange. Despite that there were relatively few people, this was amazing youth exchange. (Spain canceled their participation in the project. So instead of Portugal, Spain, Latvia, Lithuania only Portugal, Latvia and Lithuania were involved). It is my 7th Erasmus+ project, and the best one to make true Latvian friends. Usually, everyone is divided into groups in all possible matches, and during activities, we must work with everyone. This youth exchange however was exception, because of few participants I had much more time to spend with Latvians. It was also very free youth exchange, with a lot of free time. This is essential, to make friends in unformal environment. Lots of parties, lots of new people, from different cultural and professional backgrounds, as well as beautiful nature, is what I will never forget. Also I have to say that I am very happy that this was not a typical youth exchange, and it will stay in my mind as a very unique experience.

Third thing I should tell is the things that I think could be better. Starting from first day we spent a lot of time waiting for something. It was a bus, breakfast, starting of activities, going home, and much more. One more thing about students is that they didn’t speak English very well. I had a huge benefit – Spanish language, that helped me to contact with them better. I could see that they want to talk, but they can’t. However, when they saw that I speak Spanish they opened like a flower in the sunny morning. We had quite a small amount of activities to do. We had a lot of free time, which is good because we still have to do some things for school, work etc., but in this youth exchange, I think, we had too much of it.

Lastly, I would like to suggest some things to be improved. At first about waiting: It is true, that sometimes we must wait for something but I think that some of the activities could be prepared before, for example, waiting for breakfast at the school. This could lead to better time usage and perhaps could save some time for planned activities or free time. It would also be easier for people, because they don’t have to work in hurry. Secondly, I would like to thank Ana for being such a good English teacher. I saw that some students are not interested in learning language, and I think, that, if possible, you can offer them similar Erasmus+ project opportunities, to go to different countries. I think that students will understand better the importance of language skills, like I understood it, when realized that they prefer me to speak in Spanish.

Thirdly, about activities: well-planned activities like team building, games and group tasks is what forces people to work together, speak different language and learn. I believe that with help of these tasks it is easier to break ice in first meetings, make good friends and help shy people to open.

Intercultural evenings are something so useful in these kind of youth exchanges. They are key point of unformal communication, learning more about other countries and culture. Also, you can gain more than just listening a presentation. Usually we prepare some traditional food, drinks, games, sometimes songs and dances for everyone to learn.

I saw, that portugeese hosts were trying to show us everything in one week. Horses, nature, celebration, and excursions. I felt like they were too busy and exhausted from everything. I think that it is not so important to show everything you have, but rather to show your everyday life. I have an example from my last trip to Rome: we were waking each day for 5 hours to see most of the monuments there, but in the end, we were tired, we had like 30 minutes to see everything and I don’t even know the names of most monuments now. Personally, I would like more to see how people live here and share my knowledge about my country.

I hope, that this article will inspire more people to make new and amazing youth exchanges, learn, improve and strive for personal growth.


Kristaps Butāns

Participant of youth exchange ''Making the diference'' in Alter do Chao, Portugal


This project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.