Melting pot in Iceland

Select 27 youth coordinators from 17 countries, add 4 experienced and enthusiastic trainers, bring them to Iceland, host the group in the inspiring environment of a hostel which used to be a biscuit factory, give tools and methods to them, that they can use later on in projects and youth exchanges – this is how you end up with a perfect international training!

“A Youth Exchange needs content – behind the content there are tools: TYE (Tools for Youth Exchanges) helps to explore tools around group processes, learning to learn, involvement of young people and more” – this was the main description of the Icelandic Erasmus+ National Agency, the organizers of the project.

Nice words, exciting ideas, but what is in the background? Why did almost thirty youth leaders gather from all over Europe in Reykjavík? What did they spend their days with in Iceland? Where did it all begin and where did they end up?


“What kind of book would you be?” (Photo: Mustafa Cem Kočan)

Creative playground for young adults – this is how we could sum up the training that took place in the middle of November at the capital of Iceland. The location and playing field was set up in a hostel, which provided accommodation, restaurant, bar, concert venue and training centre at the same place. The trainers organized the basis and foundation with well-prepared games: memorizing names with balloons, “what kind of book would you be?” getting to know each other task, group building with the Viking game, Learnapoly for internalizing the learning process and so on. We also brought ideas with us, which gave more spark and colour to the set parts of the playground. We often haven’t even realized consciously what the whole game was about: we ended up in a youth exchange situation. We got to know each other, participated in group building games, tried energizers and concentration games, learned how to learn, evaluated and analysed all the details. This was a really effective way to introduce the active participation, involvement and motivation of young people, which was one of the main goals of the course.


Photo: Dainius Babilas

What made the training a real training was that we always had to take the next step. After all the games, we had reflection groups where we listed advantages and disadvantages and talked about how we could transform the tasks to different target groups and situations. At the end of the day everyone had their own small groups to discuss what happened during the day. During internalizing the methods, we received tools as well: the new standard of Open Badges to recognize and verify learning, extras for the Youthpass evaluations. We could also look through professional books on youth work, watched videos about volunteering and got to know about some online survey systems.


Schedule – the weekly menu (Photo: Nelly Stoimenova)

The intercultural evening was also much more than on a general youth exchange project. Not only did we get a quick insight to all the countries with presentations, photos, food and drink, but also it was a great opportunity to introduce our local organizations in set frames. With this event, we started creating more connections and exchanging contacts in the market of youth exchanges: here a project topic waiting for partners, there a group looking for a theme.

cultural night1

Cultural night (Photo: Mustafa Cem Kočan)

On the playground, created for active participation, the time comes when you have to give the space for youngsters – this is the way to learn more about others and ourselves at the same time. Theories and experience transferred into practice, realised with international teamwork. During the fourth day of the training, the preparation for school visit had started. In groups of 4-6 people we organised an 80-minute-long program for classes in a primary school of Reykjavík. The members of our Romanian-Bulgarian-Estonian-Italian-Hungarian crew gave directions to the boats travelling to different countries, which were set up as the living sculptures of the Icelandic teenagers. The class members played energizers, a theatre improvisation game, and in the end we had a discussion about their plans, visions, dreams and opportunities – within and over the borders.


School visit

Participants also managed to have some precious free time during the training. Right after the school visit we had a spare afternoon, when the group rented cars to visit the waterfalls and geysers of Iceland. Apart from that, long lunch breaks were planned, so during the two hours we could discover different parts of Reykjavík: we climbed up to a church for the great view, took part in a free guided tour, looked for street art in the city. In addition we even had the chance to visit an exhibition, a flea market and the biggest youth house in the country. The lucky ones who arrived earlier or left later, had the opportunity to visit the natural beauty of Iceland outside the hostel and the capital.


The group at Gulfloss waterfall

Growing playing field and lifelong learning, experienced trainers and enthusiastic participants, new methods and exchange of practices – the basic aim of the Tools for Youth Exchanges project was to help organizing new youth projects, to share tips and advice, which could lead participating leaders and youth organizations to more valuable youth exchanges.


Photo: Dainius Babilas

Why does it worth all the fuss? – the question can appear from curious and/or sceptical people. With the upcoming youth exchanges the participating youth workers can give the chance to hundreds of young people from all around Europe to meet and work on a common aim and share valuable practices. With this, they are improving mobility, reveal the international opportunities, help to fight negative stereotypes and prejudice. But even much more happened during the training: international work relationships and friendships were made among the participants, deep topics such as authority and repression appeared during and outside the training activities. We shared methods how to help people in need. Also, a discussion had started on a large scale survey about educational methods in different European countries. All these topics led us to the basics: active participation in local and international environment.


The group at Kex Hostel

After the impulses of the training in Iceland, we had to get back to everyday life. And how to go on? Filling out surveys, sending reports to our National Agencies who supported our trip. A few weeks after the project, our Youthpass had to be finished, where we could evaluate our learning process based on different competences.

New experience and knowledge of the training will be transferred into practice both short and long term. Lithuanian, Ukrainian and Hungarian Charity Service of the Order of Malta are organising a youth exchange with the topic Media in volunteering for February 2015, where we will make a good use of the ideas collected at the TYE training. And the long term plans? Participating in more youth exchanges, organising international projects, handing in applications, new trainings abroad – no time to stop!

Everyone who is interested in international trainings can find more information in the calendar at the SALTO website or for further details get in touch with your National Agency dealing with Erasmus+ projects.

Réka Szakszon