What is a Youth Exchange?photo of volunteers

Youth exchanges are short-term volunteer projects meant to bring together groups of young people aged 16 to 25 and coming from different countries.

These programs usually take place in summer (June – September) and have a duration of 10 days. The main themes may vary widely: ecology, culture, art, human rights…The groups consist of 4 or 5 members and a trained leader who stays with the group the whole time, providing support and assistance to younger team members (especially minors). There are up to 4 or 5 participating countries in each youth exchange.

During the exchange all team members and leaders take part in a number of activities – workshops, presentations, study visits, discussions etc. – specifically designed to introduce various aspects of the chosen theme. The idea behind youth exchanges is for each young individual to become involved and to share experience and opinions, thereby discovering more about oneself, about others, about foreign cultures and quite often, too – about one’s own.

Financial support for youth exchanges is ensured through the ‘Youth in Action’ program of the European Commission. Each year CVS-Bulgaria nominates about 5 teams of young people to attend youth exchanges in Europe. If you are interested in participating, please contact the exchange coordinator of CVS-Bulgaria.

photo of volunteers

Get more information about Youth Exchanges:

Who can participate?

Youth exchanges are aimed at people aged between 16 and 25, irrespective of their nationality, religious belief, cultural or social background.

Where and when?

CVS-Bulgaria is a branch of Service Civil International (SCI), an international volunteer exchange network, and in this capacity our organization is a member of a Europe-wide working group whose mission is to promote the inclusion of underprivileged young people. Each summer (June – September) the members of SCI organize about 20 youth exchanges in Greece, Slovenia, Hungary, France, Spain, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy. In addition, CVS-Bulgaria offers exchange opportunities in other countries, where the focus is not necessarily on disadvantaged groups.

Preparation and evaluation

CVS-Bulgaria places big emphasis on preparatory sessions for Bulgarian participants prior to each project abroad. Every year we organize training activities for all outbound team members, covering the issues of

  • participants’ rights and responsibilities for the duration of the project;
  • intercultural communication;
  • prejudices and stereotypes;
  • tolerance;
  • team work.

Prep sessions are designed to introduce and expand on the notion of youth exchanges offered by CVS-Bulgaria. We highlight the responsibilities our young participants take over as they decide to embark on one of our projects. In addition, training sessions provide the context for the Bulgarian team members and their leader to meet and bond. And this is how, in a few hours only, we manage to recreate the atmosphere of a real-life youth exchange.

At the end of each project CVS-Bulgaria evaluates its initiatives by collecting feedback from individuals as well as in groups. Different formats allow the participants to share all of their impressions, difficulties (if any) and recommendations. This feedback provides CVS-Bulgaria with valuable input on how to perfect itself in the selection of quality exchanges to offer.

Financial Terms

Youth exchanges are sponsored by the Youth in Action program of the European Commission. This means no participation fee and coverage of the following costs:

  1. food;
  2. accommodation;
  3. study visits for the time of the exchange;
  4. 70 per cent of the travel expenses.

Participants are responsible for the following:

  • pocket money;
  • spare time sight-seeing;
  • 30 per cent of the travel expenses;
  • personal expenses unrelated to the exchange.

The participants are expected to pay for the trip themselves, but are reimbursed on presenting originals of all tickets and invoices for travel expenses incurred during the exchange. The host organization then transfers 70 per cent of the sum to CVS-Bulgaria, and we are able to reimburse our participants.

NB! Reimbursement of travel costs should take place within 2 to 3 months after the exchange. The reason for this delay is that most projects receive funding from European institutions, and the organizers are themselves reimbursed only after the completion of the project!

Role of the Leader

As youth exchanges aim to attract participants between 16 and 25 years of age, with little international experience, each group has a trained leader. His/her role is to plan (together with the other team members) the trip, to enhance the team spirit and facilitate communication within the group as well as internationally. He or she works with the other leaders and the coordinator of the exchange to come up with the most efficient arrangement of the project and spare time activities; together they also take care to encourage and support team members who feel lacking in confidence or experience. The leader’s main task is to inspire and guide younger participants in their self-discovery.

The leader is the contact person for participants’ parents and organizers of the exchange. We strongly encourage parents to meet the group leader prior to the project, so that they know to whom they are entrusting their child. The leader signs a contract to confirm that he/she is aware of his/her responsibilities and ready to take charge.  For more information on leaders, please read the section on youth exchange leaders.

Role of the Coordinator

Apart from national leaders, each exchange has a coordinator appointed by the host organization. S/he is the person in charge of the overall organization, accommodation and logistics of the exchange.

Social Agreement

The Social Agreement is a document listing the rights and responsibilities of participants in our exchanges (primarily exchanges with a focus on social integration of underprivileged young people). Every participant signs a copy of this agreement, and even though it has no legal effect, this agreement serves as a declaration on the part of the participants to act in compliance with the listed rules.

How can I apply?

To apply for a youth exchange, organized in partnership with CVS-Bulgaria, you need to contact Vera Nikolova, the youth exchanges coordinator (youthexchanges@cvs-bg.org) or follow our mailing list and choose the exchange which suits you most. Then you fill out an application form, outlining your motivation for participation, and send it to us before the deadline. After the selection procedure CVS-Bulgaria contacts each applicant to inform him/her of the final decision.

NB! There is limited availability, since CVS-Bulgaria works with SOS Children’s Villages, social institutions etc, which take precedence. In case the applicant is rejected at first, CVS-Bulgaria will try to offer other possibilities with view of his/her interests, experience and skills.

Youth exchanges are an opportunity for personal development

Youth exchanges present opportunities for young people of different national and ethnic backgrounds, different cultural milieus and lifestyles to come together and share experience, knowledge and ideas. In the process they develop communication skills in an international environment, acquire new knowledge and become inspired – once they are back – to apply what they have learned in their own community, in their circle of friends. During the exchange participants have a chance to operate in a team as well as individually: lessons, they will one day find useful in both their personal and professional life. Last but not least, each of our young participants signs a Social Agreement, declaring their respect for the general rules and their awareness of their rights, thereby pledging commitment to the undertaken responsibilities and tolerance of others.