2015 & 2016
Just like many great organisations, Youth Europa had a very humble beginning. Three people met at the right time and at the right place, but none of them knew how important it was. Connected by the darkest sense of humor, we embarked on a journey that would change everything.
We didn’t have a clear goal though. We just wanted to work with different topics that were important for us and unite likeminded people. There was no point trying to predict the future, instead, we just got to work.
Lesson number 1: Sick sense of humor forms the strongest bonds.
Microsoft was started in a garage, Youth Europa was born in this modest apartment in Seville, Spain.
The perfect balance of Spanish and Estonian can lead to good things.
We worked hard and used almost every single moment of our free time to build our team. Despite the challenges (like our cockroach-infested apartment), we finally had the necessary support to start our very first International Youth Exchange in El Pedroso, Spain. And this is how “Healthy Mind in a Healthy Body” was born.
It was challenging to say the least and the constant stress surely contributed to some people’s balding problem. With a trail of human hair in our wake, we kept going and persevered!
Lesson number 2: If you’re balding, you might as well accept it and just shave if all off. Project management is stressful af.
The first group of the first project. Wearing the first shirts that we made. In the first group photo.
Spending endless hours behind a computer screen can lead to polar opposite moments of physical activity.
Our great ideas were too small for any single country, so naturally, we started spreading. With an Estonian guy as one of the founding fathers, it made sense to expand to this small Nordic (okay okay, Baltic) nation. With black bread and Kama at our side, we came up with awesome new ideas.
Furthermore, it finally seemed like our mission became more clear. Our team’s creative approach to education was very well-received and we made it our goal to keep developing more fun and interesting events for young adults.
Lesson number 3: Estonia is probably the homeland of sarcasm and dark humor.
Apparently we didn’t have enough money for the energy drinks. But we had a vision.
Slowly losing our minds trying to write the project proposals and trying to make boring topics fun and engaging.
Taking all of the experience from our first project and combining it with new ideas resulted in one of the most memorable youth exchange experiences. It was great to finally get to implement the activities that we worked so hard on.
We were betrayed by the weather but didn’t let it get in our way. Battling the forces of nature, “Sporty Present, Healthy Future” left us with memories for a lifetime. The feedback that we got has kept us going long after the project finished.
Lesson number 4: The coldest winter that some people experience is the summer in Estonia.
Not the first first project, but first in Estonia. Still counts.
Damn, where did you get that flag from? At least that’s what many people keep asking us.
We knew that the youth exchanges are going to be one of our main activities, but we also wanted something more.
This was our first attempt at trying to have a more serious impact on the youth sector. With extensive medical expertise in our team, we tackled the topic of sexual education. “From Experts to Sexperts!” (easily the best name for a project) brought together 30 youth workers from 6 different countries. The event threw many new challenges at us, especially since it involved a fair amount of controversial topics. Just like before, we worked our way through them and managed to reach a happy ending.
Oh, and this project pushed us to carry out another one the following year. Check out the video!
Lesson number 5: Make full use of the expertise in your team.
Lesson number 5.5: Feel free to inject some humor into the name of your project.
Balancing the formal…
…with non-formal methods.
2017 & 2018
Each project that goes exceptionally well will lead to new awesome teammates. “Way of the Entrepreneur”, a youth exchange in Estonia, rocked our world by introducing Slovakia to the mix!
Maybe it was the survival instinct that brought us together in the freezing cold, or perhaps we just clicked. Nonetheless, it wasn’t long before we decided to join forces on the mission to connect young people and conquer challenges through non-formal education together.
Lesson number 6: It’s never too late or too early to get involved in Youth Europa.
Lesson number 6.5: You might meet some of your future best friends at an airport or in a sauna.
Somehow we keep getting lucky and the right people happen to find us at the right time.
Our bright-eyed Slovak leaders!
With little experience but all the more enthusiastically (and with a fair dose of mentoring from other members in our organisation), the Slovak team hosted our first youth exchange set in the mountainous landscape of High Tatras. “The CreActivity in Youth” was an amazing experience for all involved and proved us that creativity is not just a privilege of a chosen few. Having more than lived up to our expectations, the project fuelled our motivation to keep going.
Lesson number 7: Jokes about Slovakia and Slovenia are not particularly creative but eternally popular.
Slovakia made us ascend greater heights than the feeble hills of Estonia.
Unsurprisingly, the games that worked in Spain and Estonia, also worked in Slovakia.
It felt like some special ingredient was missing from our organisation. Turns out that it was the Vikings. So we welcomed Sweden to our group!
We noticed how the youth exchanges are not that popular in the Nordic countries and thought that this is something that we can change. Our events can offer something to every person, no matter where they come from. Thus we decided to keep growing and enabled more newcomers to join our mission.
But the first youth exchange that Youth Europa Sweden carried out didn’t take us to the cold North. Quite the opposite… behold, “Brain Patch”!
Lesson number 8: Try not to miss important opportunities even when your plate is already full.
It was time to move out of the closet where we wrote many of our projects and start setting up a proper headquarters!
We lacked some experience but this didn’t stop us from creating an awesome workspace. The whole process served as a great team-building experience as well.
The goal was to create a home for our organisation where we could also involve interns and other volunteers.
Lesson number 9: Even though most of us wield a keyboard or a scalpel in our professional lives, we also make great construction workers.
Kirill must have missed a spot. Clumsy.
Half-way there. What a mess.
We finally had an office that can fit more than 3 people and we didn’t wait long to put it to good use. With many meetings, team events and other activities, we became an even stronger team.
This big milestone also made us realize that it was just the beginning. The time that we spent together pushed us to brainstorm more grand ideas and fantasize about how we’re going to shape the way people learn.
Ps. you can see some of the action in our yearly video too!
Lesson number 10: Make sure to have a lot of cool stuff in your office so that people would actually want to go there.
Discovering the magical benefits of coaching. Or maybe just admiring our logo.
We always wanted to invite new people to our team, but we were uncertain if we had enough to offer. Luckily we took the leap of faith and brought two awesome interns into our group. It was very motivating to see how working with us was a fun and interesting experience for them.
Their hard work made each of the events even better, check out this cool video they made!
Lesson number 11: There’s a lot that we can offer and we should really get more people involved.
2019 & 2020
Being international comes with its perks. We felt that it’s important to bring the whole group together in the same room every once in a while. So this pushed us to host our very first international team event. Since then we’re trying to have such events each year. Even twice a year.
The tricky reality is that as our team grows, it’s increasingly difficult to get together with everyone at the same time. But it’s not like we are going to let it stop us.
Lesson number 12: The best things in life are actually really expensive. Have you tried renting a surfing board?
Antonio pointing at something.
The bravest people among us also decided to conquer the waves. They may or may not have gotten very far.
Lesson number 13: Coming together is a beginning. Keeping together is progress. Working together is success.
Can’t really see the faces, but at least you can see the Greek flag.
We haven’t planted our flag on the Moon just yet, but we reached the Greek island of Syros.
Lesson number 14: When life gives you lemons, organise a youth exchange in Greece.
We actually didn’t get stranded on an abandoned island. Duh.
The only drowning that we do is drowning in work.
Well, now you have some idea what we’ve been up to. Surely this is just a short summary and a lot more is still in front of us. Maybe you’d like to be part of the story?
Take the next step…
Final lesson: Just do it…
Final final lesson: Come on…