I’m not going to lie. I didn’t know anything about Erasmus+ before I took part in the project.
For me, Erasmus was just what I was already doing; living and studying in another country for a year. I really didn’t know that there was a short-term Youth Exchange program that people could participate in for more or less free.
It was really just a coincidence that gave me this opportunity. The coordinator for the Austrian organisation just happened to be in our German class in our first semester and she forwarded the project information to us. Myself and one of my best friends decided to sign up and we were later joined by her best friend from back home.
The location wasn’t quite as “exotic” for us as it was for the other participants. Rettenegg is about an hour and a half away from Graz, a small village nestled into the hills. There’s one Spar and a few guesthouses, but aside from that it’s incredibly isolated, but for the aims of the project that meant it was a pretty perfect location. The weather? Now that rotated between okay and rainy, which wasn’t surprising, nor was it a problem since we were indoors most of the time.
We stayed at a guesthouse which the project organisers have been using as a regular base for exchanges in the area pretty regularly. It was pretty decent honestly. The beds weren’t the most comfortable and the food was, well, typical for someone catering for 50+ people, but all in all the experiences we had there really made sacrificing a few home comforts all worth the while.
I also didn’t really know what to expect when it came to the actual program, as I mentioned this was my first project and so I turned up a little lost. Fortunately, the two people running the project were old hands at this sort of this and were very quick to settle us all in and start team-building games. By the end of the first night, we’d all happily settled in with our new roommates, and by the end of the next day, we’d gotten all our formalities out of the way and outlined our expectations, hopes, and fears for the project.
The ten days were honestly a blur after this point. A mix of team-building, creative activities, parties, and peaceful walks filled the days, including a really fun trip back to Graz where us “locals” got to play tour guide. I really recommend taking part in one of these experiences if you ever get the chance, because I made some amazing friends and learnt a load of new things about countries I hadn’t had the opportunity to visit yet.