From Nikolay Dimov

 

How do you start to describe the best experience of your lifetime?

Let’s go about it chronologically.

The New Year by dogma begins with everyone setting promises that will eventually crack up in the first 21 days. One of mine was to pull more efforts into developing the long-desired non-profit activity of enhancing the Bulgarian financial knowledge of both young financial professionals and the broader population. About the time that wish was not happening (as expected) I was approached by one of the most caring and respected leaders I had the chance to work with — Evelina Prodanova — to lead a group of young people on an youth exchange in Ommen, Netherlands where her organization, Bulgarian Center of Women in Technology was a partner. I thought to myself that this might be a good mixture of pleasant time and a kick-start to my larger aspirations. And then in the beginning of February I ended up spending a weekend in NL.

There we were, a group of 7 young people whose agenda was to come up with an agenda for a 2-week exchange where we should help 35 young people get the most of their time. The topic was BeeCoins: Financial Education Debunked and judging by the name it was about empowering the people to take charge of their financial culture. Surprising to me, we came up with some bad-ass ideas how to use non-formal methods to accomplish our objectives. And in a snap the weekend was over and we went back home like nothing happened.

We worked day & night!

The exchange itself took place in the end of April and beginning of May. It is amazing how many positive vibes you get when you know you are going to see these cool people you met for just a weekend but feel really close to. And 35 more. Gosh, the weekend before felt gooood.

And from here our journey began!

The Olde Vechte, Ommen

While 10 days may seem like a lot it is really challenging to squeeze everything you want to discuss about money, finance, personal welfare etc. However, we talked and talked, collaborated, presented, drew. At the same time we never forgot to take notes (hopefully to take the time to remember) and also had fun! Tons of fun!

First discussions about broad topics such as money and credit

Nevertheless, as one of the leaders in the exchange I can tell you it is not easy to keep 35 people engaged and focused for a whole day, ten in a row. You want to spark their interest in the topic through discussions and methods allowing them to learn as much as possible for the topic and for their different views.

Amongst the topics we touched were: money and cultures, consumer behaviour, personal budgeting, savings and retirement planning, behavioral finance, different financial products, values (materialistic or not), social aspects of wealth and social problems, the growing problems of financial inequality. We also spend some time to talk how to set up your own business after you get your financial understanding in shape (after all nowadays everyone wants to be an entrepreneur) and how to organize your time to be able to do all that on top of everything else you are doing.

Last but not least we had a real life simulation during the whole stay in order to practice the various concepts. Stay tuned, maybe soon we launch BeeCoins as cryptocurrency of happiness.

A quick overview of our 10-day programme

None of that would have been possible without Ilyana Panteleeva and Plamena Todorova and their efforts to give back to the community in the Netherlands and in Europe as general. If you want to find out more about their activities in the Netherlands or for these of Bulgarian Center of Women in Technology they would gladly speak with you and who knows maybe you will find common ground to do something good for the community.

To sum up, I encourage everyone to get to know more about Erasmus+, browse or just talk to someone who has done either a youth exchange or a training course (feel free to ask me as well). I do believe that most of them will tell you that you should definitely try it. Then repeat it. And again. My personal advice is just choose a topic that you are interested in and be serious about it — do not consider it as a school trip but rather as an adventure. An cultural, learning, horizon-expanding adventure — such that will make you experience what Europe is all about.

With the hindsight of 6 months time I catch myself feeling like Ommen remains in my heart as home (writing that on the plane to my next Erasmus+ project — this time a training course, my first one but more on that later). How wonderful 2 weeks that were!