The European commission initiative was the meeting point for four Spanish youngsters, each traveling with their own itinerary. On top of promoting a better understanding of European Union, the European Commission presents another motive, linked to the European elections of May 26.
During the presentation of the third edition of this project, Commissioner Tibor Navracsics, head of Education, Culture, Youth and Sport believed that participating in DiscoverEU would "inspire young people to become active members of their communities and ambassadors for Europe by, for instance, voting in the elections to the European Parliament".
In fact, thanks to this initiative, some 20,000 European youngsters will travel through Europe between August 2019 and January 2020.
Regarding Mr. Navracsiscs voting remarks, this group of young people share the same idea: they want to feel responsible and to make their opinion matter not only in Spain, but also throughout the EU. They feel "fortunate and proud" of living in countries that are member states of the Union.
"Voting is the only way to guarantee that Europe is in good hands" says Gema Neruda. While Nuria Garrido reminds us of the importance of mutual understanding between cultures, something that she managed to achieve during her trip. "Traveling allows us to forget about the borders we have built". And with regards to voting, she also has a very clear idea: "Of course I will vote. Voting is a right that many couldn't exercise before and it's a way of making our opinions matter"
"I feel that probably, yes, this trip made me become more aware of what living in the EU represents", asserts Diego Gomez, even though in his case it hasn't changed his voting intentions for the coming elections, since he had already "decided to do it" ahead of this adventure. "It's true that traveling through Europe gives you a more positive view of other peoples and their culture".
Ismael Hernández can't agree with Mr. Navracsics statement. He feels it's the responsibility of the political parties to "promote different measures to make young people aware about Europe's issues".
Even though he says that he has a firm intention of voting next Sunday, he explains that those that do not know Europe "in the end will vote for the same party they vote for in the general elections, or for none at all", and that's why it's important to "learn of the candidates to the European Parliament and their programs".
Improvements to DiscoverEU
Additional time and funding, more available places and better communications, these are the main improvements these four youngsters would bring to the program. Regarding the latter, the Commission has already reported the new measures that will translate into better communications, such as sending specialized information to those selected for participation.
Nuria Garrido: "I had the time of my life traveling by myself; I did what I wanted, when I wanted"
Nuria had a fever when she started her trip, but after her first stop in Paris, everything improved. "I loved the lively atmosphere of the great European cities, where you can breath culture", she says. For this art buff, free entrance to museums was the icing on the cake, and she also felt "delighted" about meeting other people, both from Spain and from other countries.
Her traveling ways were more independent than those of the rest of these youngsters, since she traveled on her own through the streets of Paris, Edinburgh, Basel and Marseille, in that order. Even though the fever and discomfort she experienced in the first days of her trip meant that she wasn't at her best, Nuria explains that she had "the time of her life" on her own, since, in her own words: "I did what I wanted, when I wanted, and I met new people every day".
Regardless of the many delays with the trains, and of the waiting and the exhaustion she experienced at the end of her trip, this young girl says she would do it again "a thousand times over".
Diego Gómez: "This trip allowed me to get to know myself better"
At 18 years of age, Diego traveled with a group of people he already knew. "I've always wanted to see Dortmund's stadium", as he points out. And he finally managed to visit it. He loved the streets of Berlin and its "underground" feel, Dortmund's " modernity" and, the crown jewel: the amazing museums and works of art, such as the exhibit on Viennese actionism, he visited in Austria.
To be on his own was also a challenge for this youngster, even though he admits that "it's an amazing experience in every sense" and he acknowledges that the cultural and social wealth he absorbed during his traveling experience meant it was "absolutely" worth it.
Learning how older European societies live also made an impression on Diego's mind and sensitivity, who also says that this trip allowed him to know himself better, something that's priceless for anyone. He visited countries such as Germany, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Austria or Switzerland.
Ismael Hernández: "This trip was one of the best experiences of my life"
Ismael met other DiscoverEU participants, and he traveled with them. "What I liked best was the local cuisine". According to Ismael, thanks to this experience he did not only learn of different European cultures, but he also managed to enjoy the typical dishes of these different cultures, such as "Berlin's bratwurst or Prague's trdelník".
Traveling by train was also important for this experience, since "many other travelers were also DiscoverEU participants". Along with two other friends that he met along the trip, he enjoyed everything Germany, the Czech Republic and the Netherlands have to offer.
Yet, there was something above all else, Prague's Castle. This huge architectural site, built in the 9th century, which stands as an emblem of the city's historical past, was a key spot in his tour. "This trip was one of the best experiences of my life", he admits.
Gema Nueda: "I have made a friend for life. It was a great experience"
Gema met Lucía Sánchez through the program's Facebook group, and they decided to travel together.
"Those who do not know the past are condemned to repeat it" said author George Santayana. This quote became relevant for Gema when she visited Auschwitz's concentration camp for the first time. "It's hard to explain the feeling. No one can prepare you for what you feel", she explains. In a sad and dreary enclosure, Gema "went blank, speechless". She remembers how she could only think of the atrocities that happened in that place in the south of Poland, and how the prisoners' belongings or the gas chambers made her "reflect on the dark and disturbing side of human beings".
But not all was going to be bad, Gema will always remember traveling with Lucia through many adventures, with exciting stops in places such as France, Poland or Croatia. "I made a friend for life, and an experience".