The pianist from Ruse Nikolay Dimitrov presented Bulgaria at the forum „DiscoverEU and Culture“, which was held in Brussels at the initiative of the European Commission. The event was dedicated to the European Year of Youth 2022, and the 20-year-old student at the Prince Klaus Conservatory in Groningen, the Netherlands, was chosen to participate as one of the ambassadors of DiscoverEU which is a part of a European Union program for young Europeans to discover and explore Europe from their own experience through a free trip. At the forum in Brussels, young people exchanged ideas to improve the cultural experience as a part of the trip.
Here is what Nikolay Dimitrov told specially for Ruse Media:
- 2022 – European Year of Youth
The European Commission has decided that 2022 will be the year of young people, as the pandemic during the last two years has prevented people from traveling freely. That is why the European Year of Youth symbolically marks a new beginning in getting to know Europe.
- DiscoverEU – who travels and where to
In 2021, DiscoverEU joined the Erasmus + family and in October 2021, there were 330,000 applications from young people for free travel for 7 days in one month across Europe. 70,000 people have won free train tickets.
-44% of traveling young people have just finished school, 41% are studying or have graduated from university, 6.6% have taken an empty year of study and only 1.3% are working.
-30% prefer to travel alone, 44.3% travel with a friend, and 25.4% of travelers travel in a group.
-The most preferred destinations are: Germany – 44.8%, France – 36.4%, Austria -36.2%, the Netherlands – 29.6%. Only 2.5% are interested in Bulgaria.
- The impact of DiscoverEU on young people
After their experience with DiscoverEU, young people’s travel by train has increased by 90%. The program has a great impact on green energy, on ecological travel, on preserving the environment. Young people rediscover how great it is to travel by train and decide that they will protect the environment and use only the railways.
For others, DiscoverEU is an occasion for creative inspiration. For example, the pianist Thomas from the Netherlands wrote and released an album with music, inspired by his train journey and adventures.
- DiscoverEU focuses on culture
The DiscoverEU travel program for young Europeans is making culture and cultural heritage its main goal. The idea is not just to travel and get to know Europe, but to think more about the culture of the Old Continent and acquaint it better. A photo contest will provoke young travelers and an online cultural route will be launched on the DiscoverEU website on May 25. People can choose by filters where they will go and the route shows them different cultural landmarks at the places where they want to go, advice what to see.
- Discounts and the traveler’s journal provoke the young
Since 2021, a card has been introduced for discounts on accomodation, food, museums for young people traveling through DiscoverEU. The „Traveler’s Jouranl“ has also been created, which includes 31 days. It is beautifully illustrated, there are also tasks – to write down the five new words you have learned in a given language in the country, to draw something that impressed you in a museum, to describe your impressions of the day. There are interesting quotes, tips for each day, what you can see in a country, as well as a map.
- Young people’s ideas about travel and cultural experiences
The forum in Brussels brought together ideas and opinions from young people about travel in Europe and cultural experiences.
Through groups which were moderated, several topics were discussed – how does a man imagine and get to know the culture when they are 18 and traveling in Europe. Secondly, what are the motivations that will inspire young people to engage more in cultural activities. The conclusions were:
- Getting to know the culture is exciting, but also worrying to some extent, because you want to see a lot of things and you don’t know if you will succeed. You feel that you only have this chance once, but also that it is a great opportunity. When you’re that age, you can’t always appreciate the journey and what you see. You need more time, experience and to visit the sights again so that you can perceive and appreciate them.
-Culture should be made more accessible, there should be a better direction on how to listen to a concert, what to see in a museum, how to watch, to involve young people, to have someone to guide them, to explain it to them , to make it understandable. It is encouraging if there are more discounts.
The other session discussed what can be done to support and add quality to young people’s cultural experiences and adventures. Secondly, how could the cultural dimension be made more visible. The conclusions were:
-To have more discounts and free tickets, as well as to create a separate app DiscoverEU, in which all of the ideas to be put and implemented.
-To have more regional advertising in places – municipalities, schools to introduce young people to DiscoverEU, to make campaigns.
-To use new social media such as TikTok for promotion, as young people are mostly in TikTok. Popular TikTokers and YouTubers to promote DiscoverEU, as they all create content that is watched by young people.
- The Bulgarian idea for DiscoverEU
The Bulgarian idea for popularization of the cultural sites, given at the forum by Nikolay Dimitrov, will be on the agenda for possible inclusion in the project for development of the program. Following the example of the initiative „Discover Bulgaria – 100 national tourist sites“, where for each visited landmark a stamp is being given in a special booklet, will be made a passport with European cultural sites. It will be filled with stamps that will bring points and prizes for travelers.