5 countries, 40 participants; new place, first time Erasmus experience for many; strangers to each other, unaware of the cultural differences; excited to learn, passionate to network: A true picture of pre project commencement situation of participants.
After settling in our ‘Home’ for 10 days and hub for future friendships, Youth Exchange kicked off with team building activities and energizers to create a connection between all participants. Over the next few days, trainers, along with team-building activities, also created awareness on the ‘things’ happening on the front and back end of Social Media platforms, Facebook specifically. They introduced to us the objectives and procedures of Youth Exchanges, Training programs and EVS; all in an interactive way.
Besides workshops, it was not just the delicious Polish food, culture and people for the 10 days; intercultural nights gave chance to learn more about Latvia, Spain, Hungary, Romania and of-course Italy. They started with a signature Polish night, whose ‘aftershocks’ were felt for the next two days. Later on Latvian and Romanian team shared their cultural dances, robes, homemade drinks (with long lasting affects), food and informatory presentation on their respective countries. Hungarian team, with coordinated effort, prepared delicious traditional food and served with strong drink and sweets. The combined Spanish and Italian evening lived up to the expectations. Being the last evening, it hit the ‘energetic mode’ button of everyone. The ‘real pasta’ (Italian of-course) prepared by young and jolly Italian team gave energy to participants, Sangria prepared by Spanish team set the tone ‘right’ for the evening, martini shots on Italian corner gave a sudden boost to everyone; the Italian and Spanish traditional food balanced the affects a little bit.
And then came the most difficult part, the last evening together!
Networking games like ‘Secret Friend’ and ‘Pass the Cap’ had built up some strong connections between participants, some moments to remember in future and the hope to see each other again in future despite the distances and differences between them. Perfect, a song by Ed Sheeran being played as background music, brought tears in the eyes of participants meeting each other to say goodbye. It was time to apologize, to set things right, to express feelings, to give feedbacks, to make promises, to feel the connection built over past week and to cherish it forever. Some resisted the tears with a smile but their eyes told a different story.
I was there; It was my first experience, I lived it! I didn’t say my goodbyes. “No goodbyes, saying it kills the hope of meeting again; who knows when we will meet again”.
It was a week full of fun, making new friends, learning, party, sleep deprivation and a true reflection of youth exchanges. However, it ended on difficult goodbyes.