I mean, before November, I hadn’t really done it, but I felt pretty strong in this conviction, horrified every time someone suggested that I consider pursuing teaching. Knowing this, you might question why I decided to apply for an EVS project that would have me spend three weeks in Hungary volunteering with school children. The reason? I wanted a challenge, a new experience, and I heard good things about the EVS, so when my application was accepted, I didn’t think too much about saying yes, prepared to have my mind changed. Spoiler: I discovered that I like children.
And so, on the 25th November, I embarked on a two-day bus journey into the depths of Hungary, preparing myself for the weeks to follow of leading creative arts workshops in schools.
In the first week, we split ourselves into groups – one for music, one for drawing, and one for dancing – and each group prepared a programme to deliver in the schools. As music is a real passion of mine, that’s where I chose to get involved. And I felt useful – I was able to use something that I love to benefit others, teaching young people to play ukulele, helping them to realise the power of their singing voices, inspiring them to feel more comfortable performing. In some places, we were the first people the children had met that came from outside their country.
On top of this, we prepared a musical performance for the village’s Christmas celebration and our set included a group performance of a song I’d written, ‘30 days’. It was my first time hearing so many people singing my lyrics, and that feeling was incredible. Music is really a form of communication that transcends language barriers, demonstrated by the audience’s reaction to our performance, the children’s eagerness to get involved in our workshops, and the joy we found in singing together in our free time.
We came to know the local people, and this was the first time I’d properly experienced trying to communicate with a language barrier; everywhere I go, it feels like almost everybody speaks English – the common language of the volunteers was my native tongue. But I found it challenging not to know the language of the country, frustrated by how limited it made me feel. However, we found ways around it, using google translate, gestures, broken Hungarian/English to have a conversation. The group’s common language was English, not everyone speaks it well.arry conversation. It was hard work, but incredibly rewarding.
Although my main purpose there was to carry out work in the community, I found a lot of value in having learned things about myself, other people, and their different cultures. There we were, a group of twelve Europeans plucked out of their normal environments and inserted into the picturesque village of Nagyvázsony. We all had our reasons for being there – some wanting to spend time giving back, some wanting to escape from their normal world, some (like me) filling time in a gap year, looking for a new adventure. But at the start, we knew nothing about each other, and without our usual context of home, friends, and native language, it was an opportunity to present ourselves in the way we wanted to be seen. For me, it was a real challenge, confronted with a question: outside the comforts of my familiar, who am I, really?
We were with each other pretty much 24/7, sleeping, cooking, and socialising together, and when you’re consistently with people for that long, you can’t help but form close, intense bonds. We shared stories of our countries, taught words from our languages, cooked dishes to share. There were hugs and cheek kisses from almost the beginning. Halfway through the programme, we had a four day holiday and spent three nights together in Budapest, which is a truly beautiful city. Although it’s not so easy to live with so many people, and finding time alone could be tricky, it felt like a real community, and I’m so proud of what we achieved.
My experience in Hungary has been really formative for me. It opened my eyes to so many different things – the Hungarian way of life, the difference in cultures across the continents, communicating across barriers – and I am leaving with a greater knowledge of myself and the way I work. I am so grateful to Fekete Sereg for hosting me, and to all the staff and volunteers for being so welcoming and supportive. I feel I have made friendships for life. If you’re thinking about applying for an EVS project, go for it. International experience is so enriching. You have absolutely everything to gain.
It’s Christmas! Well, almost. For the past week the temperature has been hanging around zero degrees Celsius, so our first snowfall on Monday night has been a little overdue.
After my 3 consecutive summers the novelty of winter is already starting to wear thin, and it was a little bit of a shock to realise that I have to wait another 4 months or so until the Sun reappears . That being said, the Christmas trees have started to appear, the Christmas songs have started on the radio, and mulled wine is on the menu, so for now the festivities are taking centre stage.
In terms of the last month of volunteering, it’s been a busy one. Firstly, I started with a week in Warsaw at my on-arrival training. It was a great opportunity to meet a wonderfully diverse bunch of people, volunteering all across Poland, and was a welcome bit of respite from my 9-5 office routine. The change of scenery was also welcome, because even though Bystrzyca Klodzka a is certainly a very picturesque town in a lovely landscape, it has a population of just around 10,000 people, so getting out and about in the ‘big’ city was a breath of fresh air. The training itself was really useful and gave me a really great introduction into life in Poland, the language, and the culture.
Returning back to Bystrzyca, I then jumped feet-first into a Youth Exchange. This time, we hosted 30 participants from Poland, Spain, Italy, Armenia, Ukraine and Georgia for a week of discussion, learning, and intercultural exchange whilst focusing on the topic of Internet and technology use. Aside from enjoying some very tasty food from intercultural night, us volunteers were tasked with organising a debate with participants and Polish students at a local secondary school.
Despite having no experience with debating it was a great opportunity to gain some new experience, integrate the exchange into our wee town, and encourage everyone to test their English skills in a friendly atmosphere. We then finished up the day with a visit to other schools in the nearby town of Klodzka, where we got to visit and introduce our exchange to more students and visit some of the other EFM volunteers in their school placements.
As soon as our YE participants returned home, we then welcomed 40+ Polish teenagers for the YouthMaSter course. The idea is to supplement their education at school with a short 4-dy course where we introduce them to non-formal education and get to meet a range of volunteers from all over the world. As volunteers its always an energetic and lively few days where we get to meet a whole host of young people, learn about Poland through their eyes, and introduce them to Erasmus+.
To finally round off the month, one of my housemates who volunteers in a nearby museum organised a Cultural Evening, so armed with my flag, a big box of Yorkshire Tea and a Victoria Sponge, I joined up with my fellow Armenian, Georgian, Ukrainian, Bolivian and Argentinian volunteers to bring a little bit of the UK to Klodzka.
So after two years of grand travel plans, having a little change of heart 11,000 miles from home, and a couple of expensive flight tickets later, on the 1st of October, I somehow found myself once again with my life packed into a suitcase headed for the southern Polish city of Wrocław.
I should probably rewind to explain how I became a EuroPeer, around 2 years ago. After my first Erasmus experience on a study abroad semester in Sweden, I was hooked. And in a serendipitous twist of fate, I was searching online for more Erasmus opportunities and stumbled across the first EuroPeers UK training course, way back in 2017.
The initial training course itself was an education. I knew what an Erasmus exchange was, but what was this ‘Erasmus+’ that everyone was talking about? After only a few days, I suddenly had opened the door to a whole new world of exchanges, training, volunteering opportunities, and more. What’s more, I was receiving all of this information firsthand, from my fellow trainees sharing their memorable Erasmus+ experiences with me.
It wasn’t too long before I’d taken part in my very first Youth Exchange, attended some EuroPeers UK meetings, squeezing in a trip to Strasbourg for EYE2018, and ended off the year with a visit to Estonia for the 2018 network meeting. Flashforward to November 2019, and I’ve somehow been living and volunteering in Poland for over a month.
I volunteer with an NGO called Europejskie Forum Młodzieży (EFM), in the south-western Polish town of Bystrzyca Kłodzka, and currently, live with around 18 other volunteers from various nations across Europe and even a couple of volunteers from South America. Transitioning from a transient period of solo travel to suddenly being immersed in a large, vibrant, and busy environment has been somewhat of a bit of a culture shock. On the other hand, being able to share this experience with so many different people means you never feel lonely.
Whilst some are volunteering in local schools, museums, and a community centre, my project is centred within the office itself. In the past month, I have assisted with facilitating a Youth Exchange, helping to deliver a non-formal training course to Polish school-age teenagers (YouthMaSter), planning some local projects with my fellow volunteers, and generally a bit of anything and everything that comes my way in the office.
Looking forward to November, I’m really excited to start my Polish language lessons, attend my on-arrival training in Warsaw, and learn more about Poland. Receiving my schedule for November and December, I can already see that the next few months will go by very quickly, so more than anything else I’m trying to make the most of each day and every new opportunity.
On the 25th of October, I attended the Go Global Fair at the University of Birmingham. The fair was for all university students and staff that wanted to gain more information about working, volunteering and studying abroad. At the start, I was a bit apprehensive and scared because it was a Russell Group University and I thought the students would not be interested in joining us. It was also the first time I promoted Europeers at a fair by myself.
I respect all of you that have previously promoted EuroPeers at your universities by yourself, it is difficult. Trying to talk to different people at the same time, whilst trying to build a rapport with them and guard the sweets on the table. Oh yes, I would not let anyone take our sweets without hearing about EuroPeers. If you want sweets, you need to listen to me for the next 5 minutes.
All jokes aside, the fair showed me that there is more than ever an appetite for short-term international opportunities. Young people want to go out there and explore other countries and be exposed to other cultures, they want to expand their horizons and experience things they will not be able to experience in the UK. This is where we come in, as Europeers we can give them that pep talk they need, we can tell them about European Solidarity Corps and youth exchanges. Most importantly we can share our experiences and tell them about our personal developments. EuroPeers is not just about promoting European Solidarity Corps and/or spreading the word, it is also about peer-to-peer mentorship and support.
At a time like this (I am not going to mention the word) it is really important that we are there for each other and our network.
Hopefully, the above inspired you to go out there and be an outstanding EuroPeer and support other fellow Europeers and young people that believe in our cause.
If you need help with anything or some inspiration, feel free to let me or EuroPeers UK know at firstname.lastname@example.org
Euro Peers in Hannover was unexpected, I was often surprised and inspired by the stories of my fellow Peers, as well as by what we achieved in such a short time. The project lasted five days; we were to be trained and equipped with the skills and knowledge needed to promote Erasmus+ opportunities. This is our goal, not only to ensure that young people know what is available to them but to inspire them with our own experiences. I have volunteered a lot within the last few years, most notably in Colombia, Denmark, Nepal and now Germany. I come from a low-income family and am home educated, but these factors have never stopped me from contributing.
So do not be deterred, these adventures are open to all young people. Within a few short weeks, I was on my way to Germany to train to be a Euro Peer; part of a vast network of passionate young people based within Europe dedicated to raising awareness of exciting opportunities for youths. When I arrived I was greeted by individuals from Germany, Turkey, Finland, and Norway, each with unique stories and experiences to share. I recall an individual called Ennis who brought with him a book full of artwork, but the book didn’t belong to him. It was passed from artist to artist, and when it is full, it will return home to its owner full of the creative passion which saw it through Europe. The people who I stayed with all had amazing experiences and it was nice to share with people who understood my passion for travelling.
We would become closer as the days went by, we engaged in ice-breakers such as giving speeches and dancing; we received training workshops about problem solving and exploring life outside our comfort zone and attended presentations on EuroDesk. Within the training, I was positively overwhelmed by the amount of opportunities available to young people, and I feel that not enough people are aware of these opportunities. With this drive, and with what we had learnt, we were ready to deliver a EuroDesk session. We took to the community to share and our team presented a session within a school.
The school wasn’t far away from where we were staying, it was cosy and the students were more than willing to hear what we had to say. It was time out of everyday lessons to hear about free trips across Europe after all. We spoke about the opportunities available to them, such as European Voluntary Service (EVS) trips and Discover EU’s free interrail tickets. Our social action was complete, we had delivered a session and we felt like we made a difference in the lives of others. After we finished, my group spent some time exploring the city. While we were doing so, something unexpected happened. We were sat on some steps near the river when an individual approached us and invited us onto his floating island. He had made it from recycled objects and it also functioned as a garden that cleaned the water below it. We sat down and started having a tea party with cake and coffee onboard. He told us how his island was a part of a project, and that volunteers on their EVS had helped make it possible. It’s a small world. This was an amazing chance encounter with the community and it really showed me how much passion is involved in the projects promoted by EuroDesk.
I learnt a lot about the many opportunities available to young people, as well as the opportunities available to me. I would highly encourage any young person to get involved in this once in a lifetime adventure. It is a chance to be a part of something huge!
With help from Tyler Poulton, written by Bill Page
The 5th International EuroPeers Network Meeting took place in Utrecht from the 9th to the 13th of October.
EuroPeers from different countries participated in the meeting, as well as the new European Solidarity Network, the European Commission and the National Agencies for Erasmus+. We were happy to see representatives from Italy, France, and Austria who are in the process of starting their own national EuroPeers networks.
It was great to hear many stories about how volunteering in a different country has changed many people’s lives, for example by encouraging them to move abroad long-term (which is exactly what also happened to me after my EVS). It was inspiring to come together with 73 other people who are passionate about encouraging more young people to experience these international opportunities.
Talking to someone who has taken part in a European youth mobility project always gives me a feeling of mutual understanding, as it is such an important life experience that can’t quite compare to anything else. And at the same time, each person has a completely different experience at the end. All three trainers and the main organiser of the meeting had taken part in the European Voluntary Service in the past, so they, too, understand this feeling.
This year, the international network meeting was one day longer than usual, so we managed to do a lot – from workshops on project management, public speaking, and drama, to a world café, a dance choreography and a quiz about the European Solidarity Corps. Ellie and I ran a workshop on filmmaking and we recorded a few video interviews about the international experiences in our networks. Moreover, the German EuroPeers introduced us to how we can incorporate our activities into Geocaching by making and hiding our own Eurocaches. And we started planning transnational activities for next year, including a Photomarathon and a workshop at the European Youth Event in Strasbourg.
All in all, the international network meeting in Utrecht was an amazing opportunity to get to connect to other people who have had similar international experiences. Running the meeting for one more day than usual was definitely worth it. The organisers did an incredible job bringing so many people together and keeping the balance between fun and work. It inspired me to see the enthusiasm and ideas of the others and I think we used the time well to look beyond national limitations and instead got to know network members from other countries who face different realities. I loved being able to talk to so many people about my EVS who could relate to my experiences. I am optimistic about the next few months to come.
It’s been nearly a week since we returned from Utrecht for the 5th EuroPeers Network Meeting and I’m still coming down from it. I miss the people, the place and the intensity of it. I’m neutral to the small amount of sleep and persistent rain.
As it was my first international network meeting I had had no idea what to expect. It turned out to be a pretty fabulous gathering of international EuroPeers, EuSN members (an up-and-coming community of young people with European Solidarity Corps experience), European Commission representatives and National Agencies. A rare opportunity to all be in the same room, brought together by our shared belief in the value of international experiences and there to exchange ideas, practices and energy.
There was the option to share our skills. EuroPeers from Germany shared their cool Eurocache initiative (think Geocaching but with Erasmus+ leaflets). We all created our own in the session with thought to take them back to our countries. Now Morecambe is not only on the map for potted shrimps, but also proudly home to the first Eurocache in the UK.
Post-geocaching, we (EuroPeers UK) sprang into action by holding a filmmaking workshop. We shared our interest with the aim to encourage those new to filmmaking to “tell their European story” and any other creation that they had been quietly considering. There was also a colourful array of other workshops going on simultaneously.
Later on, the experts were drafted in for sessions on project management, creative digital media, and public speaking. Careful to avoid any form of public speaking, I attended the project management session where I was exposed as unorganised. It was incredibly valuable and offered a new perspective on approaching projects (in a sentence: start at the end/with the impact and work backwards – naturally.)
The evenings were perfectly chaotic as we experienced an assortment of music, drank beer in church and followed the light on a walking tour. Our playing hard was matched with working hard. As the meeting progressed we began to generate tangible outcomes, time was dedicated to open spaces that allowed for brainstorming, discussion, and future planning. These initiatives are already in progress.
Too soon it came to a close, although I’m not exactly sure how much longer I could have sustained running on 87% caffeine. My network has expanded and feels much more alive. Furthermore, these future plans and the people involved fill me with optimism for the future of the EuroPeers network. It was a privilege to be involved and share the experience with such wonderful humans. I will stop typing before I reach a Gouda level of cheesiness but overwhelmingly thank you to all!
Petya, a EuroPeer based in Cornwall supported an event at the University of Exeter on the 9th of October. This is what she had to say…
The Global Opportunities Fair went really well yesterday! I was, in fact, provided with an individual stall to promote EuroPeers which was great!
I got to talk to many people and so many of them really didn’t know much about Erasmus+ and the opportunities it provides. So I explained it all to them and gave them leaflets and actually quite a few admitted that they are interested in short-term volunteering and in participating in youth exchanges. Some of them signed up for the EuroPeers newsletter.
Overall, it was an interesting and stimulating experience. It was my first time promoting things to people, but it turned out well!
Here is a recap of the EuroPeersUK September course at Academy St Albans…
The time on the course went quickly. We met on day 1 for the very first time, initially, we were total strangers, but these several days together changed everything. Now we are friends who cannot stop talking despite the long distance between us! We hope to meet again as soon as possible!
What have we been doing during the course you may want to ask? Well… a lot! The course consisted of:
Day 1: meeting others & icebreaker games, name games, a workshop about EuroPeers, team building activities, introduction to the EuroPeers graduation process, and telling stories about significant personal objects
Day 2: learning storytelling skills, a workshop with the guest speaker from the UK National Agency, sharing EuroPeers stories, finding out more information about EuroPeers, EVS, Erasmus Plus, European Solidarity Corps, practising public speaking, getting more information about opportunities, an intercultural evening, and a music quiz
Day 3: film making tips, and tricks, the professionalism session, EuroPeers in Action Challenge, learning about promotional activities, and social time
Day 4: community mapping, action planning, evaluation, final reflection, final thoughts, graduation, and farewells
In just four (not even full days) so much had been done and learned.
I want to say THANK YOU to the organisers, EuroPeers UK, and the Erasmus+ programme for this possibility to become part of a big global family!
“A Spanish, Italian, and English person; living in a flat in Poland sounds like the premise of a bad sitcom. Instead it is the foundation of a life-changing experience, and how I will spend the next 10 months.
As a EuroPeer I’m almost certain you will have heard of the European Solidarity Corps (ESC). If not the information is only an email or Google search away, it is also extremely similar to the European Voluntary Service (EVS), which you may have also heard of.
Writing this I am 1 week into my ESC, working on a project around solidarity and inclusion; at a volunteer centre in Kielce, Poland. Even this early on I can feel growth in myself, and can begin to imagine how much of a ‘mega’ time I will have here.
My decision to do an ESC project was not only down to my love for erasmus+ and non-formal education in general. But also because I was beginning to feel stuck, and felt a calling to do something different and spectacular.
At this point in time it looks like that call was answered.
I understand that I will face many challenges during my time living and working in another country; and maybe it wouldn’t be wrong to call this first week a ‘honeymoon period’. However, I am extremely optimistic about the next 10 months, and would urge absolutely anyone just to take that leap – I’m certain that any other EVS or ESC alumni would agree with me as well.
Cheers for reading and hope it’s at least made you think a little.
I am Ana and I am currently responsible for the Community & Youth Engagement Department at EuroPeers UK. One of my responsibilities is to spread the word regarding EuroPeers so that our network can grow not only in terms of members but also in terms of partners. I think one of the best ways to promote our network is through youth exchanges. I am currently in Debrecen, Hungary doing a youth exchange as a youth leader and facilitator.
I took part in a youth leaders’ training session in Vatra Dornei, Romania, in June 2019 as part of the Youth 4 Europe project. Youth 4 Europe is a European project that aims to encourage young people to be active citizens by the creation of policy proposals in 3 areas: Environment, Youth Employment & Education and Media. As part of the project, I was trained to be a youth facilitator so that I could help facilitate and lead in the youth exchange in Hungary. Believe me, this has been a great experience because it not only allowed me to meet new people and develop my skills and experience but it also allowed me to help a group of young people create something that may have an impact on their future and the future of the generations to come.
As EuroPeers, we are not only trying to promote our experiences abroad and grow our network, but we are also trying to help someone else develop and reach their full potential. We are trying to show that there are a number of benefits in going abroad and being internationally active. We are also trying to show everyone that they have a voice, a voice that is worth listening to. Momentum World is one of the partner organisations in the Youth 4 Europe project and they will be recruiting soon for the next youth leaders’ training in Germany and for the next youth exchange. You should contact them if you are interested or feel free to contact me if you have any questions.
Keep traveling and promote international opportunities!
The European Solidarity Corps programme is relatively new to the European world of education and opportunities. So when I was asked to attend a Solidarity Projects Focus Group in Birmingham, I didn’t take too much time to think about it. I confirmed my attendance and then started preparing. The idea was straight forward: come in, give your input based on your experience and share your feedback. We were a group of three well-experienced EuroPeers. I wasn’t nervous about anything, the Solidarity team made it clear that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ answer. What a quality, to show a person that even a complex situation can be treated as a simple task! And when you think of it, a project is all about complex situations. Organising a project requires personal sacrifices and time management, to begin with. And to remember that not everybody starts with a full team, most of the entrepreneurs out there will start their legacy having the generous support of their own self. Have you been on a project, whether Solidarity Corps or Erasmus+? It can seem smooth sometimes, but that’s only because someone spent their time thinking of how to make it work as well as possible.
Considering all of this in the context of the European Solidarity Corps projects, it doesn’t get any easier. You know you want to help and bring that positive change, you sort of know in what area to apply your idea, but do you have the resources and the organisational skills at hand? Not always and usually, not at the beginning. Well, in this regard, you can get help. And this is what the Focus Group was about in Birmingham. We tested the Solidarity Projects Planner which aims to help those groups of people who would like to organise a Solidarity project.
It always starts as a mess, brainstorming ideas, putting sticky notes on the fridge and on the bathroom mirror. The Planner helps you breakdown all those messy thoughts into structured and personalised sections. It is the perfect start for a more in-depth analysis of your work that will follow as you dive into the project’s details. I was pleased to see what it had to offer and how simple but structured it was.
So you have your solidarity topic idea, whether it is social inclusion, mental health, or you want to help your local community in a different way. You need to get your group sorted (you need at least 5 people in the group), remember that the project can be between 2 and 12 months and give it a go! How do you start I hear you ask? The Solidarity Projects Planner is the answer.
By clicking here you can find out more about the Focus Group and on how to get involved in European Solidarity Corps.
Earlier this June, I stumbled upon a last call to attend a project called ‘Acting for Inclusion’ whilst scrolling through an Erasmus+ Facebook page. Within two weeks I found myself in Luton airport, anxiously awaiting a flight to Greece with 3 strangers.
What I was unable to apprehend was that this would be, or would feel like, one of the longest journeys I’ve taken to date. After a 3 hour delayed flight, we landed in Thessaloniki airport. Two buses, two night trains, and more than 7 hours later we finally reached our accommodation in Trikala. On the bright side, such a journey was certainly enough to get to know my fellow British teammates – quite the bonding experience! Despite it being later than 4am upon arrival, we were warmly greeted by our project facilitators and fed some home cooked food.
Then, the next morning our activities began, firstly through introductions to the group via team building activities. Together we were a mixture of Brits, Portuguese, Italians, Greeks, and Spaniards. I was interested to see how this dynamic would unfold; in particular, I noticed our similarities.
As millennials, we have grown up with access to social media. I guess it has helped us to think or view the world with more similar mindsets than our older generations. This reflected in the way we connected with each other, for example through recommending the latest Netflix shows or sharing Instagram posts. I’m not sure what it was like years ago, but I feel like things have progressed. Our ability to connect is something distinctive to our generation.
And partly, this is the purpose of such Erasmus + projects: connecting young people to facilitate their engagement in wider social issues. Therefore, our project ‘Acting for Inclusion’, provided an opportunity for participants to engage in open dialogue, regarding topics such as multi-ethnic coexistence, xenophobia, structural racism, and the ongoing refugee crisis. The latter was a poignant topic for us, particularly as we were in Greece, a country subject to vast influxes of refugees in recent years.
The first day was dedicated towards setting up the project; we were asked about any apprehensions or expectations we had, and were given a breakdown of what was to come. In the evening, each country team was tasked with presenting a case study concerning their home country and the situation of migrants, refugees and unemployment. Britain’s situation was unique. Not only did we discuss recent phenomena such as Brexit or the Accession 8, but also we touched upon the Windrush generation and our colonial history. I would have to say that our team was the most multicultural out of the countries – a fellow participant was a descendent of a Windrush migrant amongst a mix of other ethnicities, and I myself have been born into an ex-colony (Bangladesh). Thus, we felt it was important to also emphasise the multicultural nature of today’s British society.
As the week led on, the facilitators held many activities for us to reflect on. Simulation debates on issues such as the refugee crisis, marginalised communities (for example the LGBTQ+ or the disabled), led us to embody different mindsets. Acknowledging opposing views, even if their ideals seemed nonsensical, was useful when coming up with solutions on how we could de-marginalise such groups, or navigate the divide between certain communities. We were also asked to present what we thought to be the most societally excluded group within our home countries. This question led to many in-depth discussions of deep-rooted and complex issues. Pinpointing a problem, how it is being perpetuated, and by whom was not easy. We found there to be accountability on different ends.
Meanwhile, we were given many opportunities to explore Trikala. As a Geography student, I was especially excited to be invited to meet the mayor at his downtown office and learn about Smart Trikala (https://trikalacity.gr/en/smart-trikala/).
The mayor discussed his administration and allowed us to ask him any questions. I was curious to know about the measures he was taking to provide a greener environment for his citizens, and I enquired more about his smart city initiatives. It turns out, implementing smart city technologies and programs are a challenging and slow process. The mayor faced many difficulties when persuading local and regional councils to invest.
Our facilitators also took us to local charities supported by the EU, such as a day centre for the elderly and a donation point. In the blazing heat, it was inspiring to watch the volunteers work through such difficult conditions. We were told about the struggles they faced in order to sort the goods, such as clothes and non-perishable items. When it came to collection times, the goods would be trashed around as people fought to take as much as they could. This was a pressing dilemma, and difficult to solve within funding’s limits.
Lastly, we took a trip to Meteora. This UNESCO world heritage site consisted of rock formations hosting Eastern Orthodox monasteries on its peaks. It was breathtaking to see, and we also were able to explore some culture, religion and history.
All-in-all, the project was rewarding – I left feeling more aware about issues regarding the fight for inclusion not just in my home country, but other European states. Moving forward, I hope to utilise this awareness when communicating with others, making political decisions, or perhaps develop it within the more sociological units of my degree.
Attending IARS 7th Annual International Conference was very productive. Not only I made contacts in different organizations and universities, but I also learned new things about substantial topics such as social entrepreneurship and school dropout. I attended on behalf of both EuroPeers UK and Momentum World. They were two intense days with a lot of presentations and discussions at Lewisham College.
The issues of the Conference were school dropouts on the first day and young entrepreneurs on the second day. We could listen to different senior lecturers and associates of various universities, Lewisham East MP, entrepreneurs of all ages, etc., the range of experts was really fair. The presentations were short and included Q&A sessions, which, in some cases, was the most interesting part, as we could listen to different approaches to the same topic. Among the participants, there were different age ranges, but less young people than I would have liked to. Nevertheless, I could speak separately to some speakers and attendants, and they were all really kind and thankful.
The international side of the event was very important,since we learntabout the different realities in some European countries, and the active programmesthey have for facing particular issues. The mix of countries is something I personally appreciate, becausethe cultural richness increases. Meeting people not only in different jobs,but also from different backgrounds helps you to better understand the world and the way things work, at least to some extent. That is what I enjoyed the most about the event.
Every time I have attended one event of this kind, I have taken some time to debrief what I have experienced and learnt. I think it is important to do so in order to know what the outcomes are and to learn for future experiences. It is something I will put into practice in the future both in my professional and personal life.
Two projects that were presented were ‘Drop-In’, an e-learning platform for early school leavers or kids in riskof school exclusion; and ‘Promyse’, promoting social entrepreneurship for youth. Both of them were relevant and the different partners showed the result of applying the projects in each country. You can find more about them in the links behind. You can also take a look at the organization’s website to see more of their work.