Go Global Fair: University of Birmingham

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 europeersuk@momentumworld.org

By Ana

EuroPeers Course in Hannover 2019

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

5th European Meeting in Utrecht vol.2

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.

By Alexandra

5th European Meeting in Utrecht vol.1

Our lovely group at the training venue in Utrecht

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. 

One of Utrecht’s canals…

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. 

EuroPeers UK delegation

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! 

by Ellie

EuroPeers activity in Exeter

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!

by Petya

EuroPeers UK September course

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!

I am looking forward to other opportunities!

By Erika

European Solidarity Corps in Poland

“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.

Why not? 

Cheers for reading and hope it’s at least made you think a little. 

By Nathan

Youth 4 Europe with EuroPeers

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!

By Ana

My Solidarity Focus Group experience

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. 

By Mihai

Acting for Inclusion

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. 

By Shovi

IARS International Conference 2019

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.

By Sara

A EuroPeer Reflection: “What do you do?”

What do you do? A simple question, right? Simple enough to answer, right? Well, at the ripe age of 30, I can honestly tell you that this question gives me the urgency to run, or the very  least skip around the person asking (literally), in order to distract them. “Look at me! I’m a butterfly!” This dreaded question in the past received the default answer of what I did for financial gain. The job that was helping me to pay my bills, pay for my education, my travel expenses, family commitments and towards charitable causes. I would look at the expression and tone of the person asking the question, and it would tell me if they approved or not. I could also see them making a judgement on whether they wanted to invest in me, even if just for a few minutes conversation. Within 30 mins I would know whether this person whom I was trying to network with would be a regular in my life or not.

What do you do?  My current answer is “my job is to take care of me”. Awkward silence. The next few minutes would be them trying to rephrase the question to find out how I am earning money. I’ve tried many answers (all truthful) such as I am volunteering, I’m freelancing, I am having a career break etc. The answers I emphasise more on depends on whom I’m speaking to,  what kind of impression I want to leave and my mental and emotional status. It is challenging when you don’t know what you want to do anymore or which direction to focus your time and energy on. 

The advice I give to myself is to keep trying. To keep moving. Even if I don’t have tangible objectives, the journey for me is now more about learning, growth,  becoming a better version of myself, feeling inner peace and being able to spread peace to those around me. I keep my eyes open for cracks on doors. For opportunities. Sometimes I find all the doors I try to open closed shut. Sometimes a door is open for me, I walk through it, and then I find myself walking right out again. And that is ok. It is also ok to close a door behind you too. Tightly. An important lesson I have learnt is, when you let go of something you desire but is not good for you, your time will be filled up with things that actually matter to you.

By Ruma

The European Solidarity Corps

Is there something in your local community that you would like to change? Something that bothers you and needs to be addressed? Do you have creative ideas but don’t know what resources and funding are available?

You only need a group of at least 5 young people aged 18-30 to start a Solidarity Project with the European Solidarity Corps which gives you founding to get creative and realise your own ideas for a project over 2-12 months in your local area.

At the EuroPeers training weekend in St. Albans, Mercedes from the National Agency told us all about the opportunities within the Corps, which include the Solidarity Projects but also volunteering opportunities, traineeships and jobs. 

In a workshop we got to get creative and thought about a Solidarity Project for a scenario of a young person who came across issues in their local community. The opportunities for solidarity are really endless and can address exactly what is important for your local community. The funding also gives you access to get a coach or professional to help deliver aspects of the project but it’s really focussed on your own ideas and plans and a great opportunity to improve and learn skills, realise an amazing project and make a change in your local community.

By Elisabeth

How I got to be a EuroPeer

I had just finished my European Voluntary Service (EVS) in Northen Ireland when I received an email from my volunteer coordinator about this training in London by EuroPeers UK about sharing my international experience, and I was interested immediately in attending it.

I clicked on the link and I got information from the web page about this organisation and what they do to create a network between young people and how to motivate and encourage others to take part in international projects, and I thought: “I want to do the same!!!”.

I filled in the application and received all the practical information that I needed from the coordinator of the event.

After a week, I flew to London to take part in this training, and I met people from all of the UK with different backgrounds and stories that inspired me to be and active member of the EuroPeers UK network.

By Giulia