Last week, 30 young people from across Europe participated in the very first EuroPeers International Training Course carried out by the EuroPeers UK in Liverpool. The ITC was five days long and ended with a EuroPeers graduation and the participants becoming fully fledged members of the EuroPeers UK network.

We arrived in Liverpool on a dreadful, rainy Thursday. As part of the training team, we arrived earlier of course. When we arrived at the Foresight Centre, completely drenched, we met Fergal for the first time. Fergal was going to be one of the trainers that week, along with Olga, Paul and ourselves. We started setting up when Paul, Jack and Nathan arrived by putting up banners and decorating the room nicely for when the participants arrived, while also making friends with the facilitators. They are lovely people. As members of the group started trickling in, we tried to greet every single person, remember names and collect signatures. Remembering every single name after only one friendly handshake per person turned out to be impossible. It felt quite hectic at first but as soon as everyone settled, the atmosphere was very friendly and full of anticipation.

Throughout the training course, we were in charge of get to know games and energizers, so it was up to us to get the unfamiliar group energised. In retrospect, it could’ve gone better but everyone was very supportive of our newcomer role. So the first day was all about getting to know the members of the group and setting the mood for the following couple of days. Many personal stories were shared that day and it really helped the group to become closer in a very short amount of time. Great conditions for a non-formal learning environment.

The weather really cleared up during the next few days. We like to say that Liverpool reminds us of home (Hamburg). It’s the way it sort of feels light and breezy that felt familiar. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time to explore the city because we were quite busy people that week but on the third day we managed to muster up some free time after the street action that we did in the heart of Liverpool. (It was exhilarating to watch everyone speak to strangers and have fun, shamelessly dancing to silly songs in the middle of everything). The free time after that, a couple of us used to explore the famous Docks. We didn’t get to spend much time there but we did manage to be on time for the beautiful sunset that evening.

We grew more and more comfortable, carrying out the energizers and engaging with the group. It was quite nice to feel like you’re contributing, even in the smallest ways, to something that can turn out to be very powerful for some people. Thanks to the amazing training programme that was being implemented by the training team, almost everybody had their fair share of aha-moments and it was great to see the group so involved in the outputs of the training course. We‘re hopeful that everybody was able to take something useful back home with them. Every aspect that was covered was of relevance to the audience and everyone’s ultimate goal, to promote the Erasmus+ scheme. Skills like public speaking, communication, but also skills like video or film making helped the group to improve their different skills and are an important contribution in the process of creating their own successful EuroPeers events.

On the last night, we all got together for a drink at a pub by the Docks. There was live music and pool and everybody sure did enjoy themselves. It was great to see everyone dancing together and celebrating the last week and the connections that have been made. Nobody seemed to want to leave our primary location to party elsewhere. Only when the place closed, people started to move on or turn in, as the training course wouldn’t quite be over the next day.

Once it was time for the last session and then goodbyes, everyone was well exhausted, but in a good way. It seemed like everybody felt accomplished and ready to get things moving in their own communities. The participants all received an official “Graduation Certificate”. Then, the ITC officially finished and everyone went back home to their communities equipped with tools to share their stories and encourage others to take advantage of Erasmus+ opportunities.

On our own way home, after packing everything back up, we couldn’t help but reflect on how valuable these kinds of experiences are. Everyone should do an EVS as volunteering is important and it builds character. People underestimate the power of experiences made outside the comfort zone. All of the EuroPeers at this training course were special people with special experiences that shaped them into the people they are today. People who want to create change.

By Max and Emilia (EuroPeers UK Team)