Meet Marija and Series of: How I got addicted to ERASMUS+ projects: Introduction: The beginning

Hello everybody! My name is Marija and I am 25. Do you want to start traveling and get addicted by discovering something new? So, please read my stories carefully, and I am sure you will get interested in this projects.

It all started when I was 21. I was in my second year of University in my country, Macedonia. One day, at the Faculty, one of my colleagues came to me and asked: “Do you want to go to Turkey for one week?
With covered food, travel expenses and accommodation?” Of course, at first I said, I have no idea what are you talking about it, tell me something more. What is it about? What I will do in Turkey? With whom? How is it possible that I do not pay for accommodation, travelling and food??? Here was his answer: “So, my dear Marija, the European Union has a program which offers to the young people across Europe to travel, learn new things using non-formal methods of education and make friendships around Europe. That program is called ERASMUS+.

However, this project that I am talking about, is part of this program and it is called Youth Exchange. In other words, this is a project led by one organization (usually Non-governmental Organisation), which has international NGO’s as partners, and they organize a week (7-10 days) on given topic where around 25-60 participants can take part. In this specific project, they should have 30 participants from 5 countries, one of them is Macedonia. The others are Georgia, Azerbaijan and Romania. And of course Turkey, as a host country. So, they need 6 participants from each country, who will have non-formal activities and tasks, so in the end they will get more knowledge about the multiculturalism in Europe. The topic of the Youth Exchange is “Small steps, big effects”.

Back to the main point, the NGO which is international partner from Macedonia, is looking for Macedonian participants and I remembered that you are always open to learn something new, so I was wondering if you would like to be part of this group of six young people! In addition, definition for young people in the EU is 18-30 years old, which means that all the participants on this project are between that age. Back to your question about how is possible that you do not pay anything of this, here is how: The European Union is providing all of the expenses. The only thing you need to do before you go there is to buy your flight (travel expenses), but during the project or some days after the project is finished, you will get your money back on your bank account, or in cash (depends on the hosting organization), because they need to reimburse every participant for their traveling to the country of project and back. That is how this ERASMUS+ program for young people works. Do you like the idea now? We already have five participants, would you like to meet them all and to make your first international friendships next month? “

I will keep you updated what happened after. I hope you realize that I accepted being part of this Youth Exchange. And for sure I can say, that was one of the best decisions I have ever made!

Why not try? #5 Series of: How I got addicted to ERASMUS+ projects Chapter 2: Training course is about…

Hello everybody! My name is Marija and I am 25. Do you want to start traveling and get addicted by discovering something new? Read my stories carefully, and I am sure you will get interested in this projects. I hope you read my first two articles, how my story started.

Well, this is how it went with the projects called Training courses. Going back to the definition about what ERASMUS+ contains, using non-formal methods of education: There are Youth Exchanges, Training Courses and European Voluntary Service. That is all under the big umbrella of ERAMUS+ program.

When I had my first Youth Exchange in Turkey, we had one session about what is ERASMUS+ and how does it work. On that session, I learned that the part of ERASMUS+ that includes non-formal education contains all these Youth Exchanges, Training Courses and European Voluntary Service. Since then, I was wondering what and how does it look like to be a part of a Training course. By theory, I knew that on a Training course can participate only a Youth Workers, which means that people who work in NGO’s, with young people, with methods of non-formal education, people who are actually organizing a lot of activities.

I participated in two Training courses. First one was in Tirana, Albania in 2014, the second was in Newcastle, England in 2017. During one training course, you will usually meet less people than on a Youth Exchange, and it includes more “professional activities”, if I am allowed to call it like that. From my point of view, when you are on a Training course, you will spend more time working on a professional level, sharing experiences, sharing good practice with the other praticipants, while during the Youth Exchange, you have more time to discover yourself. Yes, this difference between the projects is small, but at the same time, it helps you grow as a person. Of course, the travelling is a part when you discover, make friends, which is also the part that is common with YE, but during the sessions, there is something which is called how to work with young people and which methods to use. This is the part why these projects are called- Training courses.

Again, the official language of the projects is English. So, again you build your vocabulary listening to the others and using your own words to express your feelings and needs on another level.

Ah, and yes. There is always a facilitator- man and/or woman. Usually, these facilitators are giving directions to the participants what to do. And another difference is that during these projects, you will work mainly individually, not always, but mostly yes. And then, you will share what you discovered with the others and you will have kind of a feedback. This part of giving feedback is something that no training course can pass without doing it.

One of the lessons I learned was: As far as you want to travel and discover, take all the opportunities that ERASMUS+ is giving to the young people from all over Europe!

Why not try? #4 Series of: How I got addicted to ERASMUS+ projects Chapter 1: Youth Exchange is about…

Hello everybody! My name is Marija and I am 25. Do you want to start traveling and get addicted by discovering something new? Read my stories carefully, and I am sure you will get interested in this projects.

I hope you read my first article, how my story started. Well, this is how it went with the projects called Youth Exchanges. Since April 2014, I participated in six Youth Exchanges, in six different cities, of five European countries. Talking about traveling and visiting other countries, you will for sure see other cities on your way, because you will travel by plane, so you need to wait in one city, then go to another by bus or train and this is how you discover more about the country. Another way to discover the Country, is the part when you make international friends. That is when you meet people from the country you went for the project. That is when you are ready to think out of the box, to go out of your comfort zone…

One well prepared and organized Youth Exchange would look like this:
At first, you arrive at the place, together with your group from your country. Next, you usually have activities in the evening which includes tasks; through non-formal ways of getting to know each other.
Often there are some games, energizers, short work in international groups etc. The next days you usually have four sessions per day, in which you are also divided in international working groups and you work on given tasks. Through these activities, you will not realize it in the beginning, but you make friends, you have fun, you learn, you discover yourself, you push your limits, you give yourself a chance to live out of your comfort zone! One main point to mention about work in groups, is that you need to speak in English. In my opinion, this is the best way ever to improve your English, your vocabulary, your ways to express feelings and needs. Speaking about the English language, on my first YE, I was reeeeally afraid to talk in English. I thought that I have no idea what to say, that I am lost, I was ashamed of sharing my interests and needs! But then, other important moment was when I realized that nobody there is native English speaker! So we are all, more or less, on the same level, and that is the moment when I slowly started speaking in English. Day by day, project by project, my English was getting better! My friends were the first who said that. After, I made self-reflection and I understood that they are right. My English was better for real!

Ah, and yes. There is always a facilitator- man and/or woman. Usually, they divide the participants into groups. Those tasks are connected with the topic of the YE. The topics of the Youth Exchanges I was participant in, were: “Small steps, big effects” in Turkey, “Different cultures- common goals” in Portugal, “Take active part” in Lithuania, “Organic Farm for Youth” in Wales (UK), “Community Leadership” in The Netherlands, “Share Diversity- STOP Radicalism” in Portugal.

In the end of the project, day before the last day, you usually do a reflection on the whole project, you share your opinion on what you liked the most, what you enjoyed the most, what you didn’t like, you will have a possibility to describe the project in one word etc. You will fill an evaluation form as well, which goes to the hosting organization. The last day, comes the saddest part. You need to say goodbye to friends that you made, with the ones that you know you can always count on if you go to their country, as well to the ones whit whom you didn’t get along the best. On your way back home, you realize: I liked this week. I hope I will have more projects like this…

P.S. Do not be surprised if you meet the same person from Georgia (my example), on two different youth exchanges! Those Georgian people are amazing … One of the lessons I learned was: You cannot generalize things, we are all sooooo different as individuals and you cannot say Germans are like this, or Portuguese are like that… You just need to be open to meet new individuals and to learn from their stories, they perception of the world, their culture. That is how you get experience.

Meet Ewa in Beauvoisin, France

My name is Ewa, i’m 21 years old and one year ago I moved from Poland to Beauvoisin, France for EVS. During this year a lot has changed in my life, but also in myself.

When I came here, to REV, my hosting organisation, i was not expecting a lot and I couldn’t imagine what the next year would be like. Of course, I had some information about the project, about the other volunteers and collective life, but for someone who has never been in a place like this it’s impossible to imagine what would be happening exactly.

During my stay i did plenty of different things, i discovered various fields of work and of course I also learned a lot. The project, the people I have met on my journey, just my experience there in general, had an impact on me and I am sure I will never experience anything like it anywhere else.

Every activity and work assignment I did this year taught me something new, even if sometimes it was difficult or I didn’t like it from the beginning, in the end I can just say I’m really grateful for everything, because it was an amazing experience, which changed me (I hope) in good way.

The part of the project which I really love and I happy I’m exactly where I am, it’s collective life.
For me it’s the weirdest idea ever, to collect group of random people from different countries and cultures and let them live together. It can sound like a mess, but surprisingly it’s amazing how you can create a new family in this way. From the group of strangers we create a group of really close friends. I’m really glad I had the possibility to experienced this and if I will need to choose again to come here, if I will have all the knowledge from now, i will not hesitate.
Also the thing which I’m really happy of is I discovered a lot of new cultures, differences and similarities between them and I’m sure I will never get this knowledge in any school. I feel like by this year, this projectIi touched in beautiful, amazing and definitely unforgettable way, a real life which is waiting for me after my volunteering.

In REV we had many different activities, one of them was visiting a nursing house in our village and making some manual animations with old people once a week. It was really good opportunity to talk in french with local people, get to know them and their stories. The other activity was english classes for local people (adults and teenagers), often it was actually language exchange while we were speaking only english and just a little bit french, so it was good occasion to learn also for us.
Except social activities we had some workshops and physical work, for example for few months we were building running path for the city, which was cool possibility to get new skills.

During my EVS in REV we were also hosting few groups from all around the world and France. Every group was different, so every hosting and dynamic was also really different. Sometimes we have difficulties in different area for example with language and communication, but even if we have small problems, in general these hostings are really amazing experiences I think for everyone. We have possibility to discover new languages and see the differences between our cultures and environments, so it was never boring!

 

One of the most beautiful memories for me will be international workcamp, which I lead with Antonia, REV volunteer from Germany. It was a teenager workcamp, full of motivated young people in L’espinas, in Cevennes, an incredible place with also incredible local people. Our job was caring for the wood in chestnut forests, helping local people to prepare the place for the autumn harvest of chestnuts. Except work everyone was cooking, cleaning and taking care of the camp and for most of the people it was their first time with this kind of work. Fortunately we had a group of motivated, full of energy young people, who were not scared to learn new things. When we were working with local people we heard a lot of great stories about the area and we had occasion to meet amazing people with equally amazing life stories. After work we were hiking and visiting wonderful places, rivers, mountains and small villages and also playing games and talking to get to know each other better, because we were from different places and cultures.

One day we planned to make international evening on which we invited local people from around the place and we share with them a little bit of our culture and traditional food from our countries.

Personally, for me the best feeling was to have the possibility to share all the experience i have with other people and teach them new things.

Why not try? My EVS adventure by Rafael

Living abroad, be more independent, improve your skills, learn new things, have more experience, meet people from different countries, share culture, make friends, feel identified with them, travel around Europe, or around the world, have a personal growth, opportunities to find a job… It’s sound good, right? All that things I’ve lived doing my EVS in a beautiful city like Krakow, Poland. I’ve had the opportunity to learn a lot, meet people I’ll never forget, feel more confident with myself, travel a lot, improve my English, improve my skills and my knowledge in a special school with autistic children and the most important thing, enjoy, more than I’ve never done. I totally recommend to everyone to do this, because this experience change your life. After 10 month living in Krakow, I can say that EVS has been the best experience of my life, giving me the opportunity to be happy.
Here you can find my memories here:

My EVS encounter with ABLED

Hi, I’m Bruno, 28, from Portugal. In this post I will share my experience meeting a Paralympic team in Kraków and having fun playing Boccia with students from a special school.

On the 22nd of April, me and other volunteers agreed to meet with physically disabled athletes who had just finished the marathon happening that day. We had the opportunity to interview the winner of the race, Rafał Szumiec. Even though I had to wait for a transcript of the recorded interview to actually know his replies to our questions (was held in polish), it was very empowering to peer into the mind of a person who suffered a crushing blow that would defeat lesser men, but not him… the finishing strike was his to deliver.

Rafał was a professional cyclist before the accident which robbed him of mobility from the waist down. So this was a man with a love for competitive sport, who was driven to excel and not resign to 2nd places. This defining features remained unchanged after the accident.

This strong willed man shared with us that his main concern was how to rebound quickly and return to competitive sport. He adapted to the whims of fate and got proficient in other sport modalities, namely handbike, mono-ski and wakeboard. He’s since participated in several competitions all over Europe and co-founded VeloAktiv, along with Katarzyna Rogowiec, a sports training group for Paralympic athletes, where mutual support, camaraderie and tough training sessions take place.

The fact that he achieved 1st place in Cracovia Marathon was not at all surprising, given his dedication to what he does. I saw in him a man that has come to terms with the fragility and unpredictability of the human condition, but nonetheless able to draw forth from a soul not at all diminished, but forged by fire.

Sometime after I had the chance to participate in a school event where volunteers and special needs students came together to play Boccia (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boccia). It was certainly fun to play in 2 vs 2, without any need to “hold back”, since these students were well versed in the game and also due to this being a sport where mobility is not quite so important as intuitive understanding of the physics at play. In this way, with assistance from another person and with the aid of a special launching ramp, the student can give instructions regarding positioning of said ramp and finally “throw it” where intended. One of the students, Konrad, was particularly good at it and it was a joy to be paired with him.

All in all, I believe everybody got something out of the experience. Games in general are (mostly) always a great way to bring people together, foster co-operation and realize individual contribution as complementary to team effort in the pursuit of common objectives.

Due to the limitations these students have to live with, there can be a tendency towards isolation from the “outside world”, so I’m sure they appreciate opportunities when they can interact with people other than their immediate circle and transcend interpersonal barriers with something as simple as a game of Boccia.

Meet Guillaume!

My name is Guillaume Libralesso and I am from France. I grew up in Grenoble and lived in Montpellier, the best city ever in France, comparable to Alicante in Spain. My EVS started in the beginning of July, it was a really peaceful time and I did some workshops. School started in September and I will finish at the end of April.

Here we are in a special school for autistic children (Centrum Autyzmu i Całościowych Zaburzeń Rozwojowych w Krakowie) and I learn a lot because I never worked with autistic children before.I studied about autism but I was not really an expert. You can say that every student is different, you can say that they all have an autistic syndrom but actually it is impossible to put them in cases. I tried that because for me there were some cases to put children but in reality you cannot do so.

My advice for new volunteers In Krakow: Try to enjoy a lot. It all depends on you and you have to find your own role. You have to try a lot and don`t be scared. Try to find your way and try to communicate with people.

 

K: What would you never write a song about?

G: Sports!

 

K: If you had to write a song about sports, what would be the 1st line of it?

G: Why? Why so much suffering?

 

K: Are Polish people strange?

G: For me sometimes yea. Sometimes they look so sad.

 

K: What surprises you most about Poland?

G: The difference to my country. It`s a diffence of people, a difference of history. Sometimes it`s difficult because we (our countries politics) are different about immigration, integration, multiculturalism. Also about how I can speak with people, about polite distance. I mean I need to learn to not shock Polish people, for example when I`m singing in a bus I can the the faces of the people. Then I say “oh, I`m not in a right way“.
The kids surprise me a lot, me coming to the Center of Autism and this kid speaking better English and French than myself. Comparing to France we cannot speak any languages.

 

K: Tell me three emotions to describe your work as a volunteer?

G: I feel I`m very useful. I can feel the love when I`m with the kids. It`s a lot working with behavior therapy and so on and I try to be passionate. I try to find my way. I try to give passions and love to kids. Sometimes I feel very useful, for example last lesson with Ania (name changed) because we can speak with people and can improve their language skills by talking English or French. Sometimes however, I`m just waiting for the end of the lesson and being useless.

What feelings I feel? It`s a lot of feelings, sometimes my work is very important, exciting, also boring. I feel love. One kid is very touching me, because he can`t speak and has problems and I try to help him.
They are different but in the same time they can give a lot of things to normal people.

 

K: What`s your favourite food?

G: It is Japanese food.

 

K: What`s your artist name?

G: I don`t have. When I was young my nickname was Marcel but today I`m just Guillaume and I try to be Guillaume.

 

K: What do you plan to do after your EVS?

G: I never plan nothing! I want to stay until September in Poland, maybe find a job just to have money to stay.

 

K: Dziekuje bardzo for the interview!

G: Thanky you too!

 

interviewer:

Katharina Becker

interviewee:

Guillaume Libralesso
volunteer in EVS project “INTERvolunteering”

Italian Day! (Cuteness day)

Hello there people from all the world! Here is Peppe again with a short story for you.

New day, new experience. This time we focused in one of the most beautiful countries in the world, no, not North Korea, I’m talking about Italy of course, magical land of Pizza.

Thanks to Nicholas, Mara and I had the chance to go in his school for their Italian day. Nicholas is volunteering in a kindergarten so we met super cute children (Mara wanted to steal a couple of them).

First they had a little performance showing us their flight travel from Poland to Italy, after that they started to do something very Italian…playing with pasta ahahah.

After that we had some activities together. First we talked about Italy, they made also a map without Sicily L…then they showed us their skills with Italian language, earing “Buongiorno” or “Grazie” from them was priceless, our hearts were melting, I don’t know how can Nicholas be still alive with all this cuteness around every day, is too much.

Later we played some Italian songs with guitar for them, it was very funny cause Mara and I never tried before but children were very interested, they also asked us to play more and finally we taught them an Italian song for children, they really liked it, and we had the chance to be kids again.

MOST IMPORTANT THING: we prepared together some pizza! They were very nice and happy and pizzas looked really good at the end but we didn’t have the possibility to eat it cause it was too late and we had to go, ask to Nicholas about the taste…bastard…but they prepared some present for us, we are still waiting for it Nicholino.

See you soon people from the world.

 

 

Fun & easy ways to get better in English

ALTERNATIVE WAYS OF LEARNING ENGLISHBelieve it or not, there are plenty of ways to learn every day something new. Let’s take an English language for example.

Even though English lessons are full of interesting materials, games, videos and songs, sometimes it can be very tiring to to learn all the grammar rules that are written in the plan. After few months of being a volunteer here in school, I noticed one interesting thing. Students who are playing computer games are very good in English for their age. They were more confident to start a conversation and their vocabulary is wider. Maybe their grammar knowledge is not the best, but they are not afraid to talk and to make mistakes. We all know that the mistakes are one of better ways to learn. Over time, with help of computer games, children can develop other skills, like memory, fast decision-making and social interaction.

There are also other ways to learn English. Listening to music, reading books and articles, watching films and TV series in English is great way of learning language. In fact, that’s where most of my vocabulary comes from. I like watching TV series and that’s how I learned a lot of English phrases. Also, my pronunciation got better. Besides this, some songs helped me to remember some grammar rules and how to spell some words. For example, I was looking for the lyrics of the song “Soldier Of Fortune” so many times that I had to learn that the word “Soldier” is written like that, not “Solider” which I thought before. Thanks to the song “Simply The Best” I remembered that article “the” always goes before superlative.

So, my advice to the children would be to watch their favorite films, TV series and cartoons in English, to listen to the music in English and to try to understand the lyrics and over time the improvement will be visible.

By Natalija from Serbia

Tortillas de patatas Day!

Hi everybody, I’m Giuseppe (Peppe), a new volunteer here in Krakow with IB Polska. I will tell you about my wonderful experience that had place some week ago, the Spanish day!

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Everything started when Natalja, a Serbian volunteer, asked me to take part of this event in her school. I know, Giuseppe it’s not properly a Spanish name, as you already notice I’m Italian, but she asked me in order to play some Spanish song with the guitar, of course I didn’t hesitate to say yes.
Our “team” was composed by Carmencita, Maria, Rafita, Ildelfonso, Esti (all from Spain), Hanna (Iceland), Natalja, and me. At the beginning of the day we had a super competition of Tortillas the patatas, which was the best part for me eheheheh. The kids in the school prepared 21 different kind of Tortillas! It was a pleasure for me to taste all of them, ok maybe not really ALL of them, but don’t say it to the kids ;D
It was very funny for us to see the faces of kids asking for our grades, promoting their tortillas and speaking with us in English, personally a girl also touched my hair ahahahahah, ops sorry jajajajajaj.
The tasting phase was complete so we had a short meeting to decide the winners of the competition, after declaring the winners we passed to the second phase, songs! We went for the most famous actual Spanish songs…yes…that one…Despacito and Bailando.
Also in this case the kids were very excited, some of them sang even louder than us and after that they shared some Polish songs played with the accordion, the sound of it was amazing and we all were fascinated about it.
It was beautiful for me to see different cultures merging so well, cause yes we had a lot of fun but it’s not only about eating some delicious tortillas, it’s about seeing the prejudice and the racism going away to make space for happiness, joy and peace. Tortillas de patatas is the best for it 😉

article by

Peppe

Living Library in Giebułtów

giebultow_10

 

Our project Act2Activate went to the village Giebułtów for a special day. The school organized a language competition of the English and also German language.

We, volunteers, contributed by organizing the Living Library as well as making a presentation about Kassel. We arrived by bus in the morning and were welcomed warmly by the teachers and students preapring the language competition. The students prepared some stories and presentations to show to the audience. The topic countries of this years competition were Scotland and Austria.

Furthermore our two German volunteers had the opportunity to present their home-city Kassel and give some fun-facts. After a short break we became books. All of us, telling a different story. And that`s exactely what is the aim of the Living Library: People become books and tell their audience what`s inside of it. Students searched the contact to us, even though in the beginning they were a little shy. In the end we`ve had some interesting conversations and a positive outcome. We are happy to come back some day for another event.

 

 

 

article by

Katharina Becker

photography by

Natasza Romaniuk