Meet Seweryn who is volunteering in Germany

Germany vs. UK – culture differences

First of all tea, tea is a national drink of Britain, it is a tradition to drink it at any possible break time: in the morning, evening even midday breaks. This unfortunately is an aspect which lacks in Germany, and a lack thereof is likely to cause frustration for a German is much more likely to drink coffee with tea being reserved more for the elderly. For someone like me who doesn’t drink coffee it was rather a shock and immediately had to stock myself with some Earl Gray and Green.

Demonstration in Berlin, this is a weekly occurrence, left right, centre etc.

Another rather stark difference is the mentality especially when it comes to communication, a typical English interaction starts with two people exchanging pleasantries, what went right is the code that the British speak, what went wrong is something you learn after a compulsory cheeky pint with the lads 😉

Opposed to that is the German style of directness, for instance let’s say your pet passed away, in Britain you can’t just say that, you have to entertain your listener and having established a right level of trust such information can be shared; British people are often confounded having to listen to a German who they have never met before tell them how their marriage is going, how their kids are at school, what prospects do they have, it all leaves us with just ‘woah’ and ‘wow’ So that just happened!

Furthermore it is hard to disguise your emotions, in Britain we have a culture of understanding that what one sees is not necessarily what one feels, we have to guess and can never be sure, given the circumstances assume what someone feels despite what one says, in Germany what you put out either verbally or via expressions is what is taken for granted, it is what it is without further need to occupy yourselves with the feelings of others. It sounds harsh and can initially produce many incorrect conclusions, after all who is to know that you sitting down with a grumpy face in the morning doing work is not you being dissatisfied with what you do or others but just letting the morning tea kick in and carry on doing what you enjoy!

Another difference is following the rules, in Britain it goes: ‘if it’s not going to kill me and I can get away with it then let’s do it’. We are quite averse to danger and strangers but when it comes to cutting corners we do it, nobody bats an eye since everyone does it! Cross the street where you weren’t supposed to, ‘ehh, whatever’ says the chap next door, ‘back in my days I did the same’ an intergenerational understanding and trust is the story of the British. Germans however, oh that wouldn’t fly with them!

Coming from the Prussian style educated people, obedience to the state and the rules is overly upheld, and cutting corners is a risky business, it’s 2 am middle of the street with no cars and 2 minutes till the light turns green, well you better wait, God forbid you cross and someone sees you, if you’re lucky maybe their stern look of disapproval will be it but if you’re unlucky a hefty fine is already being written by the local Polizist.

No cars, ready to cross? Oh no, don’t even dare!

Another difference is how they educate people, a typical British school teacher will tell you what to do and write, your goal is to remember and apply further, the ground is set you just need to make sure something grows out of it. Memorise and apply and there’s a lot of freedom to do what you want. Teachers are there to teach what is in the curriculum, your own motivation and passion is what is supposed to drive you through the boring bits. This isn’t always a good thing, students are segregated into ability sets based on that curriculum with set 1 as the highest and set 3 as the lowest but nothing is more demotivating than being put in the lowest set despite some initial motivation, it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure for those selected systematically to be lower.

Germans on the other hand do things differently, a teacher doesn’t explicitly say do this and that but rather it’s always on you to follow your intuition and use logical thinking skills to produce an effective solution. Let’s say you want to connect a device to the right port, a British teacher would just say connect the yellow cable to the yellow port and then connect it via HDMI into the television so you can move on with the lesson, a German teacher on the other hand will ask you questions and the task is on you to figure out how everything fits. The usual boring bits which are seen as nothing more as a distraction or annoyance are given greater attention in the German world. Initially seen as rude or impolite, or even pointless for a person raised in Britain, the genius of that reveals itself with the fact that it teaches patience and thoughtfulness; not brushing things aside to get to the ‘fun’ bits but seeing the potential fun in what is normally brushed aside, a valuable life lesson which may betray the secret of stereotypical German efficiency, after all if you take care in performing even the most mundane tasks, you are bound to do everything right, right?!

Elections, Germans unlike us in Britain take their democracy seriously.

 

Text and pictures by Seweryn, EVS/ ESC volunteer sent to Germany by IB Polska.

Among young journalists

Last week  I had a pleasure to participate in classes provided by Staromiejskie Centrum Kultury MƂodzieĆŒy in Cracow. I was invited  as a guest to journalism classes where children learn the basics of journalism and media knowledge. I heard that for the past weeks they have learned what an interview is and they were preparing to conduct and give an interview. This day was a big day for them, because they had to do their first interviews. I was a bit surprised that the guest that was invited to this special day – was me!

At the beginning, the teacher introduced me to the young students. They looked a bit nervous, but for sure not more than me. Then I was asked to tell a bit about the life of a foreigner in Krakow and about my volunteer work. Some children could not resist asking questions in this moment, they were so interested. After that students got into pairs and came to me pair by pair to ask me interview questions that they have already prepared during last classes. Some of them were so interesting. They asked me if it is difficult for me to learn polish and work with kids with disabilities that can not speak spanish or english, they wanted to know what I like the most in Poland and what is my favorite polish dish. Some kids asked what are the differences in the teaching system in Spain and Poland and where children are more polite in schools – in Poland or in Spain.

At the end everyone thanked me for the interview and it was really nice. Even some students wanted to ask additional questions apart from the interview, because they were curious about life in Spain. I saw all children very interested and focused on the work of a journalist.

They did a good job and I hope that in the future they will become great journalists!

Author: Javier Aldana

Meeting between generations in DPS HelclĂłw

Today EVS volunteers Maria from Greece, Josie from Germany, Aurore from France, Maram from Egypt and Zeynep from Turkey visited a place where old people with disabilities live (Dom Pomocy SpoƂecznej im. Helclów w Krakowie). At this interesting meeting the volunteers did some activities to present their countries.

Team of Volunteers ready to action!

Specifically, Aurore from France and Maria from Greece showed to people traditional dances from their countries and put traditional music.  Also Maria and Zeynep make a presentation. At these presentations they showed photos of their countries and they talk about customs and habits typical for Greece and Turkey. People seemed to enjoy it and I think it was a nice opportunity for them to meet people from other countries and listen about other cultures.

Also music was in the event! Josie sang a songs and played music and some people were given an instrument and they have to play music too. The people enjoyed it and they seemed very happy.

Last but not least volunteers cooked a traditional meal of their countries and people who were living at the center tried it. Specifically, the volunteers prepared chalva, Turkish cookies and tiramisu. In general, it was a nice meeting. Both volunteers and people who were living there enjoyed  it.

For old people it was a nice chance to meet people from other countries and spend their day in a creative way and for volunteers it was a nice chance to meet people at a different age and see how works the organization who hosts old people with different kind of problems.

The more you know about different things from you the better you become!

Volunteer got smal hand-made gifts from Seniors

Author: Maria Vezyrea from Greece

Meeting with Open KrakĂłw

On Friday March 22, the volunteers were invited by the City Council to talk about the ‘Open Kraków’ program. The program was briefly presented to us after which we were able to ask questions.

Open KrakĂłw, or Otwarty KrakĂłw in Polish, is a program created in 2016 by the City Council aiming to create an sense of solidarity, awareness and knowledge of the culture and customs of people of different nationality or ethnicity living in Krakow.

The program is firstly addressed to foreigners living in Poland by providing assistance for various issues. Some parts of the program however are also addressed to all of Krakow’s citizens, such as a multicultural festival.

As the program is still recent it is still a work in progress, but the main achievements already obtained include:

  • A welcome package for foreigners which consists of a guidebook full of information about education, health care, social benefits, insurance, work principles, the procedure in cases of crime, renting apartments, driving license, legal advice etc. The guidebook can be downloaded for free here. Additionally, a Krakow guide for families was also created.
  • Information Point for Foreigners, launched in April 2018. The aim of this information point is to provide information on all kinds of subjects in Polish, English, Ukrainian and Russian. In addition to these four languages, help might be provided in another language as the Information Point tries to compose a team as diversified is possible language-wise. The main focus lays on increasing the knowledge of foreigners about their rights and obligations and issues related to city life, increasing civic involvement of the foreigners living in Krakow and their integration with the inhabitants of Krakow and strengthening the information and promotion of activities in the area of integration of foreigners.
  • Interkulturalia Festival with the aim of integrating the local environment around the idea of cultural diversity, good neighborlines, the community of regional and European heritage and respect for religion.
  • Educational and informational activities such as Polish-Ukrainian Culinary-Educational Workshops and Middle East Speaks
  • Conferences referring to the idea of multiculturalism. Issues addressed include gender balance in leadership, multicultural schools, dialogue and intercultural cooperation, Polish Armenians on the path to Polish Independence, migration etc.
  • MURAL project in cooperation with Great Britain, Portugal, Greece, the Netherlands and Germany. This project’s aim is to promote the principles of pluralism and democracy, to support transnational cooperation and the exchange of knowledge and the most effective practices to counteract intolerance.

A few volunteers had some questions about the program as well. Most questions concerned either the specifics of their educational program or the residence / work permit application procedure for non-EU citizens. The question about the educational program was asked by those working in a primary school as they wanted to know what exactly the workshop held in schools consisted of.

More information about the Open KrakĂłw program can be found on their official website.

Meet Izabela on her EVS in Turkey

Merhaba! I’m Izabela, 23 years old and I spent two months in Ankara, Turkey doing my EVS project. Was it worth it? Am I recommending EVS experience? You’re about to find out.

When anybody asks me, why Turkey, I always answer that it wasn’t like I chose Turkey but Turkey chose me. I’m during my gap year, so as it is commonly assumed it’s time for travelling. I hadn’t any specific country I want to visit, nor things I want to do. The only thing I was aware of was my will to travel abroad, no matter where. I found out about EVS projects by accident and applied for some random ones. My project, Meeting of Generations hosted by System & Generation was first to answer my application, so I was like – why not? Ok, I’m kidding, decision was the hardest part of my experience. I talked a lot with my friends, family, hosting and sending organisation. I was afraid of losing my job, taking a break of my volunteering in Poland and most of all that I’m doing it due to social pressure, not because I want it. Words aren’t enough to express how much support and kindness I got; people understood my fears and at the same time enabled my journey. So I took my stuff and flew to Turkey.

My project focused mostly on disabled people but it was mix of everything. In addition to this activity me and other volunteers were teaching English in one school, taking part in meetings with politics, hosting language exchange, working in the office and many many more one-shot actions. What I really want to share with you is my experience of disabled people’s attitude, which I was happy to came across especially in cafeteria I was working. Cafe Down is small cafeteria in the centre of Ankara. Almost all of staff has mental disabilities, not to mention nobody speaks English there so communication was a challenge. Many times we didn’t understand what they want us to do and they didn’t understand what we need. However, despite that everyone were so thrilled that we’re there. We weren’t able to give them much, just a little help in cleaning dishes or making tea, we couldn’t give them even a small talk but that didn’t matter. All we could give and all they needed was our time. Time spent together meant everything. How wonderful philosophy; everyone, no matter of age, religion, country, education is able to give and receive time and that’s enough. Disabled people taught me that I don’t need anything more from people that are willing to see me. It’s like disability opens their eyes for this simple truth that I can’t see. That’s of course not everything I learned during my EVS. But what I find important is the fact that not everything I learned was so beautiful as the lesson above. I found out that what I considered my strength isn’t this strong as I thought. I found out about my new flaws. Everyone before my EVS told me that it would be the greatest experience in my entire life. Everyone said that travelling is so amazing. I blindly believed in all this stuff without any thought and that was my bad. During the journey bad things happened too. And it wasn’t like excitement all the time, I faced everyday’s life and even boredom there. It was my first real journey abroad and the first time I really felt like foreign somewhere, so it was a surprise to find out that there’s something beyond all this great adventures that people always talking about when giving you speech about their travels.

Okay, I’ve got probably little too deep into this but I really hope that my experience and words will be helpful for someone who’s not sure whether to make EVS or not. For me it was worth it, even if I learned there that I did it because of social pressure and travelling is not for me. Now I know that everyone is different and I don’t have to feel about something the same way most people feel. It’s a surprise that it took all of this for me to finally get to know that. Take care and see you somewhere somehow!

 

Tortilla Festival @ School number 11

On Wednesday 20th of February, a couple of volunteers were invited to School number 11 for the Tortilla festival. It was a joyful event with lots of tortilla, fun and music…

In total, three classes participated in the Tortilla festival. The ultimate goal was to make the tastiest tortilla. In order to do so, the class was divided in small groups of two to four people who then prepared a tortilla at home and presented it at the festival. The jury, consisting of volunteers, then tasted all tortillas and graded them. We must admit that we were surprised by the creativity of the participants! While some tried to respect the traditional recipe, others added some surprising elements like vegetables, meat or even decoration. They were all really delicious and ranking them was quite hard! In the end, we were able to decide on a top three, but not after some debating and discussion between the volunteers.

After eating the tortilla’s, it was time for some musical break. Joao took out his guitar and started playing and singing La Bamba, twice. The first time, only Joao and a few volunteers sang, but the second time all volunteers, students and teachers sang loudly. It’s a fun song to sing and I’m sure some people were singing it all day long as it’s a real earworm!

Below, you can find some impressions from Julieta and Javi, two Spanish volunteers:

Julieta: It was a funny idea that makes children engaged to be part of the event and learn about Spanish culture through it’s cuisine, there was also music by one Spanish volunteer which helped creating the atmosphere. They all did a very good job with their tortillas and sometimes it was difficult to decide.
We end up full of tortilla but we had a great time!

Javi: Yesterday We were in the omelet festival which was very very fun. The children were excited to present their tortillas. First we learnt the history about “Tortilla de patatas” and the children explained how they cooked the tortillas and with what ingredients. Then we went to try those spectacular tortillas of all flavors and shapes. It was a great day in which the volunteers enjoyed a lot with teachers and students.

Text and pictures by Pauline, volunteer from Belgium.

 

 

Visit in Jewish Community Center

On the 7th February, about fifteen volunteers came for a lecture in the Jewish Community Center organised between the center and Internationaler Bund Polska. They got the chance to meet rabbi Avi Baumol who told them about the history of the Jewish community and also about his own story.

Firstly, he talked about himself and his own belonging to jewish community. Born from polish parents in the USA, he came to Poland to teach judaism to people. In fact, many people, jewish or not, want to know about this culture, this believe, according to him. Nowadays, and after everything that happened in the jewish community in the past, there are still many jewish people in the world. Even though they are not so visible, and some of them, according to the rabbi, don’t tell their children they are jewish, we assist to a « reborn » of the belief and the proudness to be jewish.

Then, came the time where volunteers could ask questions and exchange thoughts with the rabbi. Here, a good exchange between them happened. Between his own past and the jewish community’s one, volunteers learned more about the jewish community. Their past in history, also during war, their believes, how they practice being a jew.

And it was more interesting in the fact that, coming from differents countries, differents religions, the curiosity and interest is still the same. This afternoon was about sharing knowledge and stories about jewish community to those people, the volunteers, who now will be able to share it in return.

 

Text by Sarah, volunteer from France.

Nativity Scenes

On 4th of February, volunteers went to the Historical Museum of KrakĂłw to see the exhibition Nativity scene (exhibition still visitable until the 28th of February). Here, they learned about this Krakowian tradition, where Krakowians created a competition to build nativity scene, called szopka. Then, people were invited to choose the most beautiful one. In that exhibition, you can admire some of them. Ones with lights inside, some with little caracters in motion. During this afternoon, volunteers could learn more about Krakowian past and traditions.

Pictures and text by Sarah, volunteer from France.

 

EVS as a constant learning

Czeƛć! My name is Lilith, transformed in Poland into ‘Pani Lily’. I come from Armenia. Yes, I know, you have no idea, where it is, so feel free to googlemap it. No worries… I’m lying! How on earth you don’t know where is Armenia?!

I passed 2900 kilometers, survived 11 hours on the road with 3,5 hour stopover for one destination -KrakĂłw!

There are many reasons why people decide to do an EVS. Some need refreshment, someone got stuck, for someone it is a perfect gap year, somebody eager to travel and meet new people. But there is one thing that unites all EVS volunteers – willingness to grow, to become a better man year after.

Presentation of Christmas traditions of Armenia, Germany, Belgium and Spain at kindergarten

Through EVS you will discover a brand new culture. I found myself in the streets protesting against shooting of wild pigs, singing polish carols at the Main Square, celebrating Great-parents’ Day. While diving into polish way of living, you start to live like a local, you start to care. And this is one of the most important lessons for me so far.

Through EVS you will experience tolerance at its finest. Talking about Catalan Independence, seeing emotions of a German coming from Auschwitz, getting to know about Albanian-Macedonian relationships, learning about new established Ukrainian church, exploring tension between south and north of Italy and so on… I’ve become more curious, more interested, ended up asking countless questions.

Through EVS you will appreciate more your country. I may not be in Armenia, but I carry Armenia with me. You are becoming an ambassador of your country in Poland. You are appreciating its uniqueness, which I never thought about before coming.

Through EVS you are learning constantly, every day. Being thrown into totally new environment you have no other chance than to flourish.

And yet there is so much to discover:)

It was a real adventure!

Hey! I’m Anna, a volunteer from Saint-Petersburg, Russia. I work in the kindergarden but i want to tell you not about that right now. I’m an internet-addicted and once it helped me)) I saw in our evs group Ib polska about english camp in Ostrzeszow (still can’t pronounce it). So I was the first who left a message.

An organisator, English teacher Kasia, contacted with me and told what it would be, she told me about our activities and conditions. Kasia added that they provided everything: food, tickets, sleeping bags. The last word called an image of living in a tent outside. Also she told to take “outfit that you can use it in the forest”.

I was travelling with previous volunteers. In Ostrzeszow teachers collected us. Teachers organised family polish dinner. It was incredible and so tasty!

Next day we had a presentation about our country at school. I had 4-5 lessons. I started my presentation with questions about Russia. I was totally surprised cause even hildren 8 years old knew my president. Also a lot of children said that  it is very cold in Russia. They didn’t expect to see palms which i showed them.

After lessons we went to school where we spent the remaining days. We slept at the gym. Not outside. For sure, everybody was laughing at me cause I took a yoga-rug, a lot of warm clothes didn’t image how it is possible to sleep outside in the end of October.

We were separated in 4 bands/ first evening we knew each other better. Next day we had a task like orienteering. We were running in a forest and searching for points that we had on a map. After we fried sausages on the fire. In the evening we sang, danced, laughed a lot.

Next day we moved to Poznan where participated in a workshop. We made polish croissants, explored city and gave a lot of hugs each other. Im looking forward for our next meeting this spring.

 

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!