Ankara became my next home, place to live – Julia’s EVS

Merhaba, my name is Julia, I’m from Poland and I was a volunteer for EVS in S&G in Ankara. It was my first time in Turkey. I stayed there two months and I can say, that it is definitely too short!

Turkey surprised me in may ways. I’ve never been to the country that is so welcoming and with hospitality like in here. Plus, it is incredible beautiful.

I wasn’t scared at all before coming here, even if there are some prejudices of being abroad, far away from home in a country which is so different than yours and you don’t speak even a word in its language.

Istanbul was crazy, full of tourists mixed with locals, noisy, colorful and it amazed me with variety of places Iwanted to see and visit. Coming from there to Ankara was like entering another new world, these cities are really different, with different vibes and atmosphere.

I enjoyed living there, Turkey is really big and there are still so many many many places to discover.
I studied photography in Poland, and considering that, this country is the perfect place for me! It is full of amazing beautiful places and happenings awaiting for you at each step.

I can say that time we had spent together, me and my flatmates found a few of our favorite places where we got to know the owners and even made some friends with them. During the days of the week we were doing our chores, and on weekends we traveled to another cities and on the evenings we enjoyed our time together and with other friends we met there.

By we, I mean our group from project, Noemi, Calin, Gina and Domenico. We make really good pack of friends after this one month, so we travel and spend most of the time together.
My impressions about EVS here, in S&G were quite good, we had a lot of free time, so we could discover the city and even the whole Turkey. Of course, we had everyday chores and schedule, but beside the fact that this is hard work, it has been also an adventure and pleasure to make other people happy and to do something meaningful and good. Maybe, for me sometimes there was too few of these things connected to volunteering, but travelling and getting experience are the best things to do in live and I think this is the main idea of EVS and Erasmus+.

After two months, Ankara became my next home, place to live. With knowing my favorite and least favorite places, areas, activities and food (!), I can say I could spend there more time to discover more and more. Turkey got me. This country is the second after Poland, where I live that long. And it got me, I will definitely leave some piece of me here.

Ankara is the city that right now I will always connect with cig kofte, sarma, kofte from night bazar, ayran, kokorec, cay and night bazar in Kizilay, where you can experience and see a rich variety of street artists, stuff to buy and eat, full of people and it is pulsing with life and lights. It is unique and at the same time it is nothing special, but the way you make it special for you and how significant it becomes during staying here is hard to describe. I came here without knowing Turkish language, a little bit lost, little bit dizzy, because everything was so new and strange. And left it with knowledge how people live here and how to find myself actually living here.

I traveled a lot, I’ve been to the east: Mardin, Gaziantep and Hatay, to Konya, to Beypazari, to Istanbul, and to Cappadocia, with people that I met here and after these two months I can call them my friends.

These are the main advantages of going to EVS. People, travels and unforgettable experiences. We worked here with people with disabilities and with refugees and these moments when you do something good to the others with no expectations are lesson for life and that makes you cry and gives you huge goosebumps.

 

I came back to Poland more open and with this amazing energy that I can share with my friends and family.

I left Turkey with feeling of mixed sorrow and happiness, I know I will never forget this time. And I know that moments from there will be one of the very best memories for life.

 

Meeting with Open Kraków

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 Kraków, or Otwarty Kraków 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 Kraków program can be found on their official website.

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.

Living Library in Giebułtów

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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