«A mind that is stretched by a new experience can never go back to its old dimensions». This quote can fully express how I felt myself after taking part in the Erasmus+ project “Take an Active Role – Empower” that was held in Errenteria (Spain) from 15th till 21st of October. It wasn’t my first experience in youth exchange programs but definitely it was one of those special events that happens during your life and changes it in a better way.
To begin with, I must confess that my participation was really accidental and I got to know about this project only thanks to my good friend that advised me not to miss this coming opportunity. I guess it was some sort of fate, and I feel so privileged to have grabbed hold of it with both my hands! Before the project to start, I tried to avoid any kind of expectations and just to explore whatever would happen to me. I wanted to be a sort of blank sheet of paper, not influenced by anything or anyone. I was conscious about the fact that I would pass through the infinity of opportunities that would give me new feelings, emotions, the future growth and would help me to observe things in front of me with a better understanding and humility.
The basic topic chosen for this youth exchange, due to the increasing migration problem in Europe, was tolerance and discrimination. Taking into consideration the fact that our contemporary society is an abyss of different cultures, ethnicities, nationalities, races and religions that, obviously, can lead to different perception, including stereotyped or, even worth, stigmatized vision of others, it’s was important to enlighten this problem and to show that people should accept the diversities, be willing to listen, live and let others live.
Our trip to Errenteria was quite long and exhausted but when we finally arrived, it was really worth it. The venue was surrounding by pure and genuine nature: evergreen reality that absorbed us from the very first sight. I had the pleasure to meet the participants from Russia, Moldova, Romania and, of course, Spain. Our Italian team, as well, was quite heterogeneous and composed of different personalities with various personal backgrounds. The age range was so different but I think that it was one of those factors that helped us to obtain a wider prospective of the problems we had discussed. The constant confrontation between us was useful to understand and to deepen our knowledge on others traditions and values.
We had a very intense 5 days program based on informal education that included seminars, general discussions, tactical games and allowed us not only to express ourselves in front of others but to enhance our capacities and to strengthen our team spirit. It was crucial to let us better understand that everyone deserves to be respected, to be treated in a fear and objective way valuing the differences and eliminating cultural gaps that may occur. On our day off we had a great opportunity to discover the Basque country, especially its heart San Sebastian that had so much to show us and to offer. It gave us unforgettable moments to remember and to take with us back home.
All new places, all new people you meet on your way touch your inner world, influence your opinions, your life beliefs, your attitudes, your priorities and partially change them forever. This experience wasn’t just a normal exchange taken between different people from different nations but it meant something more: all of us lived, discussed, sang, danced, perceived, listened, opened mind to the immense flaw of information. “The purpose of life, after all, is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience”…So THANK YOU for everything!
Iuliana Chaplygina (Italy)