YES: Open your eYES

Source: Lars Mareé

Imagine! You are casually chilling on your couch when a message comes in offering you a ten-day trip abroad for free. You might not believe it, but it happened to me this autumn. Deciding on going or not wasn’t easy due to my board duties here in Groningen. Nevertheless, having consulted my board members and those of former boards, I decided to go. Just over a week and 3000 kilometers further, I was standing in the midst of Greece’s capital: Athens!

My trip was all about the Youth for European Solidarity (YES) project. It being a joint effort of various NGOs, students from six countries were present in Athens. Besides the Dutch team, I got to meet students from France, Greece, Italy, Lithuania, and Romania. Even though I had already met two girls on my departure from the Netherlands, it felt like the first day of high school walking into our hotel on the first day. Soon I met the other participants and especially the Italian boys with whom I would be sharing my room for ten days. 

About the level of the project, I’ll have to be honest with you: in my opinion the project was not challenging enough. The debates that were part of the program did unfortunately not lead to an interactive atmosphere. Many assignments had to do with visualising ideas, which is for sure a good starting point. Nevertheless, the overall program, in my opinion, lacked an exchange of perspective and challenge of our perceptions that I had expected. Herein, I understand that speaking English is not second nature for all students. However, I think the project could have encouraged the participants more to go into debate.

Luckily, there are many more positive things to mention! One of my friends said to me: ‘Maybe you weren’t there to learn new skills, but to teach skills to others. In hindsight, she was completely right. The vibe in the group was very inclusive, which made it easy to have valuable conversations and to grow closer to each other. The project enhanced my listening and advisory skills, as much as it helped develop my intercultural competencies. I sincerely hope that I have helped others to be themselves in this group, like I was myself. Never could I have imagined that the whole group would be cheering ‘Laureeent!’ wherever I went.

All in all, it was an experience that was as intense as it was fun. I made very good friends in this project and felt a connection with students from other nationalities. Especially that is what I, as European Affairs Director value so much! Not only Erasmus+ but certainly AEGEE too offers this opportunity to its members. I would encourage you all to join European events whether it be a New Years Event or an Agora! 

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