The exchange "Empower Vulnerable Youth: Theater, Creative Writing and Emotions in Focus" is the second part of a two-phase project organized by the Belgian association Art of the Box with the collaboration of Volunteers Center Skopje NGO. Their participants tell us in this joint chronicle (so well told by Emma, the group leader) how was their experience in the project: the fears with which they were, what they learned, the activities they did and how it was, in general, this experience that changed their lives.
It can not be.
Those three words accompanied me for weeks. When I learned about the project, I couldn't believe it. It could not be that they gave me the opportunity to go to a foreign country, to learn, to meet new people ... and with all the expenses covered! Ten days in Belgium, with people from different countries of Europe, doing theater and creative writing workshops ... Sounds idyllic, but when you're less than a day of living that (wonderful) madness, nerves take hold of you. Only doubts arose, will I integrate? Can I overcome the language barrier?
All those questions disappeared at the first moment we stepped on what would be our house the next ten days. Suddenly I was in a hostel in the middle of the forest and surrounded by people I didn't know at all, people who without realizing it would become the only thing I would really care about during those days. It was so amazing that it didn't seem real. I remember the initial fear erasing as I talked to the people there. We are too different, I thought. And it was true: we were. But that is what made connecting them even more special. The cultural shock was somewhat difficult at first. I had never related to people from so many different countries, and almost without realizing it, I found myself immersing myself in different cultures, learning single words in different languages, learning about the geography, politics and culture of other countries, communicating without words, singing songs and dancing foreign dances.
The different games and workshops we held during the first days helped us a lot to connect with the rest of the participants and start to get to know each other better. Activities of the most dynamic and participatory. Without a doubt, our favorite, the storytelling workshop, in which we learned to tell stories captivatingly, and we reflected this in the presentation of our small theater about Sant Jordi in a youth center in the area. The spare time allowed us to meet and discover wonderful people, with whom we had the opportunity to spend hours and hours playing table football, cards, partying, knowing more about their cultures or even sharing personal experiences.
Five days later, halfway through the project, I felt as if I had been in that house my whole life. I remember looking around me, the walls with the activities written on them, the envelopes with our names and the notes that our classmates were leaving us, the windows that showed a snowy landscape, the activities that made us laugh and forget about shame and the differences between us. It seemed impossible that, just a week ago, we were all unknown.
The experience at Lokeren has been fantastic for many reasons; You know a lot of people from different countries, but the best thing about it was that we all became the same place there. It was something like creating a big family. Our group, the Spaniards, made a great pineapple, it seemed we had known each other for a long time. Between us we had very deep conversations because we show our feelings and help each other through advice or only with hugs. I will never forget our moments playing the drums around the bonfire, when we had to clean the kitchen but we ended up singing and dancing, and everything I learned from each and every one of them. We were very different people, but that was not an impediment. I think that one of the most important things this project has taught me has been to appreciate the differences and learn from them.
The farewell was bittersweet; sad to know that it was over, but happy because we knew that this was not the end. I miss Lokeren but you will always be there, with me, as the greatest and most beautiful experience that you can live with a group of strangers who are now so familiar to me. We made a promise: we will see each other again. What we started with fear and insecurity ended up being one of the best experiences of our lives. We are sure that we will fulfill what was promised.
To this day, I look back with affection and nostalgia. I think of all the things I learned about myself and others, all the fears that disappeared, all the moments we lived ... Now I have bits of Belgium, Lokeren, Greece, Latvia, Croatia, Macedonia, Andalusia (and Ríotuerto too ), bits of all the people I met and all the memories we created, that will stay with me forever.
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youth exchange | juventud | intercambio | grupo | erasmus+ |