Compartir in Spanish means “to share”, as I recently got to learn. Just keep that in mind and we’ll come back to it later. This Youth Exchange was about social inclusion through art; exploring the issue of social inclusion through different forms of art to be exact! The goal was to raise our awareness about the topic of social inclusion and how to use arts as a method of fighting discrimination, as well as building a unified society, using art as a tool, to narrow the gap among people of different cultures, generations, religious beliefs, sexual orientation, and all sorts of diverse backgrounds in general.
For the duration of the programme, we had energizers, ice-breakers, group building activities and international events to create a strong group; we had the opportunity to develop our artistic skills, to learn more around discrimination, social inclusion and human rights, as well as compare the above issues to our national contexts. We touched upon all that through the tools of music, theatre, creative writing and storytelling, debate, drawing, and photography. Finally, by the end of the exchange, we had to collectively develop and present a final performance to the local community; a performance that contained the experience of all of us participants in this intercultural exchange; and in which we had to share in some way what we had gained from taking part in this mobility project, so as to spread the results of it with our ideas and input on the topic, in order to raise awareness to a wider community of people who have not taken part in the specific project. Therefore, the initial aim of the project, the promotion of arts as a tool for social inclusion, really worked to not only join people from 6 different countries, but also to include the community of Lorca.
When I first came upon the topic of this project, I did not hesitate to apply right away. Having recently graduated from English language and literature I will therefore soon work around young people as an educator. It goes without saying that creating an inclusive environment for all is of utmost importance in any educational setting. So, what I personally achieved through this project was, among others, to draw from the whole process educational strategies for social inclusion; through art and creativity of course, which by nature bring people closer. I got to see how we can use arts as a method of fighting discrimination, and by the end of it, I confirmed my belief that artistic expression itself is a vehicle for inclusion.
As for my personal role as a co-group leader of the Greek team, it was my first time taking part in a youth exchange as a team leader, and I have to admit, despite all my initial fears and reservations, it was an edifying and somewhat enlightening experience for me. Being a rather shy and reserved person, I believed I had little to none leadership skills before setting off to this exchange. And even though, I couldn’t claim that I have particularly developed myself in that respect, as I don’t believe one’s character is an easy thing to change, what I can say, is that the responsibilities that come with this role, “forced” me in a way, to develop a bit the spirit of initiative and involvement. Together, with my fellow co-leader, Elisavet, we had the tasks of arranging some procedural issues for the travel, organizing some activities for the group, as well as coordinating the reflection process at the end of each day. The members of our reflection group were encouraged to reflect on their individual progress and to address us for any bliss or need! Even though this experience did not come without some amount of stress, I’d have to confess, it has actually given me a little bit more confidence than the amount I started with.
Having said that, if you're anything like me, one piece of advice: be bolder; Yes, I know one week is nowhere near enough, but try to get out of your comfort zone as early as possible, cause the exchange will fly away before you know it. It is just 10 days after all. Make the most of it!
So, if you ask me, I strongly believe that you, reading this right now, and all young people should participate in such projects at least once in their lifetime. I consider international youth exchange programs as a wonderful opportunity to get in touch with different cultures and become acquainted with other countries’ sets of customs and values. Such projects are a unique chance for young people to gather life experiences in the context of informal learning. After all, making young Europeans fall in love with each other’s countries and cultures, in such a short period of time, is one of the Erasmus wonders.
We all started as complete strangers, with so many differences, coming from so many different parts of Europe, but we soon realized, we have a lot more in common to unite us, than differences to divide us. We played together, we ate together, we partied together, we made fascinating discussions and learnt so many interesting things; and most of all, we shared! Because this is what this whole exchange, called “compartir”, was about. To share and connect with each other by simply expressing ourselves through art!
Erasmus Plus, Cazalla