Youthnetwork Reloaded was held in Finland, in the Sammalniemi natural reserve, from September 26th to October 7th 2019.
During the 12-day project, a group of 7 young people from Cinisello Balsamo (Ada, Andrea, Caterina, Rebecca, Iris, Sofia and Giulia) had the opportunity to live with 15 other young people from Romania and Finland within an hostel in the middle of woodland, 7 km far from the first township, working on the theme of climate change through non-formal education methods.
In particular, the participants took part in artistic workshops directed by international masters, and prepared a performance that was presented in a local school, in the presence of the students at the end of the experience.
In order to participate, it wasn’t necessary to have artistic skills, as each workshop had the characteristic of being accessible to everyone…the only necessary element was the desire to get involved and experiment with new activities.
Among the facilitators who led the artistic workshops there was Mattia Venturella, 25 years old from Cinisello Balsamo, who became workshop-leader within international projects after taking part in several Exchanges as a participant (the first time, at the age of 16, in a project promoted by the Municipality of Cinisello Balsamo). After following a training course in this field and developing his musical skills, Mattia decided to experiment himself the role of leader, combining his work with the passion for intercultural experiences.
At the end of the experience, the European Youthpass certificate, which attests to participation in the Exchange and highlights the skills developed through the activities, was released.
The project was part of an initiative promoted by the Drums for Peace network, a network of European organizations that works to promote participation and inclusion of young people through artistic instruments.
For those who are still undecided about the idea of taking part in a Youth Exchange experience, here are the words of the participants who recently returned from Finland.
Ada: “During my experience in Finland, I felt like I was in a family. Most of the participants were helpful, kind and cordial so I was able to make friends. I already follow the Romanians and Finns on Instagram and I plan to stay in touch especially with the Finns Oona (group leader), Elsa and Minttu and the Romanians Eugeniu and Amy. I never felt judged, even though I was afraid of it. The music workshop I attended was fun, also thanks to Mattia, who is very nice and sweet. The final performance was magical and I really felt the group work. I had fun during the warming ups with other participants and during the forest walks. It was nice to be all together at the table eating and I tried new things like canoeing or roasting marshmallows at the bonfire. Slowly I started to open up and express myself in English to others and it came naturally. I had a wonderful relationship with our group leader Giulia, who was always there for me in the good times, but especially when I was struggling. Needless to say, the time flew by and on the last day, at the moment of saying goodbye, I was moved. I recommend my peers to have this experience because it helps you grow: I really hope to be able to do other exchanges. Above all, I feel a little more confident and a lot more independent.”
Rebecca: “During this experience I had so much fun and learned many things. I became more independent and less shy. In those days I met new people with different cultural backgrounds and customs from mine, that I appreciated so much. I enjoyed being together and sharing my thoughts with other kids and hearing theirs. I felt right away at ease with other participants and they were all (some more than others) kind and welcoming. I would absolutely recommend this experience because only those who experience it can understand..”
“Considering this experience, the things that I appreciated the most and that were useful to me are these: independence: for the first time I was abroad alone, without my family. I had to manage myself in things, situations and relationships without having the external guides I usually have (parents, teachers); I challenged myself in speaking English and I overcame the fear of not understanding or not being understood; I was "forced" to get involved with new people and experiences. I am a bit closed-minded, and so for me it was an important challenge; I understood more and better the issue of climate change, beyond the slogans that risk seeming only "fashionable"; I enjoyed the beauty of the places I saw. Being in that natural environment was very beautiful, it was different.
I thank everyone, including Elisa, for the opportunity. I hope to experience other similar occasions. I will be less scared to say yes…”
Andrea: “This October I had the opportunity to take part in a cultural exchange organized by Eurodesk in Finland, more precisely in the area north of Tampere. We stayed in wooden cottages built on the shores of a lake, in the middle of the forest. The forest is a magical place, far from the chaotic city life and from all those things that make our lives standardized, for these reasons I was able to get out of my comfort zone and make new friends with European peers.
The fact that I spent most of my time with two Finnish girls gave me the opportunity to live these twelve days just like a native: eating tons of sour cream and soups, bathing in the frozen lake after the sauna, going into the woods even at night, but most of all thinking in a more open way and not putting my own thoughts at the centre of everything, but having an overall view.
Moreover, during our time in Finland we organized a show on environmental issues that we showed in a local school and I hope it made the students as aware as possible of these issues.
I really think I would do this experience again, despite the fact that when I came back I had to struggle to catch up with school, because I learned a lot more things this way than by studying pages and pages of books and I feel like I would recommend everyone to try at least once in their life such an experience because it will mark you forever.”
Iris: “I learned to let my emotions flow, to share and listen, to try; I understood that together we can achieve great results and that English is not an insuperable limit but we just have to get involved. It was a wonderful experience, together with beautiful people with whom I felt good, it is indescribable what you feel. That’s why I recommend it to my peers, if you go with the right spirit it’s an experience that can give you so much.”