International exchanges are experiences that, once concluded, are difficult to tell to those who have not experienced them, but we are here to try.
The activities, places, realities and people from Hungary, Poland, Lithuania, Greece, Malta, Turkey and Italy have shared unforgettable moments and experiences that will inevitably remain with us in the form of bonds tied thousands of miles away and somehow will continue to influence our daily lives even when we return home.
In order to describe you the experience in the best way, we decided to let you hear the voice of each participant, from volunteers of Civil Service to the boys of our city, so … enjoy the reading!
“It’s difficult to explain in words what a cultural exchange is, because it’s a piece of life full of different facets and colours, of smiles and tears… But above all, of people. You come into contact with realities that we see as distant, but actually are just an inch from our eyes, so close that you can smell them.
It seems like being inside a film, with long speeches in front of a landscape, lots of laughter, words, thoughts and events that one after the other collect for a future. You understand, you learn, you are surprised, you get angry and much more.
You live a fast, dynamic and never boring life, just like in the movies. You live with strangers who later turn into friends, you learn lessons that cannot be learned in school, but only in life.
Because this experience gives you life.
I would call it more ’human exchange’ than ’cultural exchange’.”
- Ginevra, 19.
“When I left for this experience I absolutely didn’t know what to expect.
I was afraid: not of the English, not of the subject matter, not of being far from home, not of my classmates, but of myself. I was afraid of being alone, of not finding a point of contact, I was afraid of being judged, of not being able to contribute because I was blocked by fear, I was afraid of not being able to leave my comfort zone.
Imagine the scene: 40 strangers sitting in a circle staring at you, waiting for you to say something interesting to introduce yourself… Nothing could be more difficult for me, I have always been afraid of public speaking. My heart started pounding: at the same time I was trying to listen to the others and to find something sensible to say. And I succeeded.
The first time there was a discussion I knew I didn’t have to speak up, but at the same time I felt like I had something to say.
And I did.
As soon as I raised my hand I asked myself: “Why did I do that, why did I do that?”, but it was too late and I had to tell my opinion.
Everything was downhill then.
I started to talk, to take action, to be with others, to open up. I understood nobody would judge me, that I would have never been alone, that I could finally take a step towards others.
I didn’t want to miss anything, I didn’t want any regrets, I didn’t want any bad memories.
So I totally enjoyed the experience. There were games, debates, discussions, presentations, activities in small groups or all together.
I shared beautiful moments with people that were very different me, kilometers away (mentally and physically), but actually much closer than I could imagine.
I opened up, I let myself go and I regret nothing.
I have so many photos, so many memories, so many contacts.
I have new friends.
And, in some ways, I have a new me.”
- Silvia, 20
“What to say? This exchange modified the way I look at things, what I thought was my “my safe haven”, i.e home, and everything I thought I couldn’t do. It is different now.
This experience enabled me to see a new perspective of myself, the world around me, the cultures but above all the wonderful people that exist.
And despite the difficulties in communicating, due to my lack of English, there was never a moment in which I felt excluded or different, but on the contrary, perhaps because of this, I felt even closer to all the people around me.
A special thank is especially for the people in charge of this project who, when I thought I couldn’t do it, helped me and comforted me.
For these reasons I recommend everyone to take part in an exchange, to change your perspective about the world as I did.”
- Lucia, 21
“The exchange was an extraordinary experience from the cultural point of view, an immersive social experiment: live with people from different nationalities while discovering new cultures and traditions. I was amazed that there are so many open-minded and resourceful people.
It was an enlightening experience in a context that I’ve always wanted to tackle, I hope it was the first one and that more will follow.”
- Marco, 22
“The world of European mobilities is unknown to many people. It was unknown even to me until recently.
Measuring the impact that the opportunity to travel and get to know new people and realities had on my life is still impossible. But what is certain is that at the end of each trip I bring with me a slice of the world that I incorporate in my daily life, feeling more and more motivated to act towards concrete goals.
Hungary has always had a special place in my memory, but living it in a totally different way, working on important themes that you never have time to deal with in your everyday life, and with other people that share this passion is a small parenthesis in a crystal ball that you don’t want to get out of.
This time I promised myself to abandon all my fears in Italy, and to fully enjoy everything that was going to happen, and so it was; during this week I discovered that I appreciate sides of myself more than I thought, and on the contrary I found walls that I could not get around yet.
We were together with 6 other countries on the same journey, a considerable responsibility but an enormous satisfaction, I’m sure that as each of the participants left an indelible mark in my life that maybe I will rediscover even years later, the same goes for me in their regard.
I know well the fear you feel when you take a leap into the void, especially if you are alone, but if you too have that voice whispering to you to try new experiences, please listen to it and go!”
- Alessandro, 24