di Federico Rubin – ( Torino ) grazie a Shata Diallo
Federico Rubin, 21 anni, vive in provincia di Torino. È socio fondatore di YOBBO ( since 2015 it is an informal group of youngesters aims to act against for exclusion, social marginalization and to promote active citizenship) https://www.facebook.com/YouthBeyondBorders/ . Federico è partito per diversi scambi Erasmus+. In quest’ultimo Work It Out è andato come Group Leader. Tale scambio sì è svolto in Repubblica Ceca ed ha affrontato il tema della disoccupazione.
Most of the time, when I tell my friends “I’m going abroad for an Exchange!” the first thing they ask me is “Then, are you going to host someone else from another country?” HELL NO! Then, what is an International Exchange, European Exchange, Youth Exchange (call it as you please)? First of all, I would define it as a great opportunity for personal growth, but let’s start from the beginning. An Exchange happens within European citizens and in European countries; it’s one of the many projects funded by Erasmus+ and it usually lasts between one and two weeks. Every Exchange has a main topic, around which the whole project will rotate. There are several possible topics, such as entrepreneurship, employability, art, nature, religion, sport and many others. For the whole duration of the project, many people – usually up to 50 – will live together in the same place, doing activities somehow related to the topic. Those activities are not in the shape of “formal education”, as a University course, but they will follow the rules of the “learning by doing”, meaning that the activity itself will create outcomes that will be the actual learning. There will be games, workshops, outdoor activities, manual ones, teamwork, presentations, but generally, it really depends on the chosen project.
A very important and formative (and I would say tough) part of the whole exchange is the “living together” part. On one side it can be very amusing, pleasing and a great way to get to know each other, but it can turn also into a situation with interpersonal conflicts. The useful skill that participants will acquire is conflict management and, even more important, the “getting out of the comfort zone”. This last one is probably the main reason why I keep participating in such projects.
The “normal” life, made of the same routine repeated day after day, creates a whole shield around you that stiffens your mindset. Thanks to this kind of exchanges you get to know different cultures, you interact with people who think in a different way, you do things you would have never thought of doing and by all that, you are kicked out of your comfort zone and you start to appreciate many more things about the surrounding life (pineapple pizza is not one of those). Having the possibility of meeting people from other countries and being able to have a cultural comparison with them it’s not something that happens every day and it’s important to understand not only what we have in common but also what differentiates us from each other. Now, talking about business, there’s just one thing to say: it’s free. These projects are funded by the European Commission and the travel costs will be reimbursed, whereas there are no expenses for the room and board. This is what I mean by Exchange.
Now, let’s take an example: Work It Out, the Czech Republic 2019.
This exchange was focused on disoccupation, employability, and entrepreneurship. We were based at Dobra Voda, a building in the village of Kožichovice, in the Czech Republic. We were about 35 people and, apart from the local Czechs, the participants involved were from Lithuania, Bulgaria, Romania, Greece, and Italy. The opening activities in the Exchanges are always “ice-breaking” ones, in order to get to know each other a bit better. Then, the nature of the rest of the project really depends on the topic, the participants and the needs. For instance, a highly appreciated activity was the discussion after a TED talk, which could be done in small groups or in pairs. Moreover, we represented the national situation about employability in the form of theatre; we have been given tools from the trainers, we had team-building activities, games in the wood and much more. We also had the opportunity of visiting companies and small businesses, in order to understand how they really work, interviewing managers and employees. This last one was very inspirational because we saw the work reality first-hand, in a very tangible way. This is why such projects can enhance your employability: they let you touch the real world, which is not made just by books, grades, and degrees. The biggest issue with Exchanges is time: if flies in the blink of an eye and without even noticing the project is over and you are back to the normal life (if you do not get stuck at the airport as it happened to many of us). Then, what really remains is a memory, a great memory. There is always something that strikes you, that will be “the thing” from that Exchange.
From Work It Out I must say the reflection groups and how it evolved. At the end of the day, we used gathered in small groups and think about what happened throughout the day, sharing our fears, emotions, joyful moments and sad ones. I must say that it was a very “emotional” group and it was such because we trusted each other. I usually refer to the Exchanges as brackets in someone’s life; brackets filled with people, laughs, tears, emotions, skills and wonderful memories.