Hello, my dear colleagues!
If you are still in your late twenties, you are, of course, not as young as you used to be (teachers grow old in this profession just as dogs do, 7 years in just 1 year haha), but you still have a chance to participate in youth exchanges if you are based in Europe.
Since I love environmental education and nature, I decided to apply for this exchange in a spur of a moment, not even thinking that I may be selected to participate. I am happy I had a chance to go to Stockholm since it was an amazing experience!
In this post, I will focus on the main activities and the workshops we had, (I really hope to reuse some of them with my students), so I will write about Stockholm and the overall experience in Sweden in a separate post.
The exchange was amazing, and it was organized beautifully – we had a chance to spend time together, explore the nature around us, go sightseeing, and we had a lot of activities and workshops as well.
To remember our names, we played quite a lot of team-building activities. The activity you see below is really fun – a person is hidden behind a sheet, and when the sheet gets dropped, the person who guesses the name faster wins.
One day we had a great activity where we had to pick up the names written on a piece of paper from the floor until we collect all the names from another country’s team. We had to do it super fast, one by one – we ran to the center of the room where the papers were, and back to our place. The team which collected all the names first won.
Another ”let’s get to know each other” game included writing 3 things about yourself, while the other people have to guess which one is a lie.
One of the daily activities was ”the energizer” used to wake us up in the morning. The energizers were interesting, and they were done by people from different countries. Needles to say, I skipped it almost every time – some days I was at the preschool, doing research, and in general, I skipped it because I really dislike the early morning physical activities.
The most important collaborative daily activity was probably playing traditional games from our countries. We had a chance to play games from different countries and honestly, we had a lot of fun! I missed some of them since I spent 2 days in bed (I got a bit sick, and I spent my time reading in the little forest house), but the games I participated in were great! Sharing culture in this way and incorporating a full-body activity is a great way to get close to a certain culture.
The ”Iceberg of Culture” workshop was probably my favorite culture since it used a very good method to show what is considered a part of the culture of a nation, and how these aspects change their position when we compare different nations and traditions. We were divided into small groups, and we came from different countries so we had to discuss and elaborate on the position of certain aspects.
The factors on the tip of the iceberg are the things we usually notice when we meet someone, while the factors below the surface actually impact all the factors we see above. This was a very deep perspective that presented the idea of cultures in a completely innovative way. It also showed us that if we want to respect and promote different cultures, first we have to understand them.
My second favorite workshop was when we had a task to invent our own country, history, make a map, think about language, traditions, and customs. It was amusing, and I enjoyed the creative process. We even conducted a ritual of a coronation of a new ruler outside, while park visitors watched in ave (they probably thought we were a cult hahaha – it was extremely enjoyable, nonetheless).
The following activity was SO HILARIOUS, and we had so much fun doing it. We were forbidden to speak English, and we had to invent a human from the future, and their clothing style to illustrate our traditional clothes. There were also extra activities we didn’t complete. Our group had people from Bulgaria, Serbia, Italy, and Slovakia, so we were able to understand each other because our languages share similar roots since we are all Slavic. I communicated with the girl from Italy in Spanish, and we got along surprisingly well! It was funny and beyond hard to surpass the language barrier at first. We also managed to design the creature from the future, but I can’t find any photos of it, so I am sharing a creature from the other group. (The picture below is probably one of the best things that happened in the workshops hahaha).
The workshop dealing with gender identity, diversity, and the sensitive social groups sadly happened during the two days I spent in bed, but I was still able to get a grasp about the workshop flow based on the photos.
I am really happy that this topic was brought up since most of the participants were under 20 years old, which makes them perfect candidates for discussing social diversity and inclusion, and hopefully doing something to promote these values and help people in their community afterward.
The activities that I probably liked the most (except the workshops) were the ones where we were practicing each other’s names and separating into random groups or teams – those activities could definitely be used in the classroom for group work, warm-ups, and classroom management. It’s really a shame I forgot most of them – I was not writing them down since the days were too hectic.
I forgot to mention that we were located in Hellasgarden, a beautiful natural reserve in Stockholm, and our camp houses were situated in a small woods, so we spent a lot of time outside, sunbathing. We also shared our little houses with people from other countries, had all meals together, and even showered in a big joint shower next to the spa. It was a bit crazy in the beginning, but then it became a routine for all of us. Another thing I forgot to mention was washing the dishes on schedule and also cooking traditional food from all the countries, although I believe that only Bulgaria and Italy did it.
The intercultural night was the peak of the project – I was sadly in bed with my 7th cup of tea, and I just dropped by shortly for a refill. It was a party where every country had a table with souvenirs, food, and snacks. I believe they listened to music from all the countries and had some traditional and modern dances.
One of the final activities included reflection done in groups – creating a photo album, writing a text for social media in all languages, and then translating it to English, making a video, and creating a newsletter.
Click on the photo below to be taken to the online reflection album the group created together. 🙂
Finally, here is a photo of the full team – the participants of the project came from Slovakia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Austria Sweden, and Italy. ♥
During the project, I also spent time in a preschool in Stockholm to continue my academic research about environmental education at the preschool level. I was mind blown by the quality of their curriculum! You can read more about it here:
At the end of the project, all of the participants received Youth Pass certificates for informal personal development. Being an adult teacher, this certificate does not mean much to me, but it is certainly valuable for teenagers. Additional page of the Youth Pass also included reflection about specific 21st-century skills such as literacy, mathematical skills, communication, critical thinking, collaboration, creativity, and last but not least, digital literacy.
Even though I really don’t need that kind of certificate (I have participated in tons of personal and professional development programs), I can’t deny the impact this project had on all of us.Not everything was perfect, but we all developed as individuals, improved our language skills, communicational skills, and most of all, we had a chance to meet a lot of people and discuss current topics in the workshops. I firmly believe that Youth Exchanges make participants grow faster than they would in their country, while also making them feel less isolated when it comes to certain cultural and social issues they encounter daily.
Have you ever participated in a Youth Exchange? What impact this exchange had on you as an individual? If you haven’t been a part of an exchange, would you love to and why?