A short break in studying or after exams, holidays from work, a few weeks before the thesis defense or the beginning of a new job – each of us was in a different situation, but we all decided to use this time in the same way – to develop our knowledge, acquaintances and visit a region that was still unknown for us. The youth exchange EU+Tolerant in Romania organized by the United Youth for Educational Development was an ideal option for spending 11 days between October and November 2018 productively. We went through the 4YOUth Foundation recruitment, packed our suitcases and set off!
Already at the first meeting in the parking lot in Cluj-Napoca and on the bus on the way to the project site – Poiana Negrii in the Romanian Carpathians – it was known that we would create a great team. Each subsequent day of the exchange only showed us how much we have in common with the other participants – from Romania, Italy, Portugal, Great Britain and Slovakia.
Every day we raised the topic of the exchange – tolerance, but each time in a different way – the form of learning about this subject was not only discussions and debates, but also real social actions. Informal conversations and discussion panels were a good way to learn the problems of tolerance in other countries and cultures as well as to compare our opinions and ways of looking. The debates helped us present arguments – prepared earlier and supported by strong evidence, in a formal way and with respect towards the other side.
Definitely the biggest emotions were provided to us in the form of the contact with the locals during the “Free hugs” action which took place in a nearby town, Vatra Dornei. We all stood on the main bridge with the inscription “Sunt om, ofera mi imbratisare” (I am a human, hug me) and we encouraged passers-by to cross the barrier of closeness with strangers and hug us. The Romanian community was very warm and open. At first timidly, but with every minute more dynamically, we started a truly exhilarating action in which it was very nice to be found.
This event was our first trip from our small, peaceful village. The second one was a touring trip, during which we had the opportunity to see churches and monasteries in the region of Suceava. The cultural richness turned out to be unexpectedly interesting and impressive. It is not without reason that the painted churches of the northern Moldova are inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The last stop were the ruins of the castle from the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, in which the atmosphere of the Middle Ages has survived to this day.
An excellent opportunity to get to know the countries of the other participants were cultural evenings where teams presented their traditions, served delicacies and drinks brought from their homelands and invited the other to dance together to traditional music. As a Polish team, we conducted a knowledge quiz about our country, danced polonaise with the other participants, we conducted games known from Polish wedding parties, we served some Polish food to our friends and at the end we all had fun with popular Polish music.
This exchange program also allowed us to develop artistically. A great example of this were mini theater performances we presented, concerning the subject of the project, as well as videos on preparation of which one day of the exchange was dedicated. Each of the groups did their best, and the videos we created were of very high quality – both in the content and artistic terms. As an expression of appreciation for the creators of the best recordings and for the best actors, after a solemn presentation on the Oscar night and the voting, statuettes were awarded.
In summary, the whole project gave us, besides a great time, a lot of new experiences and knowledge. We broadened our horizons learning new points of view and sharing knowledge – both with people not previously associated with the topic, as well as with activists in this field. It was not easy to say goodbye to the people we met there, from whom we learned so much and who made a visible contribution to our lives. However, with this newly acquired knowledge, we can now continue to go into the world, to return to our duties and to take on new challenges, using actively the fruits of industriously spent project time.