“Erasmus+ is an experience of sensations. Explore them, whenever you are ready.” – Antonis Stylianou

Joining my first Erasmus+ project started as a mere curiosity. To escape Cyprus, to discover another part of Europe, to learn more about others, but more importantly, to learn more about myself. They say you never forget your first time – and it’s true.

Destination: Madrid.

I started travelling alone, taking an intercity bus from Nicosia to Limassol, from Limassol to Paphos airport, then a flight to Girona, another bus to Barcelona, stayed at a hostel for 3 days and explored the whole city on my own. Then, I took an 8-hour all-night bus to Madrid, had my wallet stolen at the arrival station, communicated with non-English-speaking police, filed an insurance report, and got lost trying to find the other participants. All this, before even joining my first project. I started travelling alone, but by the end of that week, I met a group of strangers who soon were friends (and we still keep in touch, 8 years later), supporting each other and creating a positive atmosphere. My wallet was stolen, but I still had a big bottle of Zivania – and by “crowdfunding” shots, I returned home safely and on time.

Having learned a lot from this first experience, one week later I was at Larnaca airport, off to my next destination. And soon after, several projects followed. Within Erasmus+ I did not just discover Europe – after all, this is not a tourist agency. I heard the voice of young people, I debated at the seats of the European Parliament, exchanged views with people from different cultures, tasted the unique flavours of local delicacies, smelled the freshly made products from a village, saw the four seasons from the four corners of our continent.

Erasmus+ is an experience of sensations. Explore them, whenever you are ready.

The first contact with the European programs

My name is Klea Neophytou and I am 27 years old. I obtained my bachelor’s degree in Biological Sciences and my Master’s degree in Food Technology. However, for some time I was unemployed and with little experience in my field of study. Due to the high unemployment rate that our country presents, and due to the lack of opportunities in several areas of work, most young people are forced to emigrate abroad.

In 2018, after countless attempts to find a job in Cyprus and quite disappointed, I joined the non-profit organization CCIF CYPRUS (https://www.ccifcyprus.com) first as a volunteer and then as a Youth Worker. I took the decision to join CCIF Cyprus, after a conversation I had with a friend of mine who was a mentor to this organization.

The organization was my support throughout my career, gave me the opportunity to travel and make new friends. To gain knowledge and skills in the business industry and most importantly to discover myself. In addition, they helped me learn my positives and negatives through the seminars and workshops I attended. Finally, I acquired business knowledge and skills that helped me find a job and become more dynamic as a person and as a professional.

As a Youth Worker I joined several Erasmus + projects, such as Plan Learn Act for Neet, the Citizens are United, Cross the Bridge, MyTownYourTown, European Cultural Heritage Enterprise (ECHE) and many more. In conclusion I acquired skills in programs such as CANVAS, VISUAL COMMUNICATION, PERSONAL BRANDING, VIDEO EDITING PRINCIPLES and more other.

“There are many ways through which one person can experience the beauty of the world, but ERASMUS is the best!” ~ Theognosia Petrou

My name is Theognosia Petrou and I am currently working as a Project Manager/ Researcher the Center for the Advancement of Research & Development in Educational Technology (CARDET).

Due to my work, I have the opportunity to travel very often and to meet with people from different countries, exchange practices, ideas and knowledge and to experience new adventures across the world. However, nothing compares to my first travel experience through ERASMUS where I had the opportunity to witness a whole new world for myself.

Czech Republic, and more specifically Prague was the first destination at which I got to travel and live by myself, out of my comfort zone during my ERASMUS studies. Studying in that dazzling city for six months, I had the chance to meet and connect with young people coming from different cultural backgrounds and at the same time to get familiar with the idea of living abroad and becoming more independent as a person.

Sundays were always special for us since we would gather with all our friends/ neighbors living at the same floor in our dormitories to have a ‘family’ dinner together. A person (or two) coming from the same country would cook a traditional dish from their country and share this with the rest of us.

When I had to cook -along with my other Cypriot roommate, we decided that it would be a great idea to cooperate with our friend from Turkey who was also living at the same floor with us. In that way, we did not only prepare a beautiful dinner for our neighbors but we also proved that ERASMUS is another opportunity for people to come close and remember what connects them rather than what other people decided to divide them.

Travelling might be one of the best forms of education that empowers young people to integrate more easily to their social environment, grow and become more independent. I will always be grateful for this experience and the opportunity that Europe offered to us since that experience was the first step to many more that I dared to take afterwards in my life.

There are many ways through which one person can experience the beauty of the world, but ERASMUS is the best!

Organization: CARDET

My Experience with Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs project

My name is Eliza Kozakou and I am from Cyprus. On 2018 I got the opportunity to take part In the project Erasmus for Young Entrepreneurs. I have heard about this project from a friend who already participated in the project before an she was so excited about it. This project is designed for upcoming young entrepreneurs who want to expand their knowledge and skill with an experienced entrepreneur in another country. All it takes to be part in this project is a motivation and a business plan. Also  am a person really into non formal education, theater and social inclusion, I decided to write by own business plan for an Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) I was dreaming about.

Luckily I got accepted and the summer of 2018 for three months I was located in Barcelona Spain hosted by an experienced entrepreneur. Those three months of my life were so fruitful as I got the opportunity to work in an multicultural environment working for young people . Of course the experience of this project allowed me to explore Spain, get to know Spanish and embrace their culture.

Opportunities like these should be known to youngsters as the give them the ability  to expand theirs skills, spirit and create strong friendships and networks with inspiring people around Europe.

Organization: PlanBe, Plan it Be it

 

 

 

 

‘Dare to be there.’ ~ Kyriakos Platou

September 2014 – Few months ago I graduated from University with a BA degree in Byzantine and modern Greek language. And what next? I am trying to find some new opportunities to escape for a while, so I applied and started the procedure for joining Erasmus placement, an opportunity for a job practice after the graduation. In the meantime out of nowhere, I randomly find out, through Facebook, an urgent call for a ”Youth exchange” in Croatia! The subject its youth employment through traditions and all expenses are covered! I said ”well, I have no clue whats a Youth exchange, but why not? I have nothing to lose, only an opportunity to escape, at least for a while. It was that urgent that in 5 days I should be ready to fly! I applied, I received a call and an email from the sending organisation, PlanBe! And there started everything! It was Wednesday and on Sunday I was in the departures area in the airport meeting the rest of the Cyprus team, except one! A flight to Belgrade and from there a train to the Croatian city Nowa Gradiska. Cypriots arrived first in the venue, so we decided to go for a walk in the city. Very small city, almost nothing was moving around. And then alone in my thought! Why am here? am already feeling a little bit weird.

Same day late afternoon the rest of participants started coming. The atmosphere became a little playful, a lot of colors of voices, laughs and talks! Among the participants I heard a voice from the back, ‘Hey Kyriakos, I am Maria am part of your team and I will be facilitator in the exchange!’ At that moment I only knew that I met the president of PlanBe, what I didn’t know it was that I met a future real friend, with who I would have the chance to work along! The next days I was about to learn more about what’s in reality a youth exchange, what is non formal education, what is Erasmus+ all about and what is this whole new world I was introduced to.

And the last day arrived. I couldn’t believe that I was so connected with some people that I didn’t want this to finish! I knew, though, that some of them I would meet them in Cyprus, so I said that was it, and it was amazing! If I have to put all in one, and to compress my whole experience in one sentence it would be ‘Dare to be there’.

Kyriakos Platou

Sending Organization: PlanBe, Plan it Be it

‘The consumable goods will be forgotten, but the feelings some people gave you will never!’ ~ Anna Christou

Participating in the project “Body and Minds in Action” at Skopje in the Nothern Macedonia wasn’t just a vacation or a way of spending my time in another country. It was a challenge and a chance to get out of my comfort zone. Unknown country, unknown people and unknown environment. Honestly, I was thinking to reject this challenge as I was facing some difficulties. After all, I managed to get over the obstacles which occurred and take the risk.

I have to say, it was one of the best decisions of my life. I learned a lot of things which I would never learn if I hadn’t participated in the project. I tasted food which I would never had the chance to taste. I went to places where I didn’t know they are exist. But the most important thing, is not the food, the stuff I bought or the things I have learnt, but the people I met.

Wonderful, magnificent people all over the world who spread their love everyday and every moment we shared together. Laughter, compassion, happiness are the feelings I get from them. I will never forget the moment we had to say the big goodbye. I was happy but sad the same time. But I am optimistic because we took a promise. Cyprus, Latvia, Spain, Russia, Azerbaijan, Poland, Ukraine, Macedonia, Moldova will meet again! It’s not a dream, it is confirmed!

I have a quote of my life that it follows and leading me every single day. The consumable goods will be forgotten, but the feelings some people gave you will never! I take this state and I will continue my life as a global citizen who is trying to meet new people who will give me the feeling this project gave me. So, if you love travel and create new experience, take the risk and participate in these programmes and I am sure you will never regret it!

“ESC adds great values and experiences to you and your life.” ~ Bugche Bozkurt

Hey There! My name is Bugche and I will be sharing my ESC experience;

The short-term ESC at SYNCRO, Croatia was a wonderful experience. Mostly in terms of gaining Social and Civic competences. Living with wonderful people altogether sharing everything like a family I think was the best part of this experience as well as the hardest. Spending quality time with people all over the Europe was very helpful in terms of breaking cultural boundaries that I was curious on. I will be forever grateful.
However in terms of work I also had some precious experiences, I overcame my fear for working with children and it was very joyful to prepare workshop as well as participate at the other team members’ workshops. The time I spend at JRS (Jesuit Refugee Service) was very important for me. The youth I worked with there and the way of expression and comfort that was born after well-communication made me realize I can do every possible cultural and creative event/project or activity I want with any diverse group.
I also had great time at workshops we refer at SYNCLOUD. This was more community focused youth workshops but most importantly it was where all the volunteers were together. Synclouds were in a way our teambuilding exercises which got us closer to each other. I enjoyed every part of it.

Everything about SYNCRO and the ESC project ‘CHANGE’ was once in a life-time kind of experience and from the bottom of my heart I really appreciate the effort of everyone who took part in every event and shared memories with me for the past 2 months. I strongly believe everyone needs an experience as such. It was scary to think we would share 10 people on living space, in a country with different life style different culture and have the energy to work with kids and pensioners at the same time… yet it felt like a big bubble of unknown but once I started working and living here I was scared that the end will come which it eventually did. As I said I will be forever grateful and thankful for everything.
I strongly believe every young person deserves such a life changing experience and it is great to be scared to try such opportunities, no matter how experienced you are in life you gain new values. I believe this is one of the most important things we need to consider, our experiences makes us who we are and believe me ESC adds great values and experiences to you and your life.

‘Knowledge had become experience.’ ~ Anna Michael

EVS Realm: Masters of the Learning Path – June 2018

My first participation at a European Program was a phone call away from the organizer. He called to ask if I’m interested in participating at a training about mentorship that would take 5 days at a remote village in Paphos. Without even thinking about it I said yes. A few days later, my path lead me to the village Lysos. A traditional stone-built village in Paphos, where residents still know each other. They meet early in the morning at traditional cafes before going to work and offer free coffee to their guests.

There I was, at 8am at the square of the village surrounded by people from all over Europe. Before I even realize what is happening I would find myself discussing why I would be the magician in an imaginary kingdom.

With the support of 3 experienced trainers and many talented and amazing volunteers from the European voluntary service, I begun to feel inspired within a very short period of time, to learn and to plan my next steps. I found myself playing like a child as well as discussing important terminologies such as ‘Youth mobility’, ‘solidarity’ and our ‘role as mentors’. In addition, using non-formal educational methodologies, tools and the energy of everyone there, we recreated knowledge and we were equipped with tools for life.

I met wonderful people with whom we shared similar vision about how we wanted to support youth. Our conversations were unique and deep.  We naturally talked and shared experiences about youth unemployment and how we, as mentors, can support them as well as what has worked up to now.  Meanwhile, another connection came to fruition, the one with the residents of the village Lysos. Besides the friendships that hold up to this day, I felt as if I had a new home; a shelter which I knew that whenever I want, I can go and visit Mrs. Maria and Mr. Christakis and share more beautiful moments with them.

Knowledge had become experience.

As I design my own trainings now, I often look back and ask how can I develop knowledge through the experience of people and to make them feel inspired and connected to one another? They say that knowledge occurs when the behavior or thought has changed. Well, after this experience I certainly didn’t stay the same. The training, the people and Lysos village have now a special place in my heart as they have carved my path and who I am today.

Anna Michael

Career Counsellor

‘Knowledge had become experience.’ ~ Anna Michael

EVS Realm: Masters of the Learning Path – June 2018

My first participation at a European Program was a phone call away from the organizer. He called to ask if I’m interested in participating at a training about mentorship that would take 5 days at a remote village in Paphos. Without even thinking about it I said yes. A few days later, my path lead me to the village Lysos. A traditional stone-built village in Paphos, where residents still know each other. They meet early in the morning at traditional cafes before going to work and offer free coffee to their guests.

There I was, at 8am at the square of the village surrounded by people from all over Europe. Before I even realize what is happening I would find myself discussing why I would be the magician in an imaginary kingdom.

With the support of 3 experienced trainers and many talented and amazing volunteers from the European voluntary service, I begun to feel inspired within a very short period of time, to learn and to plan my next steps. I found myself playing like a child as well as discussing important terminologies such as ‘Youth mobility’, ‘solidarity’ and our ‘role as mentors’. In addition, using non-formal educational methodologies, tools and the energy of everyone there, we recreated knowledge and we were equipped with tools for life.

I met wonderful people with whom we shared similar vision about how we wanted to support youth. Our conversations were unique and deep.  We naturally talked and shared experiences about youth unemployment and how we, as mentors, can support them as well as what has worked up to now.  Meanwhile, another connection came to fruition, the one with the residents of the village Lysos. Besides the friendships that hold up to this day, I felt as if I had a new home; a shelter which I knew that whenever I want, I can go and visit Mrs. Maria and Mr. Christakis and share more beautiful moments with them.

Knowledge had become experience.

As I design my own trainings now, I often look back and ask how can I develop knowledge through the experience of people and to make them feel inspired and connected to one another? They say that knowledge occurs when the behavior or thought has changed. Well, after this experience I certainly didn’t stay the same. The training, the people and Lysos village have now a special place in my heart as they have carved my path and who I am today.

Anna Michael

Career Counsellor

“When I think about my experience, I huge silly smile forms on my face as I cherish my memories.”- Gizem

My own European Voluntary Service (EVS) adventure started on 12th of November. I remember even though I was on the plane, going to Italy still felt like a dream. In fact, I had to pinch myself couple of times to remind myself that this was actually happening.

On 12th of November I arrived in Bologna and from there without any internet connection or Italian language knowledge I managed to travel to my actual destination, Trento. For those who don’t know where Trento is, it is the capital of Trentino region being located on the Northern part of Italy, in between Milan and Venice, close to Austria border.

As I arrived, I was greeted very nicely by my new flatmates and other volunteers. It was really incredible how everyone was welcoming. They had been cooking for me while I was on my way to Trento. EVS has its own perks like this. Even though we didn’t know each other at all, they were very happy and excited for my arrival. That feeling I had the minute I met with everyone was incredible. It didn’t feel like we had just met, but felt like we have known each other for a long time.

First weeks were all about orientation, getting to know people and the environment I was living in, adapting to the lifestyle and school I was working at. To my luck everything went smoothly. I had really great colleagues to work with, amazing kids who helped me with the language and incredible friends whom now I can count as my family.

My work was to help with English, art classes or storytelling since I volunteered at a primary school. It was incredible because there were kids who were able to speak English or other foreign languages fluently. I had some insecurities since I didn’t know how to speak Italian at the beginning, but somehow these children helped me through. The language itself was a challenge for me. Even though all the languages disappeared as we got familiar with each other, it was a crucial need to learn Italian when I wanted to communicate with younger children who weren’t able to speak English.

I used to work with first graders two times a week. My main work was to teach them basic vocabulary in English such as; numbers, days and colors to prepare them for the upcoming years. I will never forget the fact that despite not being able to speak Italian or understand it there was a little girl named Lucrezia, a 6-year-old, who was trying to communicate with me. Eventually, over the time she started using basic vocabulary in English to express herself and I started using Italian. Day by day we became closer. This is what happens when you volunteer; you meet with amazing people no matter the age, you learn from them, you experience pure love, you become more responsible and explore yourself in limits you don’t even know that exist. In addition to these, I improved my teaching skills, learned a new language, met and enjoyed my time with 8 other volunteers and local friends I acquired.

EVS is not just about volunteering to help but it is also about learning, sharing, exploring both yourself and your surroundings. Furthermore, it is about feeling good when you see a smile on another human being because you put it on their faces. It is a once in a lifetime experience that you can have. Now when I think about it, I huge silly smile forms on my face as I cherish my memories.

Gizem

“It is really an once in a lifetime opportunity”- Rafaella

Hola, my name is Rafaella and I am from Cyprus. I am currently volunteering in Spain, Salamanca. I am working in a project called EVS (European Volunteering Service) which associates with European countries and people who want to volunteer in other countries.

I chose this program because I wanted to learn Spanish for many years and every time I tried Spanish lessons after finishing I always forgot everything that I learned. So, I decided that the best way for me to learn the language is to live in a Spanish-speaking country. Living in Spain was a dream coming true, not only for the language but also for the culture. Cyprus and Spain have a lot of things in common, but also differ in many ways.

EVS is not a program for someone who wants to just go on vacation. Of course, you can travel and see the country, but you must be willing to work and help others in need. This program is designed for young people full of energy of ages 18 to 30 who want to do more in their lives and be part of something bigger than themselves. That was the main reason why I am participating in this, I want to do more in my life, not just wait for the world to get better by itself. In addition, by participating in a program like this, does not only give you the pleasure of offering, it gives you the chance to take back as well.

Think about how happy you will be after doing a volunteering service. For me that’s the biggest accomplish in my life. The fact that I have the privilege to live in the country that I chose and have all the possible help with the language, is very important too. I got to learn first-hand the language and some slag words that you won’t learn in a classroom. For example, when I arrived in Spain I couldn’t say ‘Hola’ even though I took Spanish courses in Cyprus. Now, I can proudly say that I made a lot of presentations speaking only in Spanish. Everyone who wants to volunteer in Spain, needs to have in mind that here no one speaks English, so that’s a benefit because you are forced to speak in only Spanish. At the beginning it’s a little bit challenging but on the way, you get better and you prefer to speak only in Spanish, so you can practise and see if people can really understand you. Learning another language is also a benefit for your CV; doors can be opened for you with the advantage of working in a Spanish-speaking country.

Not only you can learn a new language but also improve your English skills. For example, at the beginning I had to communicate in English with some teachers and additionally a part of my job is to have presentations in English. In this way, not only I improved my speaking skills but also my writing. Furthermore, I had the chance to help other students upgrading their English level by speaking with them or by having them join some of my presentations.

The subject that I chose to volunteer for is education. I am working in a school of languages in the city of Salamanca. Part of my job as I said before, is to help students who are trying to learn English with various ways, such as presentations or just by speaking with them. The types of presentations that I give are mostly about what an EVS program is and how young Spanish people can participate, the benefits of involving in the program, and what are being financed with.

Another kind of presentation that I gave, was about my country. For me it was very important to educate people in Spain about Cyprus. That’s because my country is a very small island in Europe that most people don’t know about. Cyprus is also part of the European Union, something that gives us the opportunity to participate in many events such as the Eurovision Singing Contest. Unfortunately, we did not have the pleasure to host the contest even once, since we never won. As far as Cyprus’ history is concerned, we can say that it is a long one and needs to be heard. Greek is the legal mother tongue although half of the country is occupied illegally by the Turkish. We have some of the best beaches in the world that not many people have discovered. Thus, for me telling my story and showing in Europe about an island that has had so many problems and is still strong, is very important. It makes me feel that I made my country proud by representing it.

Another part of my job, which is my favourite one, is to teach my own language. I was teaching Greek to people of all ages actually, I was the youngest in that classroom. Most of my students had taken classes of Ancient Greek before. At the first workshop they thought that it will be easy, but what was fascinating was the fact that they even had problems with the pronunciation of the alphabet letters. I am very proud of them because a lot of them had difficulties that made me doubt thear success at the first classes, but they proved me wrong. A very interesting challenge that I had, was a girl who was blind, and I had the privilege to work with a person like her and teach her but also learn from her. She was one of my best students. Even though the majority of my students were older than the age of sixty, I connected with them in a way that I could never imagine. Now they are my friends and I am expecting them in Cyprus. Of course, at my last day in Salamanca we organised a farewell dinner which ended with a ‘’I will see you soon’’ and not a ‘’goodbye’’.

Except from the work that I did in the school, I was lucky to see and experience some very interesting things. Being part of a Portuguese theatre without knowing a word in Portuguese was very challenging. Traveling and seeing different cities every weekend was something I was looking forward from the beginning of each week. Living the breath-taking traditions of Easter and festival of Valencia was an once in a lifetime experience. Getting used to the magnificent architecture that felt so normal passing by every day without acknowledging that it wiil not be part of my every day routine in a few months. However, the hardest goodbye, was the rhythm of the guitars and the dancers in the street. The colourful vents and dresses that cover the traditional dancers of Flamengo. The uncountable light and windows of Plaza Mayor are something engraved in my mind.

For someone like me who was leaving her home for the first time in her life at age 18, this was lifechanging. I felt the independence for the first time but also the major responsibilities that I had as an adult who was now living alone. The fear of talking in an unknown language but also the confidence to speak in public. The privilege of meeting people from all over around the world but also be part of different coulters. Experiencing the feeling of traveling alone and developing a good sense of direction. Tasting the famous flavours of Spain but also the untasteful burning food that I made. Learning to handle the rainy days as a girl coming from a country that barely sees dark skies.

Those are some of the things that Spain and EVS taught me. Even though some days felt endless I wouldn’t change a thing. I leave this country more confident and strong than ever. I am so happy that I had the chance to experience this in such an early age. The leadership skills I developed will help me keep on going more powerfully in every task in my life. It is really an once in a lifetime opportunity.

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