UNITED: Understand Neighbors Integration Through European Dances

Youth Exchange, Fasano, Italy 16-24 February 2016

When my friend asked me if I wanted to go to Italy my automatic response was “Of course”! Someone might think that “How” or “why” was the most important questions but I always wanted to visit Italy so anything else wasn’t important enough. Except from my work…

When I asked about taking a two weeks’ vacation they didn’t like it very much…you see I work in a big athletic company and we are taking only one week in the winter and the rest in summer. So after a lot of negotiations I made it and booked the tickets!

Before the project the Greek team gathered together to meet (because we didn’t know each other) and prepare for our workshop. It was the first youth exchange for Sofia and me and we didn’t know anything about what we had to do. Panos, Odysseas and Efi explained all the main parts, the schedule that the organization provided, the boys taught us some traditional dance steps and then we were ready!

On 16 February, I met with my friend Sofia at Athens airport and we started our journey full of energy and happy thoughts. During our 4-hour stop in Milan we visited the Orio Shopping Center across the airport. The drivers were kind (letting us pass the road) and the signs very helpful (but only in Italian).

Eleven hours, a ship (for Sofia), two flights and three trains later we met at Fasano’s train station with few of the participants and Anita, a sweet girl, member of the Italian team, who took us to Sant’Elia Hotel. Knowing that someone was waiting there for us was very reassuring and thoughtful. We were the last group so we didn’t have much time to settle in, we just left our luggage in the room and then met in the conference room with everyone.

We were 40 people from 8 different countries from all over Europe!!!

That first day the name games were really funny because even participants from the same country couldn’t remember each other’s names. We had great time trying to get to know everyone, after a big dinner and a party we felt a little bit closer. The next days passed too quickly full of games, trips and high energy at all times. I especially liked the “Mission impossible” game, Abigale’s story, the mini theatrical plays we made about exclusion, the hotel’s luxury, the food and of course the trips!

I started this journey because of my need to travel but what I earned from this 10 day journey is far more than a travelling experience. I learned to communicate and listen to other people’s needs and thoughts with totally different upbringings, ways of living and thinking. I enjoyed dancing even though in the past I didn’t like it. I didn’t just visit Italy but also 8 different parts of the world through videos, tastes, games, language, songs and dances. I met 40 wonderful people. No one was judging, no one was in a bad mood or arguing with anyone. Of course, there was some complaining but we felt that everything could be solved if we ask the facilitators about it.

I strongly believe that programs like this should be a must-do experience for all young people around the world because it can broaden their mind, knowledge and understanding.It certainly was beneficial for me and I’ll try to take part in many more projects like this in the future!

Thank you for this great experience!

Amaryllis Skourla from Greece, participant in the youth exchange in Fasano, Italy. (February 2016)