Iva is 14 and comes from Croatia, Kaya is 16 and comes from Germany, they are great friends. We talked to them in the summer, during an international youth exchange with the title ‘Find Yourself’, at the village of Zapotok in Slovenia.
You’re both attending the exchange for the first time, how has the experience been for you?
I: I really like it! The first two days were really weird because I only knew the Croatian people, but by now I pretty much know everyone. It’s forming up to be a community of sorts and it’s really nice.
K: Same. Once you get to talking you get to know more people outside your circle of friends.
How do you find the activities you’ve been involved in here? Workshops and talking about human rights, cultures, concepts such as peace, equality, etc.?
I: It’s really nice, actually. Activities such as these help us communicate with different people because they split us into mixed groups. You also get to share your story and a little about where you come from. People who struggle with opening up to others, not knowing what the reaction will be on the other side, they really need this help. Without it they might never share anything and just remain closed up, which would be a pity.
K: It was something completely different for me, these activities. It was difficult to join in or think of something to contribute sometimes, but when others start the conversation, it’s easier to join in.
What do you think the presence of so many nationalities and cultures brings to the exchange?
K: It’s good, it brings another perspective. You can learn from each other, how others do things, the different food…
I: You can learn about their past, their cultures, how their countries are different to yours, how their life at home is different to yours. It’s all very different, and I think that’s the point of this exchange: you get to know the differences, the ones that make you ‘you’, but you also discover the similarities, which bring you all together.
Would you attend the exchange again if you could?
I: Definitely. Elena (another girl from the Croatian group) told us so many amazing stories about what it was like last year, and I thought it sounded too good to be true. During the first two days here I still felt like that. But since then, it’s been wonderful.
K: It’s a nice experience, I would do it again.
What do you think you’re going to take home from this experience?
K: New friendships, experiences, words from other languages, …
I: … new recipes, new thoughts about things you thought were different.
What is the difference between being here and being at home?
I: It’s happier. All your troubles, the things you have to do, all the worries about tomorrow, you just leave them all behind. You’re in a new place with new people and you know that your goal is to socialise, be happy and focus on yourself.
K: You also get more respect from others here. You’re happy and you’re having fun.
To rephrase it, you’re in the ‘here and now’ at this exchange and you don’t think too much about the past and the future? Would that be right?
I: When you’re at home you have all of these things to do and you forget about yourself. Your priorities are school, work at home, hobbies, etc. You don’t focus on yourself or your feelings. When you come here, it’s like you’ve left all of the other things behind and started anew.
K: It really is like that, yes: here, we live in the moment.
Slovene Philanthropy organises youth exchanges with the purpose of offering the youth an experience of intercultural cooperation, sensitizing them to differences and encouraging them to become agents of an open and solidary society.
Zavod Movit, the Slovenian National Agency of Erasmus+ programme, has recognised meaning in the project; the European Commission supported the project with funds, which enabled the quality in the programme and free participation for youth.