What do you think you can achieve in one week, with unknown people from different countries in an unknown region?

The answer is: A LOT! (Guest post from Kaushal Pareek & Hannah Stupp)

Hannah Stupp and Kaushal Pareek representing Germany together (Photographer: Durshika Ali)

Did you know that Erasmus also offers training courses, in which you will work on one specific topic for one or two weeks with other young people from Europe?

In October 2019, we (two students from TU Chemnitz) went to Italy to attend the Erasmus+ Training Course “Re-NEWed Spaces” in Maiori, Amalfi Coast. We arrived at the 17th of October and got to know all the other participants in no time with all the fun ‘get to know’ activities. The participants, between the ages of 21 to 38, came from Bulgaria, Croatia, Estonia, Germany, Greece, Italy, North Macedonia, Portugal (Azores), Romania and Spain. Italy and Greece were the organisers of the training course.

Having developed the required team spirit, we went ahead as a group to tackle the problem in hand of abandoned public spaces. The systematic approach comprised defining public spaces, representing case studies of abandoned places from one’s own country coupled with models which can help with renovation of these abandoned places for the betterment of communities. The youth was an important part of these discussions, and we also proposed methods that would inspire the youth to be a driving force for change. Social entrepreneurship was the background theme of the training course. The aim was to spread awareness about social entrepreneurship among the youth.

After having developed a functional team and a robust theoretical background, we went to explore the city and had the privilege of meeting the vice mayor of Maiori, who showed us around the city hall and finally the abandoned space behind the building. To renew and make something out of this place was now in our hands. The place was a football playground for the local kids but was not clean, did not have proper goal posts or a boundary to prevent the football from going outside the playground. Furthermore, the walls were covered with obscene graffiti. Later, in the afternoon, we met some local kids and discussed their expectations. Unfortunately, it was not possible to implement all the expectations due to local laws, a limited budget and scant resources.

As Day Four dawned, we began our herculean task of renewing the playground. We had our motivated group subdivided into small teams each with a specific task. Aspiring to give the kids a new playground along with some good background music got us all riled up! We removed the old graffiti, painted the walls, painted games like Tic Tac Toe/Morris/Hopscotch and Twister on the floor, built a door, a bench and a goal post out of old pallets and cleaned the whole place up. By the end of the day, we had accomplished much more than we expected from ourselves. Team spirit and the happiness of working for a cause overshadowed our exhaustion from a long day’s work. Our hard work didn’t go unnoticed. The team was rewarded with a pizza party.

On the last two days, we discussed and created an innovative educational tool that included methods of how to mobilise youth as well as guidelines for renewing abandoned spaces. ‘All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy’: the training course was not just work, but was also a combination of work and leisure. Between the theoretical and practical parts, we explored the Amalfi Coast on our own during the lunch break or in the evenings. On one evening, we had an intercultural night. For this, everyone had to bring some snacks from their countries. We had a lot of fun, tried new things and we learned how to dance a traditional dance from Greece.

When you are having fun, time passes by so quickly! One week in Amalfi passed by in the blink of an eye. When we arrived, we were all strangers from different countries, and by the time of our departure we had made friends from many countries and had scored an invitation to visit each one of them. We came to this training course with excitement about the unknown journey that lay ahead of us, and we left with a feeling of contentment and accomplishment.

 

Authors: Kaushal Pareek (Master Micro and Nano Systems) & Hannah Stupp (Bachelor Intercultural Communication, 7th semester)

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