Hi! I’m 25 years old girl from Tampere, Finland.
I got a chance to be a part of the ERASMUS+ youth exchange project, which European Union (EU) provided financial support for, and was hosted by Sopimusvuori ry Verstas. Verstas is a day center for young adults, who have a need for meaningful encounters and light activities for their weekdays. Verstas’s location is in Tampere, Finland. Verstas organizes social rehabilition for people aged 18-30.
I have been a part of Verstas’s community for about 1,5 years. Verstas has been a very good and safe place for someone like me, who’s working ability is impaired and has various health issues. ERASMUS+ youth exchange felt like a great opportunity for me, and I was very excited about it. For once, in a long time (and I mean several years even though I’m only 25) I felt like I could be a part of something very meaningful and important. This had a great impact on me and it generated my self-esteem and trust on my own abilities and strength within me.
Planning the ERASMUS+ project;
We have a saying in Finland, that goes: Well-planned is half-way done. I feel like that saying applies to this project. There were many things we needed to consider so that the week would go as smoothly as possible. We started planning the youth exchange several months before the actual exchange week. We made a budget for the travelling costs, meals and accommodations. We planned a schedule for the week, from the day the Irish group came to Finland – to the day they went back. We planned different kind of activities for example workshops to ease getting to know each other. We had to pay attention to every participant’s individual needs, for example food allergies and mental well-being. Planning the week had a very important role in making the project a success.
How our ERASMUS+ project week was like;
From the 8th of October to the 16th of October, Verstas hosted the exchange week for partners from Cahersiveen & Tralee, Ireland. All of us – 40 young participants aged 18-29, with 10 group leaders and workers from Finland and Ireland spent the week together. The theme of our exchange was connecting & social inclusion. During the week we got to know each other and shared our different cultural questions. We had different kind of workshops like baking and drama/theatre. We created art and cooked each day Finnish dishes. We introduced Tampere to the Irish, one day we visited a Finnish national park Seitseminen. We got to go to the youth center Marttinen for the last few days. There were fun activities, like bridge swing, playing board games and going to Sauna. Overall the week was very full of action. We had very long days but it felt like the time flied because of this amazing group we had formed, all together!
What i learned during the ERASMUS+ project;
I certainly learned a few things during the project. I also reinforced things I knew about myself already. For example, I learned planning and scheduling. I noticed that being part of a bigger group wasn’t as bad as I was scared of (Normally bigger groups of people make me nervous). Since the atmosphere was so accepting with these people, speaking English didn’t feel so bad either.
The exchange week taught me, that regardless of everyone having their own struggles in life – sharing things actually brings people together. Also cheering for others had a very big part in some of the activities such as bridge swing. Many in our group overcame their fears and they will remember it for the rest of their life. It was very important to be part of that achievement.
Challenges during the ERASMUS+ project;
One of the challenges during the project for me was communicating in English. It was somewhat suspenseful to start speaking English, but after a while you could actually concentrate on talking with others and being equal part of conversation. Sometimes I wasn’t sure how to say something or didn’t quite understand what someone said but luckily there were always someone to help translate things. In this group you didn’t have to be afraid of bullying or embarrassment, there were space to blunder without that!
The other thing that I would list as a challenge, was to manage with lassitude during the days of exchange. Days were very long! Luckily our group played well together and we all got support from each other. There was not a pressure to be at your best all the time, but to do your best and also have moments withdraw or rest for.
How it felt being part of the ERASMUS+ project;
On the last night of the project week, atmosphere was quite wistful. I think everyone who took part in this project felt a similar sense of gratefulness. This project was a very good chance to meet foreign people safely, which is not always possible otherwise. The week was very emotional but in a good way. I personally felt very proud of myself to be part of this kind of project. It feels very good to be able to tell other people (like my family) that I have been a part of this journey. I think that it’s important for everyone to feel a sense of pride in ones accomplishments and this project made that possible.
What ERASMUS+ project gave me?
Being a part of this great opportunity, I’m now convinced that youth exchanges like this can give a lot for young people like me, who are in danger of social exclusion. I felt that I was seen and heard during this project and those were both very important remedial experiences to have on this time of my life. This project elevated my self-esteem and made me believe in tomorrow. It is known that long-lasting feeling of inferiority is very harmful for one, and it advance social exclusion – which is very common in some mental disorders, such as depression and social anxiety. Participating in projects like this can evade these circumstances.
Thanks to all who made this possible!
I myself would like to thank all of them who made this journey possible. Thanks to EU for funding this project. Thanks to youth center Marttinen for organizing great activities, meals and accommodation for us. Thanks to our bus driver Anssu for taking us safely from one place to another. Thanks to the Irish group for bravery to put up with the Finnish “cold” weather, and all the warmness you have within you. Thanks to the Irish also for all the laughter we had together. Thanks to our mentors for all the job done, cheering us and looking after us during this project like otherwise also. And last but not least thanks to all of our young ones for being a part of this and making it as special as it was.