Here we are sharing the reflections received from the participants in the YE Don’t Fear to Differ, implemented in the period 12-18 July in Uzana area, Gabrovo.
Don’t Fear to Differ was more than a youth exchange. It was a journey of discovering ourselves through the lenses of others. Because of the changing world we live in, fostering mutual understanding and developing skills such as cultural awareness and expression became an indispensable part of our lives. The project successfully made us recognise and understand that we all have different values and mindsets shaped by our diverse cultural backgrounds but, at the end of the day, differences make us the same!
We are Diego, Natalia, Alessandra, Sofia and Chiara from Italy. We participated in the Don’t Fear to Differ exchange in Bulgaria from 12 to 18 July 2021.
This project has allowed us to open debates, even political and of great depth, leading us to develop the critical thinking necessary to see the world from the perspective of the other.
The theme that was almost at the centre of the daily discussions had to do with the stereotypes and discriminations that stemmed from them; diverges were raised by those who claimed that some gender stereotypes have a background of truth, as they have to do with “biology” (thus affirming that human beings are moved not by their own rational will but by an unconscious necessity due to hormones). It was, however, interesting to get to know a point of view at the antipodes from ours.
Many of the activities contributed to eliminating the disrespectful ideas caused by prejudices, e.g. it is not important to know someone’s musical taste or physical appearance to determine whether or not they are a respectable person and what role they play in society.
The most exciting part of the experience was visiting the mountains and nature near the accommodation, nestled in the Bulgarian forests. We reached a point on the mountain peak, from which you could admire both Gabrovo and the nearby woods. It almost seemed like being able to fly. In the following days, the afternoons were mainly dedicated to visiting Uzana (through an exploration game) and Gabrovo (a nice walk of pleasure thanks to which we could also see the Orthodox churches scattered around the city).
We met many individuals from countries all over the world (even from India!) who enriched us with traditions and cultures. International evenings were the most beautiful part of the day, in which we could taste typical foods and drinks. The food at the accommodation was good, and the staff was super kind, we even made friends with a girl who worked in the hotel!
In short, thanks to the Erasmus+ project, we have been able to live an experience rich in nature and beauty, as well as making daily political and cultural debates necessary for personal and spiritual growth.
We believe that this experience had a positive impact not only on our English and our growth but also on our soul!
The project Don‘t Fear to Differ! took place in the very centre of Bulgaria near the city called Gabrovo. It aimed to educate youth from Bulgaria, Romania, Lithuania, Czech Republic, North Macedonia and Italy to respect and be tolerant towards the “other” and foster mutual understanding and combat hate speech, discrimination and bullying by providing intercultural dialogue through various activities.
All the participants met in Sofia on 12 July from where we went to the hotel by bus. The location was very high in the mountains and so the temperature wasn’t typical for Bulgaria (about 10 degrees less than average). Because of this, we were completely alone in an untouched beautiful Bulgarian nature. The food was very traditional. For breakfast, we could choose from a lot of different foods, the most typical was banica and mekici. For lunch, we had a three-course meal. They usually offer a Bulgarian cold soup called “tarator” made from cucumber. We also had pile v oris (chicken and rice), mikici, kaškaval paně (fried cheese) and a lot of salad with the Balkan cheese.
The aims of the project were delivered through numerous activities. One day, we went for a walk to the highest peak of the mountains. At night, each country organised an intercultural evening, where they presented their culture through food and presentations. Two days before departure, we visited the city of Gabrovo. There we went to the museum and later on we explored the city on our own. On the last day, we got acquainted with the Erasmus+ programme and presented our sample projects.
Ondřej , Czech Republic
Don’t Fear to Differ or how to tolerate others so they can express themselves without feeling discriminated.
The project took place in a really beautiful natural area – Uzana, Gabrovo. Our sessions there were adaptive – we did some of them outside when the weather was good and the rest inside in a vast hall.
There, we were educated on some terminology and facts, which I liked, because it was necessary, so we could use the correct phrases. And, of course, there were informal group projects in which we exchanged individual experiences. The best thing was that the participating countries covered each part of Europe – Lithuania, Italy, Romania and others. The agenda was filled with activities, but it was light enough, so it wasn’t exhaustive.
I like that the facilitators helped us to socialise faster by gathering us every night. From my previous experience, this was the only project everyone was included in the discussion during our free time. Last but not least, we had a lot of fun – hiking, partying, small talks and the facilitators were flexible with every request.
We used a wide range of non-formal education methods, such as brainstorming, role plays, work in groups, presentations, discussions, team building, etc.
We had an opportunity to discuss about the human rights and their violations. For us, as young people, this is an important issue. We learned some new things, like the “Compass – Manual for Human Rights Education with Young People”. Through this, we had a chance to write our own projects about different kinds of discrimination, we liked the process itself and the conclusions drawn, and with that to combat the hate speech.
We can say that we improved our ability to recognize stereotypes and prejudices and how to overcome them. Finally, through some activities, we acknowledged what it means to be active as a citizen at the local level by writing sample projects in order to do something for our local community.
It was a life-changing experience, it changed our views on our lives, but also it was an event that helped us to see what it’s like to be in another’s shoes.
Gabriela, North Macedonia
Having just stayed in the dormitory and visiting the university a few days a week, this trip to various places has been an adventure for me. Being bound in a hostel during a Covid-19 situation has been frustrating. This trip has helped to put off the steam in me. The Etera Archaeological Museum that we visited gave me so many insights into the culture and the tradition of Bulgaria. Even the debate about the culture was eye-opening to me to know about different cultures and changed a lot of opinions about certain country people and every person over there made me feel so comfortable and the activity that was provided was nice as there was more debate which used to have different perceptions.