Wednesday, September 20, 2017

The Ambassadors of European Values - CARMEN RAAL - 12 months EVS in Bordeaux, France - Article in English

Ambassadors of European Values

My name is Carmen and this is a story of my year in France Bordeaux. So for the beginning I am going to tell you how  I ended up as a volunteer in the first place. When I was 15 years old, I had my first youth exchange and after that I fell in love with travelling and meeting people all over the world. Ever since then I have taken part of 6 exchanges. Fast forward  to 12th grade when everyone was thinking about universities and what to study next but my head was elsewhere - my dream was to work as a volunteer, and because of that I ended up taking a gap year and going to France to be an “Ambassador of European Values” for the House of Europe in Bordeax. 

So, on 3rd of September I found myself in the capital of wine.  We started off things easy. Our organization gave us time to settle in and meet the city. We were staying in a student residence apartments where I shared my flat with a Romanian girl. All together there were 14 EVS people from six countries and in addition to that our organization had recruited ten civil service volunteers..

Meeting with civil service volunteers

All the volunteers together

Since our main tasks where to talk about European Union and everything that concerns it we had to go through educational lectures/workshops made by professors and other specialists. This prepared us very well for the future jobs and made us more professional.

After the preparation, it was time to start working. We were all divided into groups of three people. Our daily job included going to different schools where we made interesting workshops for kids on European matters or about our countries and culture in general. 

Besides working in schools, we got to do other exciting activities. For example, collaborating with Unicef to organize a day for kids packed with exciting activities. Working with the local town hall to help organize an international energy conference, and the luckiest ones got to go to Wales for a study visit.

A day with Unicef

But the most anticipated and perhaps scariest moment for me and my fellow Estonian volunteer was February or should I call it the month of Estonia. Our mission at that time was to prepare a cultural night with Estonian food and presentation made entirely in French. Doing something like that generally does not scare me but the problem was the language. I went to France without knowing the language and at that point it was still not good. In addition to our presentation we had to cook Estonian foods. It was a struggle to find black bread but other than that our efforts paid off and the food was delicious. In the end the hard work paid off and everything went smoothly.

My year as a volunteer was not only work and no fun. I managed to do a lot of travelling around France and also abroad. I met so many new people from all over the world with who I connected and am staying in contact even though I am back in Estonia.

In conclusion, my year as a volunteer was so much more then just working in France, It was a growing experience that shaped me into a person I am today. I am far from finished being a volunteer and I hope that while in university I find other projects where I can contribute to the society. Once a volunteer, always a volunteer! 

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Ambassadors of European Values - HEDI ROOGER - 12 months EVS in Bordeaux, France - Article in English

                            My EVS in Bordeaux, France

Hello, I’m Hedi and I spent 12 months in Bordeaux, France, where you can find the best chocolatines, baguettes, and of course, great Bordeaux’s wine.  I grew up in a small town in Estonia, where my biggest dream was to travel and see the world. Before doing my EVS in France, I was also doing some voluntary work in my hometown Rakvere, working mostly with children and organising different activites for them. Volunteering has always been something very important for me- by helping ohters I can increase my baggage of knowledge and experiences. I also wasn’t sure what to do after graduating high school, because I couldn’t find anything that I was really passionate about, so I decided to take a year and explore a new culture.

I arrived to France and started my EVS in September 2016. It was the first time ever in France for me, so everything was very exciting and new. Coming from Estonia, the hot and humid summer weather of Bordeaux was really hard to get used to, but in the end it was perfect for going to the beach and jumping into cold but refreshing ocean waves. The first two months of my project were a bit easier on us- we were given some time to discover the life of Bordeaux and to get used to living in flats with our new flatmates. We also received theoretical information about our work in different schools starting from November. Our project was called „Ambassadors of European Values“ and we were woking with people from 7 different European countries – Estonia, Germany, Spain, Italy, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia. We were all working for the House of Europe (Maison de l’Europe), which is all about promoting European values and bringing people from different nationalities together.

Our main tasks involved working in small groups of 3 people from different nationalities. In each group we had 2 European volunteers and one local french volunteer from Service Civique, who helped us out with translation if needed to. We were going to schools around Bordeaux to talk about our countries, raising awareness of stereotypes and just giving young people the chance to communicate in English.  

Besides working in schools, we also had to organise cultural events and language cafes, with each month being dedicated to a different country. In February we had to organize an Estonian evening, where we talked about the history of Estonia and much more. We were also serving some typical Estonian food and drinks to the locals. In May we were organising a European village, where locals also had the chance to come and taste the food and drinks of our countries.

Besides meeting all the awesome and inspiring people from all over the world during my EVS, I also had the chance to travel a lot in France and in Europe, since it’s much easier and cheaper to get to anywhere from France than it is from Estonia. I had the chance to visit my friend in Scotland, warm and sunny Barcelona, green Amsterdam and many ohter places during vacations from work. So besides the culture and beautiful architecture of France, I got to see and experience the life in other countries as well.

I arrived back to Estonia with important friendships from all over the world (not just Europe) and great memories of fun and exciting trips that me and my friends took. I also can’t forget the children in schools and their faces filled with joy and excitement when they were learning how to dance „Kaerajaan“ or how to sing „Põdral Maja Metsa Sees.“ It was a great experience and totally worth my time. I am thankful to everyone who made this possible for me and thankful to the amazing people that I had the chance to work with and hopefully see again in the future.

À bientôt, France ! 

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

VEEhYcLE+ 2G – Volunteers in Erasmus+ as an Engine (for social inclusion) of Young peolpLE - ALICE AHO - 12 months EVS in Algarve, Portugal - Article in English

Hi, I am Alice and this is my story...

Well, my story goes way back to 2015 when I met some amazing people from Portugal. After that I knew that I want to spend at least a year in Portugal, close to the Atlantic ocean. It took less than a year for my dream to come true. Honestly I have to thank all the people around me, because this opportunity came to me, I just needed to apply.

In September 2016 I found myself in a small city called Olhão, which is almost in the middle of Algarve. I would really like to acknowledge my hosting organization MOJU - Associação
Movimento Juvenil em Olhão and my sending organization Noored Ühiskonna Heaks.

Trust me, when I say that EVS year will be one of the fastest years in your life. In my small city there was three apartments and projects of volunteers. That is why I had an opportunity to meet a lot of people. My project became my team and family, with them we tackled a lot. We all went there with an idea that we wanted to accomplish, but to be honest you never know what to prepare for.
For me it was a good challenge to modify lets say my personal project so that the kids would really benefit from it.

I had a chance to work/spend time with kids who are from challenging families and not the best neighbourhoods. Me and also other volunteers had to work on trust and respect, but eventually it started to give back. This gave me a great appreciation for trust, now I can truly say that it's a hard thing to built. This is something that I will never take easily.

The year abroad became a lot about me and this year changed me a lot. Before I left I considered myself as an open-minded person, but honestly, this came with the last year. Maybe I was open in an Estonian way, but in a bigger picture it doesn't give you anything. Now I hope I am more passion driven and I can always find a way to be myself. I also learned a lot about cultural differences, because I was the only person to introduce Northern countries. I was lucky to learn about Mediterranean culture from my flatmates, who are from France, Italy and Cyprus. Also from all the others, but with my flatmates I spent the most time.

This year gave me a lot of chances to travel and see around. Besides Portuguese people I also discovered the country itself. A year is not enough to understand everything, but it's good for a proper introduction. I am sure that one day I will find myself there, close to the ocean breeze and fresh seafood!

It's very difficult to put one year into words, but I think I said the most important – the people around me, Portugal, “my” kids, Olhão and travelling. This amazing challenging year was full of surprises and love. Beijinhos!!!

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Thursday, September 7, 2017

Culture - Straight to the Heart Youth Exchange - INTERVIEW WITH ALJONA, SAQLIAN, EGELIN, FAIZAN AND KRISTJAN

Name of the project: Culture – Straight to the Heart!
Date: 18th to 27th August 2017
Country/City: Poland

What was the main topic of the event?

Aljona Kurbatova- Main topic was culture. We presented our cultures through the history and mainly through cooking traditional food for other participants.
Saqlian Ali Raza- The main topic of the event was to understand the different European cultures and find out the similarities among these countries. The basic idea was to bring closer people through food and sharing cultures traditions and some workshops.
Egelin Ellermaa-The main topic of the event was cultural exchange and becoming more aware of the existing cultural prejudices.
Faizan Khan-  Main objective of this project was mutual intercultural learning and breaking stereotypes and prejudices that burden the relationships, strengthen our friendship bonds, get to know each other better by using the richness of our cultures. During non-formal education workshops we discussed visible elements of culture: folk dances, traditions, cuisines, and songs which provide us deeper understanding of our values. Through this exchange we realized differences and similarities connected with culture from various European nations. This project was great opportunity for the development of intercultural competence among the participants.
Kristjan Karu - The project main subject was about culture in general. Young people came together to learn about other countries traditions, habits, languages, national cuisines and folk dances.

What was the biggest learning moments on the event for you?

Aljona Kurbatova -  I guess biggest learning moment was how to prepare traditional food for 40 people. Cause we should plan what to prepare and make other participants help us in cooking process.
Saqlian Ali Raza - Actually for me learning moment was more than one, like history of participating countries and and traditions of different European countries. Furthermore it also helped me to understand the civic attitude of the youth of different countries. Ice breaking, team building activates and cooking were also the major learning moments for me.
Egelin Ellermaa - For me the biggest learning moments took place, while I was having one-on- one conversations with the representatives of other countries. That way I came to learn about, how certain behaviours and habits otherwise very natural to my own culture can either lack or vary in the other culture.
Faizan Khan -  Biggest learning moment for me was cooking workshop. Daily we use to cook different dishes chosen by members representing their country in this project. For the first time in life I cooked Estonian food with the help of team members it was delicious. Secondly during the workshops and discussions we found out some similarities linking our traditions and try to work out common dialogue for understanding our diversity. We can work together for solving the problems encountered in the field of mutual intercultural communication.
Kristjan Karu - For me personally was the biggest moment when I learnt how to peel tomatoes, it was something totally weird and new for me. Also during project we got some traditional dance experience. For example how to dance Macarena and besides this during dancing how to sing it in spanish. It was complicated for everyone in the beginning but at the end together we managed to do it well.

Do you have any plans to continue active in the field? If yes, in what?

Aljona Kurbatova - Not as coordinator but as participant can be.
Saqlian Ali Raza - Yes I am planning to play an active role in these kind of activates.
Egelin Ellermaa - Well, culture was pretty much my specialty for the 3 years that I was studying in university, so for sure im hoping to advance my knowledge in this field even further, perhaps only by travelling, but maybe by continuing my studies as well. However im definitely planning on meeting up with some of the new friends I made in the exchange, so to experience their culture myself as well in their homeland.
Kristjan Karu - For me these youth projects are very good opportunity to find new friends and become more aware about new information and knowledge.. I am quite sure about continue in this field, especially with this kind of topic because culture is the main thing what separates and connects us.

Would you recommend it to your friends? I yes, why? If not, why not?

Aljona Kurbatova - Yes, I always recommend my friends and explain to those who don’t  know what erasmus+
Saqlian Ali Raza - Yes I would highly recommend because this kind of activates offers lot of new things to learn. It helps to breakdown the stereotypes about different cultures. Moreover you can have new friends as well.
Egelin Ellermaa - For sure, any such project contributes to having a more tolerant and expanded mind, which in turn will help us to better get along with each other and make the most of sharing this planet with other beautiful human beings.
Faizan Khan - Yes, I am willing to continue and play my role in this field. As a first step I would like to participate in such kind of projects, by participating I can share my previous experience with others and I can learn new things ,gain knowledge and most importantly I can make new friends from different countries same time.
Kristjan Karu - I would like to recommend this opportunity not only to friends rather to everybody because it is the best way to learn something new in different ways not like we do it in school usually.

More comments or anything else you would like to share? You can add here in your own language, if you want!

Faizan Khan -  I really enjoyed my time over there, spending time with people from different countries knowing about their language, food, music, life style. I have been to, few projects before but for me this Estonian team was the best Estonian team that I have ever been with .Lastly few words about amazing city of Krakow. Krakow is really beautiful and culturally rich city I will recommend everyone to discover this beautiful city in summer.
Kristjan Karu - I am very thankful for this awesome estonian team who made this exchange very enjoyable and funny. Also all these people who organized such an amazing and interesting project.

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme

Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Name of the project: Learn About Traditions
Date: 10th to 21st August 2017
Country/City: Romania, Milcoveni and Teregova

What was the main topic of the event?

Villiam Põldma - Traditions. To learn about the local traditions, especially in small rural areas and of all the participant countries.
Andreas Hein - The main topic was traditions. How to maintain traditions, how to get younger people interested in their own traditions. What are the possible ways to pass on our traditions to next generations.
Sander Mölder - The aim of the project was to create awareness in our youth regarding their civic responsibility to research, capitalize and promote folk traditions for the inclusion of disadvantaged young people in the country and to develop a continuous dialogue between generations and nations, to assert the rural communities in the European space for their economic, cultural and touristic development. The second main topic was to learn about our traditions!
Marek Runga - Main topic of the project was to create awareness within our youth regarding their civic responsibility to research, capitalize and promote folk traditions,  to assert the rural communities in the European space for their economic, cultural and touristic development. To understand do we need traditions and do they help to get people together
Kadri Spriit - Active citizenship, mobilizing and motivating youth.
Mihkel Kotkas - Main topic of the whole event was to promote folk traditions from different countries and how to keep the traditions of the nation active in rural areas. In addition, how important it is to be aware of your country’s native traditions.
Raimond Põld - How can we preserve and continue our rural and age-old traditions. Also taking action and being more active speaker.
Reti Randorg - To learn each other traditions and support young people living in rural areas by learning how to preserve active citizenship in rural areas. More active are people in rural areas, means more jobs and leisure time activities.

What was the biggest learning moments on the event for you?

Villiam Põldma - That local traditions of individual countries are actually dying, because of the urbanization.
Andreas Hein - 1) I am not afraid to approach people in English anymore; 2) learned that many cultures are very similar; 3) gained a lot of knowledge about traditions in different countries, specially about Romanian and Estonian tradition; 4) Learned how to work as a group; 5) Learned how to lead a group; 6) Learned how different tasks helped us relax and get to know each other better
Sander Mölder - My biggest learning moments were the workshops and energizers. For me, I had to jump over my shadow to perform those kinds of things. I wanted to know more about myself – what I am capable of and what I am not. So the biggest learning moments for me were the moments, when I though I am not going to manage something – I am going to fail. While in reality, I was successful and did more than OK! Moments where I was brave and made a statement where the biggest learning moments for me! (Usually I am very modest and humble).
Marek Runga - Learned that due to religion most of the countries have similar traditions with other countries.
Me as a Citizen of Estonia I didn`t know so much about Estonian traditions, thanks to this project and my Estonian group who taught me and informed me more about our traditions and cultures.
Kadri Spriit - Different methods used. Non-formal education at its BEST! Instead of long lectures we learnt from our peers: about traditions and culture in their home countries, about experience they have had, and of course their personal self. Various energizers and team-building games united us together as a group and made us closer than I would have anticipated. A true injection of positive emotions!
Mihkel Kotkas - Unfortunately my health let me down just before the flight to Romania, going through one of the most serious illnesses of my life so far kept me from participating in this project. But thanks to this great invention called “Internet” I was given brief overviews about the activities and the awesome people who attended the project. After the project was over, I had a chance to listen to all these stories live from one of my group members and the image created by the story was unbelievable. It was a story about people who in 10 days got so close, that after this time they spent together they were closer than they ever expected would be possible in such a short time period. Giving me will to participate in similar projects in the future.
Raimond Põld - Biggest learning moment was Oxford debate, performing my rap song about Estonian Midsummer Eve in front of 150 people. Also learned how to make business plan-i got very excited and that Czech men whip women during one holiday, which i dont remember anymore. Speed Dating energizer got us well connected-should have done that on the second day and also mystical, spiritual eye contact game, where we gazed each other deeply in two circles, about 1 minute to each participants eyes. That got me thinking what is my higher goal in this life and that is my producing music passion, which is part of being active citizen.
Reti Randorg - Technically, I learned how to debate and what are most important analysis when starting a company.
Socially, I learned how to express myself clearer, improved my English, how to be/not to be a good leader, learned new traditions.

Do you have any plans to continue active in the field? If yes, what?

Villiam Põldma - I will definitely try to keep the traditions alive, at least among my people and try to remind others to do the same.
Andreas Hein - Well I guess so. I do respect our traditions now a little bit more. I have always loved the simple things that traditions have, like making gingerbreads turning the Christmas time. I promise to focus on the little things that usually make people fell in love more and more with their country and what eventually will increase the patriotism.
Sander Mölder - If you mean in active citizenship field, then yes of course. This project motivated me to take responsibility – in this case I have many ideas in my mind, which I would like to initiate (I did not have the courage to it before).
If the question is about staying active in Erasmus field, then the answer would also be a yes from me, because I liked the project very much and I learned very much from there. So therefore I would certainly like to continue working with Erasmus!
Marek Runga - Would like to promote Erasmus plus projects for youngsters. Maybe write project by myself.
Kadri Spriit - Yes, I would like to explore more, what Erasmus+ has to offer.
Mihkel Kotkas - The field of promoting traditions and keeping them alive is something, which should involve every individual in a nation and starting from the personal level. As will I, start to pay more attention to the traditions, keeping them in mind and maybe create some interesting new traditions in addition to existing ones.
Raimond Põld - Im going to support my best friend who is going to do Evs in Portugal. Also keeping my eyes open for new projects, where i can encourage others to be more active and just give value to that unity. Making songs that promote such lifestyle and also who to vote in Estonia, because im active citizen and my voice is bigger than average Joe s, because fans.
Reti Randorg - I can see that these projects are good opportunity to actually learn how to socialize, new cultures and the things that are taught in workshops. I can see myself being in the projects in the future. Maybe even a team leader. I need to have opportunity to learn new things.

Would you recommend it to your friends? I yes, why? If not, why not?
Villiam Põldma  - Yes, I definitely recommend it. It will make them aware of the problem about dying traditions.
Andreas Hein - Of course I would. It is a wonderful opportunity to develop yourself, gain some knowledge, meet very-very different people, you can practice your english…it is a perfect opportunity to do that guys! and as well maybe make life long international contacts. And the emotion you will get after sharing information/thoughts with others who eventually give you positive feedback… is amazing. Everyone in this project were awesome, super friendly and helpful…so I could not imagine better way to spend 2weeks of my summer.
Sander Mölder - I would definitely recommend this project to my friends, because I learned so much from this project. Firstly I learned some new things about myself and secondly I made new friends, so now I have new acquaintances all over Europe! But the most important thing for me was to upgrade and motivate myself, to overcome my fears and in that I succeeded!
Marek Runga - Of course, these project courage and pushes you do go out of your comfort zone and try things that you never tried. Also it is good teaching but non formal and more interesting. Because in projects there are involved many different counries with different points of views.
Kadri Spriit - I will definitely share my knowledge about the programme, because it is a good initiative, which helps to grow tolerance, learn about others and reflect about you.
Mihkel Kotkas - Definitely, if YOU have a chance, TAKE IT! You will have the best time of your life and possibly make friends for the rest of your life.
Raimond Põld - You can bet on it, that i will recommend it to my friends. I have even  talked about NYH blog and Erasmus plus with total strangers i have met on streets, in clubs and in shops- mostly girls, but hey, i am not gay and most of them have heard about that kind of projects, but they are too scared and need to have at least one friend with them i guess.
I recommend this, because they learn how to be better person in this society, how to help others, reach out to share love, get good at public speaking, teamwork and they get to experience funny social situations in the case of energizers and also breathtaking views, stunning girls and guys and delicious food from all over Europe, my brothers and sisters.
Reti Randorg - Yes, I have already recommended the projects to my friends. These are good opportunities to find new friends with similar interests.

More comments or anything else you would like to share? You can add here in your own language, if you want!

Villiam Põldma  - One of the best projects I’ve been to, so far! Thank You!
Andreas Hein - What surprised me was the fact that many people loved Estonian songs and national dance. Also it was nice to see that people hit it off from the start of the project. I think those few days without electricity, wifi and water brought us all much closer together. There were no awkward silences or anything. And man…our project leaders were out of this world. Huge thanks to them. Project was super J Thank you!
Sander Mölder - I would like to share my respect and tänutunne to our main two guys: Alex and Iasmin, the two organisers and leaders. They were amazing and thanks to them the project was so special – they made it work and made the group so united! Thank you for that!
Marek Runga - Big thank you to Alex, Iasmin and Krzysztof  (project facilitators in Romania). Also thank you to our group leader Villiam Põldma and to whole our group.
Kadri Spriit - This project was useful in many ways. I got to experience the Erasmus Spirit again over many years, and collect great ideas, how to work with a group.
Mihkel Kotkas - I hope all the friendships, that were made during these 10 days will last as long as the participants would imagine them to last in their wildest dreams.
Raimond Põld - Silma vaatamise harjutus ja speed dating harjutus oleks võinud projekti alguses olla. Teema oli kerge, aga ma tahtsin ja sain omale 4 minutilise osa Oxfordi debatis ja kus ma närvitsesin, kuigi me harjutasime enne kõik väitlejad koos nende ees, kes ei julgenud esineda. Ma tahtsin ja lihtsalt pidin ka üksi oma laulu laulma ja tantsisin improviseerisin liigutusi, et maha rahuneda veits, vaatasin sõnad maha telefonist-see ei olnud tähtis ning oleks pidanud rohkem rahvast kaasa plaksutama kutsuma. Meie grupp(mina, Villiam ja Marek) kaotasime vist debati sellepärast, et ma mainisin, et naiste iq on madalam kui meestel ja selle peale reageeriti.(top 1 on mees, aga keskmiselt on naised targemad) Kahjuks me ei saanud oma esitlust teha intercultural õhtul ja videosid Milcovenist pole ka näinud. Väga toredad kohad ja jääb eluks ajaks meelde. Ainuke miinus oli see, et Teregovast Milcoveni sõites oli meil reckless driver ja ma palvetasin, et ma surma ei saaks haha:) Ma olin ka kolmanda debati idee autoriks, sest enamus hääletas minu poolt. Oleksin võinud valida (kas rohkem raha teeb õnnelikumaks) või (samasooliste abielu), sest Illuminati kohta ei teatud eriti  ja ei saanud midagi teada selle kohta, ainult et see dollari rahatähe peal, mis oli ühel tüdrukul kaasas. Magasin end välja iga päev, keskmiselt 7 tundi. Algul 4,5,8,10,1 ja siis 8,7,10,1,10 vms. See et wifi ära kadus, mul oli ükskõik sellest ja elekter kui ära kadus, siis ka suva. Algul oli veits paanika, sest nii palav oli nagu oleks saunas, aga harjus kiiresti ära.Parem kui Eestis ilm ikkagi. Ühe korra tegime tornaadot ainult söögilauas, maitea, miks see ei meeldinud mõnedele, aga ma istusin vahel ikka teistega ka peale eestlaste. Eure sain vahetada mõlemas külas, algul 4.5 ja siis 4.4 kursiga. Jõin mõõdukalt.
Reti Randorg - I loved the project! I love the people who took part in it. I love the organizers. Accommodation was awesome and I liked that we lived in two different parts of Romania.
Unfortunately, it seems that a lot of the participants comes to these projects mostly to party and are not interested in hard core learning. That was the main reason why workshops were not really hard for most of us. Sometimes it seemed that we were playing games all day without any deeper conversations.

This Project was financed by European Commission's Erasmus + Programme