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Open your mind and Just think about this!

Sarata Monteoru, a beautiful village in Romania with even more beautiful people. Even though it is known for its healing mineral springs, for me, it was healing in a completely different way. “Just think about this” training course was my first Erasmus+ project and I am so grateful that my first experience was so positive that it didn’t shy me away from adventures like these in the near future. I got to interact with so many different cultures and points of view that it changed the way I think, which was the whole goal of this project. We dealt with very relevant topics and developed skills that are especially useful for today’s age. We live in a world that can feel overwhelming, misleading and often biased in the information shared with us. We also have a whole separate life online that’s presented in the best possible light, but we still find a way to bully each other, and whatever we say it is never quite politically correct. With this project, we got to go deeper into these topics and develop skill sets like critical thinking that would help us navigate the right path in this complex new age world of ours.

The aim of every day was to awaken our creativity and encourage us to reach conclusions on our own. Our mornings started with energizer games that helped to wake up our minds in the morning and connect as a group through our silliness. All the team-building games and creative projects helped us form bonds that would strengthen us throughout our exploration of the discussed topics.

The heart of our journey lay in our exploration of critical thinking. Through non-formal education methods, we dissected arguments, questioned assumptions, and honed our ability to discern between fact and fiction. From analyzing case studies to engaging in role-playing scenarios, we delved deep into the nuances of critical thought, emerging with a newfound appreciation for the importance of questioning and reasoning.

Cyberbullying, which is unfortunately a very common occurrence today, showed us the dark side of our digital age. By putting ourselves in the shoes of the abused and the abusers in role plays, we confronted the truth about the impact that online bullying has on mental health. In these debates, we went over the causes, effects, emotions and possible preventions of cyberbullying,  which helped us better our empathetic skills and the need to always try to be the kindest version of yourself.

Political correctness, which is a topic with a lot of controversy, and can be used for better or for worse, sparked a lot of debates in these workshops. We also discussed the delicate balance between the right to free speech and the demands of inclusivity and sensitivity through polite discourse. In this particular workshop, which helped me the most to grasp the topic from every aspect was the “Six thinking hats” game where we were divided by the colors of the hat that represented different points of view on the discussed topic and where changing the color meant joining a different perspective. I think this game has a lot of benefits on enhancing creativity, improving collaboration and helping with conflict resolution and getting better at decision making.

As we become more and more drowned in the sea of information daily, the spectre of fake news loomed large, casting doubt upon the very foundations of truth and trust. Through interactive workshops and creative representations through short skits that we worked on in teams, we peeled back the layers of misinformation and dissected propaganda techniques. Armed with critical thinking skills, we emerged with a renewed sense of vigilance, committed to combating the spread of falsehoods in our communities.

Beyond the structured sessions, our journey was punctuated by moments of spontaneity and connection. During the intercultural nights, we learned about each other’s roots, our cultures, different beliefs and habits. We got to taste each other’s food, drinks, sweets and snack specialties and really connect with one another’s similarities or differences. Late-night discussions over cups of coffee, learning national dances, and playing all sorts of games connected us so deeply in such a short time which was a reminder of the beauty of shared experiences and diverse perspectives.

As we were getting closer to the final days, we were divided into 3 groups to work in parallel workshops. One of them was a video group, where they had to make a short movie related to the discussed topics. The second was a forum theatre, where we presented the audience with a problem and they were the ones who were supposed to find the solution in the story. The third one was the magazine that we filled with all the voices from the project, pictures of unforgettable moments and a gossip column for our inside jokes. I am very grateful that we got to produce all of these timeless pieces that will help us keep the memory fresh of the time we spent together.

Even though we reached the end of our short journey of knowledge, organized by the amazing team of Hair Redivivus-Buzau, Romania, this is just the beginning of the friendships we made and the lessons we learned.

Simona Soleva