“Project in Lithuania? In the peak of summer? That sounds like a great adventure!” is a thought that crossed my mind at the same moment when I found out about the Erasmus+ youth exchange project “YOU(th) early start – Y.E.S.”. If I only knew how much that thought would contribute to me and fill me with new experiences, knowledge and friendships. Located in Antaliepte – a small village with amazing landscapes, in a large monastery from the 17th century, I had the chance to develop and learn together with other young people from Macedonia, Lithuania, Spain, Slovenia, Romania and Turkey – an experience followed by a lot of information, smiles and unforgettable moments.
During all the euphoria just a few weeks before leaving for Lithuania, I was faced almost every day with the question “What are you going to do in Lithuania? Isn’t it much colder there? Better stay here in the warm” from my peers. But comments like that made me even more excited about the youth exchange. The very realization that I was about to go so far from my everyday life, to a country that I wanted to visit for so long, in order to contribute and expand my horizons, fulfilled me.
I can safely say that Antaliepte is not something you see every day. Although it is a small place, it is filled with lots of greenery, lakes, cute bridges and a magnificent cathedral. But we must not forget the distinctive Baltic culture (and indeed their irresistible cuisine) which is so different from ours, and so well represented throughout Antaliepte. The overall aesthetics of the place contribute to a very pleasant atmosphere that cannot be felt and experienced everywhere.
The Y.E.S. project was organized by Generation Echo and its core was the topic of youth unemployment. It is a growing problem in many countries, which has complex roots and harmful consequences on the youth, such as economic instability and, in my opinion, the biggest curse – the loss of passion and love for work. This project had an initial goal to help us prevent youth unemployment in our country and make it easier to choose our future profession, but in addition it became an even wider source of experiences. For days we all worked together, in groups of mixed nationalities, through which we all practiced being team players and perfected the ability to work with different people and under different circumstances. In a very short time, we understood that in order to be effective, you need to know yourself well and make an effort to get to know the other person. For that reason, we had many opportunities to get to know ourselves, to find the best ways to organize and control ourselves, and the most effective means to personally improve and help. While upgrading ourselves, we also worked to improve our communication and organization as a team and find a way to solve all problems together. At every moment we tried to make everyone heard, and more importantly, understood and appreciated. Something that I think helped a lot, apart from all the time spent together, were the intercultural nights we held for each country. Through them, we managed to learn a lot more about each culture, laugh at a story or a tongue twister, try an interesting dance and taste something new and different. And when the activities were over and the stars were out over the clear Baltic sky, we stayed up for hours, socializing and creating unforgettable memories. After nine days of discovering new horizons and growing together, the farewell was accompanied by many hugs, kind words and a few tears.
After landing in Skopje and saying goodbye to the Macedonian group, I had time to reflect on everything I experienced and learned, and I understood that this project contributed a lot to my personal growth. Now I feel like I understand myself much better and I can more easily determine what I want and how to act. In addition, I began to have a better understanding of the environment, its problems, needs and potential solutions. I believe that now I can use an even greater part of me to help and share all the information I have gained with other teenagers who feel lost or unheard. If you are hesitant about such an unforgettable experience because of the big change (seriously, the temperature was cut in half compared to what we had in Macedonia in the same period) I will just say that there is nothing to be afraid of, because the knowledge, skills and memories from it are literally TIMELESS.
– representative of VCS on the project “Y.E.S.” in Lithuania