Tuesday, 26 April 2016

EuroPeers UK event in cooperation with Solent University in Southampton

Ilona Kuzak, a member of the EuroPeers UK, in partnership with Southampton Solent University, is co-hosting a conference on opportunities for young people on Tuesday, May 3rd. Topics will include Erasmus+ and other European-funded opportunities, youth entrepreneurship, and more. Come join us at this event to learn about how you can take advantage of what the EU has to offer and take the next steps towards your career! Get a free ticket HERE

Friday, 15 April 2016

EuroPeers UK Launch Report

On the 30th March 2016, after months of coordination and organisation, EuroPeers and invited guests came together at Europe House to celebrate the launch of the EuroPeers UK network.

The launch was hosted by Abdul and Ellie, two EuroPeers UK steering group members.

Andrew Hadley, CEO of Momentum World, gave an impassioned speech about the importance of the EuroPeers UK, the objectives for the network, and how they plan on achieving said objectives.

The hosts then each gave a speech about why they decided to be involved in EuroPeers. Ellie touched on the importance of following your passion and working hard, while Abdul focused on how social action projects have changed him for the better.  Eddie from Lansons PR also spoke about how his experiences in Europe have enhanced his life.

There are hundreds of partner organizations in the UK making a positive impact on the lives of young people and representatives from two of these – Employability Town and The ASHA Centre came along to give a presentation on their astounding work.  Although different, they both carry out some great work to make big long-term transformations in the lives of young people.

Ilona, a EuroPeers steering group member, had just flown in from Poland but made sure that she was present to give a speech on her impressive experience in working with young people. She had also taken part in extensive training with the German branch of EuroPeers.

In order to give a more holistic view to the role of the EU, Dr. Andreas Staab who is Director of the European Policy Information Centre  gave a speech on his personal experience of living in the EU. He gave a balanced, and at times humorous recollection of his experiences!

Daniel Ambrus, Head of Communication at European Commission Representation UK also gave a well-balanced speech on his experiences of living in the EU.

Andrew Hadley gave a closing speech to emphasise the direction of EuroPeers UK, request feedback from attendees and thank stakeholders for making the event a success.

Attendees stayed on for an hour or so to network and discuss the launch and how they might be of assistance.

It was very encouraging to see the level of support offered from attendees and in the lead up to the event. Six months ago, the EuroPeers UK was just a name, small, and logo-less!

We would like to express our gratitude to the attendees, the EuroPeers UK steering group members, the European Commission Representation in London, Lansons PR, and Momentum World for providing significant resources to grow the EuroPeers UK network. Also along the way, other organizations have offered advice, which has proven useful.


Monday, 4 April 2016

Yi´s Erasmus+ story

                               Hi, I am Yi and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

I was incredibly fortunate to have my first Erasmus+ experience at the ASHA Centre in the beautiful Forest of Dean. I had been volunteering at Oxfam when a fellow volunteer-turned-good friend told me about a residential training course on interfaith dialogue. I could immediately sense from the title of the course and from my friend’s enthusiasm about the people at ASHA that it was coming from a refreshingly genuine interest in learning and ways of engaging with others that I had been searching for through volunteering.

When I arrived I didn’t have the slightest idea what to expect, but the very first conversations I had with the residential staff filled me with a sense of reassurance and excitement that I was amongst people who brought their true selves and passions into their work, and there was a feeling of warmth and homeliness even though we were all meeting for the first time. To me, this captures the very essence of non-formal education, where the aim is not to create distance and an intimidating sense of prestige or awe, but that of mutual respect and natural ease so that we can all learn from one another. 

Being quite a shy person, I tend not to contribute much to group discussions unless I have something I am certain I want to say, so as I found myself wanting to speak more in the facilitated group discussions I realised that there was something very different about the way I felt in the environment that was being created during the course. For once, it felt like I wasn’t being tested or measured, just being heard. And when I spoke, it began to feel like I was using my own voice, not one I had to project in order to meet expectations.

As I also started to connect with new friends who were going through similar shifts during the course, I realised how huge an impact the strict and unbalanced environment of my formal education had had on me as a person; and it is difficult to describe just how this realisation affected the way I saw myself and the direction that I wanted to take in my life. The existence of Erasmus+ opened up a whole avenue of possibilities in my world where there was the exciting prospect of living, working and collaborating meaningfully with others towards a better world, not just to compete and get as much out of each other as possible.

As I continued to attend Erasmus+ projects around Europe, I found my confidence in many aspects of my life grow as I came to better know my true self and was more able to bring that self into my interactions with others. I did not see formal education as something that was truly bad, however, merely that it was not always sufficient in nurturing young people to grow into whole, balanced and socially aware individuals. Since my first Erasmus+ experience about a year and a half ago, I have now returned to formal education – something I thought I would never do – and I have chosen to study Drama and Education at a university that values these concepts of mutual respect and relational pedagogy. I have rediscovered my joy and confidence in learning and am enjoying learning formally as well as informally about the different ways in which people learn and how to create educational environments and structures that best support this learning process.

To put it simply, the experience of non-formal education through Erasmus+ has fulfilled a significant gap in my development that I had sensed yet not fully understood while growing up through formal education, and I am certain that there are many others like me out there who will greatly benefit from this humble but fantastic programme for social empowerment.

Clara´s Erasmus+ story_ How my EVS experience impacted my life?

                             Hi, I am Clara and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

I decided to do my EVS because I wanted to spread my wings, and suddenly I found myself in a wonderful place, surrounded by nature in the middle of the Forest. I couldn’t express with words what I was feeling because I didn’t speak the language, but even despite this, I felt it was the place I had to be, I felt like home without knowing what would happen or how this experience would change my life, and it did. Today I can say it was one of the best experiences of my life.

The first impact it had on me was the fact of abandoning my comfort zone and starting from the beginning in a new place. It made me feel really free and independent. Life in community, even with the challenges it brings,  fascinates  me; the fact of sharing a house with 15  young people from different countries gave me another vision of the world. To know other cultures, other values, another language, shook my small world and made me discover there are a lot of possibilities and different ways.  At the same time you discover where you come from and who you are through simply living, sharing, having fun, loving, feeling and meeting people, in other words enjoying life.

The second impact was the connexion with nature: moving from the city to a village in the Forest, stopping the life of studies to start the one of experiences, working in a garden listening to the Earth to understand her rhythms and connecting with the most essential elementary things that nature provides. This bridge helped me to discover my spiritual path and awoke me to the importance of taking care of our environment.
I could say as well this experience taught me personal, professional and social skills like cooking, gardening, communication and for sure a new language. This was mostly through the work we did at ASHA hosting training courses and having the experience to get involved with them, meeting people from around the world, and learning about different kinds of subjects (theatre, music, interfaith, volunteering and so on), different cultures, traditions, ways of proceeding  and enriching relationships, as well as awakening to a European awareness.

This way of working made me realise as well the meaning of volunteering; what it deeply means to work with love and for love, having fun without expectation, giving to your community. I believe these small changes are the changes that change the world, and I believe in the methodology of non formal education, philosophy, the values and principles promoted by the ASHA centre so thanks to my volunteering service I felt I was bringing my little grain of sand to the world.

This experience was one of personal growth.  I discovered different ways to love, to open my heart to people and I even fell in love.  At ASHA I leant to trust life, to believe the things that have to come will come when you are ready and this is what happened with my love story and as well with my future. When my EVS finished, without knowing what to do next, I found a job in the same place where I was… at the Asha centre. So in my case my EVS gave me the opportunity to keep growing and learning about all these life lessons. And here I am… I am so grateful to have had this experience in my life.

After my EVS I felt really empowered to do whatever I wanted and to have the courage to go anywhere to keep growing and discovering the world, be it only for the simple excuse of visiting all your new friends around the world. I felt myself filled with love, experience,  memories and people that still and will be always in my heart.

In conclusion, my EVS experience enriched my life in different areas: my own self growth, my professional life, my spiritual life. It woke me up to my own place in the world and the part I have to play in it. 

Martin´s Erasmus+ story_ From Gloucester to Slanic Moldova, via highs lows and meeting new friends

                          Hi, I am Martin and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

What’s a man of 42, yes 42, all though not young in age, young at heart, and so grateful for my Erasmus+ peregrination, doing on a youth project and what has he gained, I hear you thinking, I 'll explain, well try to.

I am Martin Harrison a 42 year old man (that will be the last time a mention my age) from Stoke-on-Trent, a city in the middle of England between Manchester and Birmingham and famous for the ceramics industry (making plates) and where Robbie Williams grew up. I work for the Soil Association, an organic growing charity, where I manage a healthy eating project in schools. My two passions are football and the natural environment, with both always coming to the fore on the courses I have attended.

I first heard and got involved in Erasmus + projects back in September 2013, while I was working as a community officer for The Wildlife Trust, a course at the Asha Centre in Gloucester, ‘Education for Sustainable Development’. It was an amazing first experience on what was then the Youth in Action programme, and my first course- residential course since graduating from formal education in 2008. The other participants were mainly British, we looked at the sustainability of the natural environment, different types of communities, including a young family living in the woodlands on land that was common land. Aswell as learning new ideas, from the trainers and other participants, it was a great social and emotional experience, spending virtually every minute of 5 days with people I had never met before. We all bonded, laughed, joked, learnt and even cried together. This course gave me an appetite for more!
Over the next year I applied for a few courses, that were of interest to me and that I felt I could contribute too, but also had to fit in with my own life and work. I was luckily enough to gain a place on ‘Active Youth for Active Europe’ in Kopaniec, Poland, an amazingly beautiful part of the country, where we stopped was in a very remote area sleeping in wooden chalets. The participants were from all across European, again we became a community, learning about each other, each other’scountries, culture and traditions. My journey started at Manchester airport, the first time I had flown alone, which was an experience too, as I don’t overly like flying either. Another great week, making some new friends, from Lithuania and Italy amongst others, who I am still contact with today.

Since the course in Kopaniec in September2014 I have attended two more courses. May 2015 was a course in La Rochelle, France, looking at the informal learning environment. Again a beautiful coastal location, a very ‘interesting’ flight to the smallest airport I have seen. One thing I have not mentioned yet is the evening time or social/free time we had. Which I feel is of paramount importance to be able to communicate and work with new people. In La Rochelle, we played card games, which I am awful at, but I am very competitive, so be warned if you are on a course with me. Also tried to learn how to play the ukulele, I have since bought one too, and had a great meal at a fantastic sea food restaurant. A theme throughout my Erasmus+ life is making new and what I hope are lifelong friends, so from France I have friends from Serbia and France, who I stay in contact with.

My final course was a real different experience with many highs and a few lows. Glencree in southern Ireland, in the Wicklow Mountains about 40 minutes from Dublin. The Threshold, was looking at thresholds in our life, linked we the natural environment. From hiking, to a 40 minute dance/whirling experience, to making and sitting in a sauna in the woods, to spending a night alone outside which was preceded by a 24 hour fast. It was a life changing week, giving me confidence and accepting who I am, plus making what I know are friends for life. Shane from Ireland and Lily from Hungary have already visited me in Stoke-on-Trent and we are all meeting up in Ireland next month.

My next course is in Slanic Moldova, Romania in May, looking at non formal education and the environment, I can’t wait!

So, If I have not already shown, why getting involved in Erasmus+ is a good idea, I´ll summarise it for you.

It gives you a chance to travel, see new countries, learn about different cultures, and learn about yourself too. All of which are so important in becoming a rounded person that can shine in not just Britain but across Europe too. Every experience is a good experience, even if it’s a bad one, as you will learn from it. Paradise is not a place it’s about being part of something.


Saying Goodbye

Saying goodbye is always hard.

But we have gained unforgettable memories.

New friends.
And had a lot of fun.

We wouldn´t experience any of these moments without support of the Austrian National Agency for Erasmus+, Interkulturelles Zentrum ( Thank you very much!

How Erasmus+ influenced Vicky´s life

                                          Hi, I am Vicky and this is a story about my EuroPeer journey.

2016 has been a surprising experience for me, I've managed to reach over 4 different countries around Europe through the Erasmus exchange. 

What can I say!!

I can say the economy is certainly different to London. I can ensure that being a part of the Erasmus+ scheme has definitely given me the chance to know myself better, I've met some amazing people, I even had the chance to see the cities I reside in. Erasmus is an unforgettable experience which no-one will ever take away from you as an individual. 

There will be times 
when you just want to be by yourself when engaging to the programme but that's okay. I call it the moment of 'abliss'. That moment is simply mindfulness, it allows you to look at your life at a stand still and grasp where you truly want to be before you return home.

'Erasmus exchange is the moment for change', being in Vienna with the UK peers showed me that we all have dreams and by sticking together they will unfold a lot faster.

Life is a stepping stone and through Erasmus I now can work and focus on my weak points in life is that the whole point of exploring find out where it works and where it doesn't. You can never take away the experience of learning. There is always going to be a moment for enhancing this ability.

I truly am thankful for have been given the chance to know what Erasmus means and for being a part of it. I put the whole thing down to one word 'fundamental'.


Planning our own projects

This Saturday was very productive for us. We learnt about the project management methods which will help us to organise our own events. 

We had a workshop about communication as well!

After the workshops finished, we started planning our own EuroPeers actions, which we will take once we are back home.

Exploring Vienna

In the morning of the third day, we were on the way to Vienna to meet for lunch after everyone has completed their projects.

The weather in Vienna was so beautiful!

We discussed what we learnt from a previous day. And relaxed!

We did some sightseeing as well.