It might be a cliché but living abroad changes you and not necessarily in the way you expected. Before the exchange you have some expectations: some of them come true, some of them won’t but as a result your attitude, personality and the way you see yourself and others will change in a good way. Everything I have been through during those 3 months helped me to appreciate and evaluate things I had never thought about before. Almost 4 years have passed but I still have so vivid flashbacks.
I turned 18 at the camp in Brussels and got a gummy-bear-cake from the whole group, it was incredibly touching. All the games, the conversations and shared experiences were beneficial for my re-entry. All the ambivalent feelings needed to be expressed, either by me or by somebody else. During ECTP, you cannot not gain experience. Acceptance, endurance and wider view of the world, this is what you get as a “send-off” from the camp.
During the programme, I was involved in a multicultural environment so I have made many friendships with people from all around the world. One of those friends came to visit me in my home country all the way from Paraguay so I showed her the way of living in Bosnia. While I was on exchange, I learned to speak Italian fluently and after I could help and support an Italian girl that came on a one-year AFS exchange program to Bosnia. After my exchange, I became a more organized and open-minded person and I am now using those “skills” on a daily basis.
At ECTP I learned about many cultural differences, from the way you think to the way you behave, so now I understand that not everyone can think the way I do and since than I have behaved in accordance. I also implemented a project that I came up with in one of the Camp workshops. Our local Interact Club, which I am president of, has made monthly visits to a retirement home for senior citizens in our city. With this project, we have become active citizens and I had used all of the knowledge that I learned during the ECTP.
The final experience in Brussels helped me understand more and deeper how the European Union is organised and how “Europeaness” can be internalised by everyone living in the EU. I understood how much the EU does every day even “in silence” to contribute building a better and more stimulating future for all of us. Moreover, I now also study how to communicate Europe to other citizens, and during the lessons, I realized how the camp in Brussels provided me with more knowledge about European Citizenship than what I could have learnt only through lectures.
Of course both the program and the final camp, gave me unique emotions and e experiences. During the programme, you arrive in a country that you don’t know and you feel like you don’t belong to. At the beginning, you have no one, and you feel far from home, but then you start meeting people, spending time with your host family and it gets better. I can personally say that the programme gave me the possibility to know who I really am and what I can do by myself. I learned how to open up with people and relate with them. All of that helped me to get more confident and to achieve my goals, I became more responsible and attentive to important things.
The final camp in Brussels has been so different from the program, because I felt immediately at home; I was so happy to be in the capital of Europe, I felt for the first time, European. I am pretty sure that was the moment when I fell in love with Europe. The experience in Brussel helped me to connect all the things I had been learning in the three months prior. My time spent in Brussel helped me to be who I am now, A European Lover, a European activist and first of all a European Citizen.
My ECTP had a huge impact in my life. I realized that borders are not so important and I had an amazing host family I am planning to visit often. Also, I made lifelong friendships that I am still in contact with. France will always be a home for me.
The final camp in Brussels was a great experience, where I learned how to be a responsible citizen, the importance of taking care of the environment, and human rights and European politics; I have been using this knowledge since.
Of course the experience helped me gain much confidence in myself, and gave me the opportunity to get in touch with
people from all over the world, who now are my friends! I also improved my English, since I spent three months in Ireland. When I came back, I could see the differences between the ‘old me’ and the ‘new me’, since I had become much more extroverted and open-minded. The experience also gave me all the independence I needed, to live my life as a responsible man, able to think with my own head.
The final camp in Brussels was the perfect end to my experience. Even though I had just finished my programme, it was a great opportunity to share my thoughts and my life as an exchange student. I got to know many people from all countries of Europe, and learned many things about the government and the rules applied in the European Union. I used this experience to open my mind towards certain topics, such as the identity of the EU.
Well, during my exchange I had to face some problems, but is thanks to those problems if now I am who I am, a new person. After my return, I made a lot of new friends because I applied the skills I acquired abroad: as I did in Slovakia, I said goodbye to shyness and I became more self-confident.
I also started to feel part of a bigger community; I started to think as a European citizen, not only as an Italian one. I talked to my friends, my class, and my family about all those changes that made my life better, trying to involve them in all this. I even began to do volunteering work in my city. I really think that my hard but good exchange program and ECTP camp helped in making the new me. And to improve myself even more, now I’m going abroad again on another exchange!
I can say without any doubt that the participation at the final camp in Brussels and in the trimester programme has defined my future and changed my understanding of the world. Now, I want to know more, give people more and share.
The information that I have gotten during the trimester programme and in ECTP camp in Brussel has given me a great push forward towards developing skills of communication with different nationalities, understanding and helping people from different countries notwithstanding the fact that they are people of different religion, race and gender, with different beliefs. My perception of the world has altered a lot; the experience at the final camp in Brussels let me understand and remember about respect and hospitality, and, what really matters, tolerance. There is a motto in my life that helps me communicate and wakes up a desire to continue my life in the sphere of cultural diplomacy: “It’s not good, it’s not bad, it’s just different”. We just need to understand, listen to and hear other people and accept the difference.
The programme and the final camp in Brussels have given me a better understanding of what I want to devote my life to. In 2015 I decided to study international relations in Linguistics University of Nizhny Novgorod. I never stopped volunteering, thanks to the programme I realised that I need to share my experience with other people, with youth mainly, and organise projects where people can gain new information about the world and express their opinions concerning global issues. That’s why, for three years I organize, with other students, Model United Nations events. What is more, in July-August 2017 I became a volunteer at the International Youth Camp “Lazurny”.
I was an exchange student in Poland from Italy. I’m now a Medicine student and I’m proud of myself, proud of what I’ve learned during my exchange and proud of the person I’ve become. The final camp in Brussels is something amazing, I’ve made friends from other countries, had the opportunity to share my experience with other participants and I really hope to one day come back to that places full of memories and hopes for the future!
The experience of the final camp in Brussels was illuminating for me. I’ve finally opened my eyes and I’ve realized that being an active citizen (in all kinds of fields) is something too important and I’ve realized that in my life I wasn’t doing that. So my experience didn’t truly end in Brussels, it was only the start of something even more exciting. I am now an active AFS volunteer, always in contact with people from other countries. I’ve also started to volunteer with associations that support underprivileged people and I’ve become a member of one of my University associations (I’m only at the first year and I am already coordinating a project).
My participation at the camp in Brussels was pure gold to me: I got to understand a bit more about European citizenship and I became much interested in topics that I felt were so distant from me.
The experience each person gains in the programme will be a tool useful for the everyday life! For me it was extremely important because right after my programme I became a volunteer and I’ve been a volunteer ever since. I love helping young students to become part of a new community that they were not a part of before. I like to make them realise how much they have grown with the experience and how they will be using that experience to overcome obstacles they will run into!
Thanks to ECTP, I’ve definitely grew more aware of cultural differences and embraced diversity in a different way and I always try to share my experience with the people I meet who did not have the opportunity to have an experience like a period abroad or people with different opinions. The final camp helped me understand most of the challenges I faced during my time abroad and made me more aware of the concept of community and Europe.
With the experience that I gained in both situations and all my life events before and since, I started volunteering helping a refugee family in Portugal and I joined the Erasmus Student Network – a volunteer association also deeply connected to Europe and mobility. My experience allowed me to bring other points of view to our local section and now I am helping on the international level as well – I’m working on a project that aims to improve the volunteers’ experience in ESN.
All the work that I do as an ESNer, as a student and as a person aims at a closer Europe and community, where everyone should feel connection and belonging.