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Intercultural youth exchange programme in Romania

Catching the culture together!

Intercultural youth exchange programme in Romania

Sunday, 20. January 2013

Romanians and Ukrainians were catching the culture together

Catching the culture together, Romania, 18-27 October, 2012

Participants of the movement Foundations for Freedom, as a part of a multi-cultural team and multi-ethnic group from Romania, spent 10 unforgettable days in the Romanian Hoteni.

The intercultural exchange programme Catching the culture together was held 18 – 27 October as a result of a successful partnership that had begun during a regional meeting of Foundations for Freedom in the Romanian town of Baia Mare in Spring 2012. The meeting focused on the interaction of cultures in Europe, stereotypes and trust.  The group also visited a Romanian wedding.

What is it like to be a European? How can trust be built in a team?  Where do stereotypes come from? During the youth exchange project Catching the culture together, held in a cozy village in Northern Romania, participants answered these and other questions.  The project was organized by Kolo Druziv Simferopol - Heidelberg (Ukraine) and Young Roma Maramures (Romania), with the support of the Romanian National Agency of Youth in Action.

Fifteen participants from Ukraine and 15 from Romania spent 10 days together, gaining new experience, developing personal skills, debating, and learning about controversial subjects in order to find common solutions. The Ukrainian team was represented by six cultures: Ukrainian, Russian, Crimean Tatar, Azerbaijani an, Armenian and Lithuanian; Romanian in its turn by three - Romanian, Moldovan and Roma, thus the project was indeed multiethnic.

One of the main goals of the project was to create a united team.  Overcoming the language barrier, having trainings on trust, and identifying the nature of stereotypes, helped the participants to understand how to take responsibility for each other and be in a leadership role. They also gained knowledge on what culture is, about the different kinds of subcultures that exist,  how culture influences human behaviour and what values ​​are in our society.

An important phase of the project was to discuss the European Union and European integration. Participants have learned the history of the EU and discovered together and personally what it means to be European. Despite the fact that Ukraine and Romania are in Europe, not all participants identified themselves as Europeans. For the majority Europe is not a geographical concept, but a socio-economic one.

Every day of the project was opened with something new. The Ukrainian team was curious to visit museums and community of Romanian Roma in Baia Mare.  Participants from Ukraine were keen to ask questions, trying to learn more about traditions and family life of the Roma people. In their turn, members of the Roma community were interested in the life of Roma in Ukraine.  Another part of the introduction of Roma culture was showing the Soviet film Queen of the Gypsies, after which we had time to discuss the law according to which the Roma community lives.

The most exciting thing was the opportunity to attend a wedding in a village that also became a part of learning Romanian culture. Definitely, such 'live' contact with an ancient tradition gave participants much more than just dry information from books and the internet. On the last evening participants presented their own culture. We cooked traditional dishes most of the previous day.  Everyone learned how to dance traditional dances, performed folk songs and talked in the warm atmosphere after a delicious dinner.

Particiapnts from Ukraine: Evgeniya Koroleva, Dmitry Pritulenko

Ten days passed quickly. Each participant took away a small piece of wonderful time from the cozy home in Hoteni. Some were interested in traditions of another nation, others got a new look at teamwork,  and broke stereotypes, but there was one common thing for all of us - we became good friends. This is the most important outcome of any multinational project. Isn’t it?

This project was a big breakthrough for me. And I clearly understood that we came back home changed. I am grateful to this project for the fact that such a breakthrough finally happened and opened new opportunities. I felt we were like one big family on the day of departure. I hadn’t felt so close to everyone before’, says Mariya Baranovskaya, a participant of the project Catching the culture together

Evgeniya Koroleva