The youth exchange ToBeOF was held between 19th of June and 1st of July in Kumanovo and Ohrid. It gathered 19 participants from Macedonia, Hong Kong and Spain. The youth exchange is part of a long-term project named “To be or not to be…formal (ToBeOf). The general aim of the project is to implement, test and standardize a set of rules for non-formal educational activities with and for young people who face the risk of social exclusion or marginalization.
The youth exchange intended to explore various types of non-formal education activities. The program offered indoor and outdoor activities; the indoor sessions comprised activities on topics like intercultural learning, social games, non-formal education, communication skills. Outdoor activities included hiking, visiting the Sveti Naum island by boat, canoeing, playing outside games, basketball and volleyball, etc.
The participants deepened their insight of society, people, culture and values, and strengthened their belief in human rights and the role of the individual in society. The extent of their learning was all the more impressive, given that most of the participants came from different countries and cultures; they gained a good understanding of each other and discovered that they have more in common than what they thought at the beginning.
They developed a much more mature and nuanced understanding of a country quite different from their own, appreciating and assessing the strengths of the system, while also accepting the inevitable problems and shortcomings. As a result of their experience, they felt closer to people and society and were able to reflect on the similarities and differences between themselves.
Here is what our participants want to share after the experience:
I have learned how to believe in myself and to be more confident about whatever I do and above all I have learned to be more patient and to interact with different people of different ways. I also improved greatly my communication skills. I´ve always had difficulties with expressing myself. Thankfully, I don’t have that anymore. The most important skill was that I learned how to express myself more freely. I learned that I should really listen and put myself in the shoes of the other speaker while they are speaking instead of thinking of a better answer, I learned to make my own decisions and be confident about them. I think that’s one of the things that I would have never learned at home. The skill of autonomy that I exercised will surely help me in my everyday life. I am depending more on myself and I can do whatever I need by myself, especially if there is nobody around to help me.
I enjoyed a lot the kayaking activity. Learning how to steer your boat on flat water by using proper paddle strokes was a little bit hard and challenging. It’s like we were a group of rubber duckies set free in a tub and we all just kept going round and round in circles. It’s hard to believe that in half an hour we learned how to control our kayak and paddle. It’s an amazing feeling to realize you have so much control over your kayak! Also the swimming session was fun. Four people didn’t know how to swim and they were afraid of drowning. Some of them struggled with the idea of swimming, in particular getting their faces in the water, and the fear was keeping them out of the water. We are satisfied with the outcome, and of course we overcome the fear of water and swimming because we had great teachers.