Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Preparing Youth Exchange - Susie's story

The camp was really easy to get to, with at least one train each hour from Fiumicino airport train station. The train cost €11 and took about 1.5hours. It is a nice journey through the centre of Rome and they are large trains so there is no problem with getting a seat.

The camp is about 20 minutes’ walk from the station, most of which is off of the main road so it is a pleasant walk. The camp is held in a farm which some of the buildings have been converted to accommodate activity camps. The accommodation is really comfortable with 4 main dorm rooms; two holding 4 people, and two larger dorm rooms holding 12 people.  There are 3 shower rooms and, although it wasn’t plentiful, there was usually hot water available.

The scenery is completely beautiful and it is easy to distance yourself from the rest of the world and just focus on camp living, particularly because there is no Wi-Fi available to participants, so it was easy to focus on just spending a week within the camp.

The other participants were lovely and everyone was enthusiastic throughout the camp. The trainers seemed to have endless energy and were really good trainers. The activities were a good mix of discussion based and activity/physical based and always had a debrief session so we were aware of the purpose behind the activity. The activities were designed to be varied and to take us steadily out of our comfort zone and we were frequently reminded that this camp was the time to try things with no fear of consequences. It did always feel a safe environment among like-minded people where we could try new things and test skills without fear of ridicule ‘doing something wrong’.

The exercises were based around teamwork on the first day and a half. We then moved onto discussions and group working based on the concept of gender, stereotypes and following onto prejudices. The third day explored more discussions on gender and then involved role plays on managing conflict. The fourth day centred on the team working, leadership and trust and then in the afternoon, we went into groups based on which camp we would be leading and found out more details about the teen camp plans and Erasmus +. On the fifth day, we were separated into groups of six people and were given the morning to start planning an hour-long activity. We had the morning to prepare this and then each group led their activity with the rest of the group. We led activities on the afternoon of the fifth and morning of the sixth day. We then had a debrief, evaluation and wrap-up session on the afternoon of the sixth day.

Overall, the exercises were varied and I believe that everyone learnt new skills and also learnt more about themselves. As we all lived together for a week with no contact with the outside world, we bonded as a group really well and part of the experience was the communal living. As is the nature of communal living, there were peaks and troughs in energy levels and there were times where some people were easier to work with than others. However, because we were all living in such close proximity, it was an excellent opportunity to work with different people and challenge our own beliefs and behaviours. Everyone on the camp was really lovely and we have kept in touch through Facebook since returning home.

One evening we had an international food night where we all made food from our countries. Adam and I made a chicken casserole and cheesecake – both which are easy dishes to make as the ingredients are easy to source. I just took over a Colman's chicken casserole sachet which was light and small to pack. The food at the camp was amazing and most days we were able to eat outside. Everyone was put into teams to do the mealtime prep and washing up, and general cleaning duties. There was also a bar where we were able to buy beer and wine. We were all over 18 and everyone drank in moderation (although the wine is homemade wine and deceptively strong!)

Overall, it was an excellent camp and I learned new skills, exercises and icebreakers. It was a challenging but thoroughly rewarding and enjoyable week. I look forward to returning in May.

Susie Death

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