20th – 28th of May 2018
The “Active Citizens Laboratory” that I partook was a training course organized by the United Societies of Balkans in Thessaloniki, Greece, between the 20 th and the 28 th of May 2018. It aimed on bringing together 28 people from 15 countries, to motivate and educate them to participate actively in social, political and democratic events in their local community and in a national and a European scale as well. Being from Cyprus, for most of us Greece is not a foreign destination. We most likely have a friend studying there, living there, working etc. We ourselves have probably visited the country for studying, vacation, visiting friends… But it is different being in Thessaloniki with an Erasmus + group. Let me explain.
My trip to the hotel that the training was taking place was not eventful. I arrived mid dinner, so a lot of my fellow trainees where at the restaurant area having a chat after lunch. This is where I met my first roommate: her name is Patrice and she is from the UK. We bonded fast; she is a warm young woman with a fire for a heart. After moving to our room, we kept talking for hours about random topics but interesting nevertheless. Our last roommate arrived, Nefeli, one of the facilitators, and the talks kept going until well after midnight. The next day, the programme was officially on! We met everyone from the group through a series of fun activities, and I can say that it felt like home from the start. The trainers, Giorgos and Bogad, where very good in engaging everyone in the activities and held interesting session about several topics throughout the week. Our schedule was full, from morning until evening. We used to have around 8 sessions per day in a combination of roleplaying activities, seminar-like sessions and workshops. Our days were full but in the best way. I learnt so much about human rights, societal norms, the EU, education, health and safety issues and the situation in lots of the countries that the rest of the participants came from. Our evenings were full too! We had fun in Thessaloniki, we enjoyed the cuisine, the nightlife, the scenery, the way of living. We went for walks at the promenade, in the forest, we even went to the beach once. I felt weird when I had to say goodbye.
With a lot of the people I met, we most probably won’t meet again. But that’s okay. We had the BEST of times! So, was this experience good? Absolutely! I learn a lot, not only through the workshops but through everyday communication with the rest of the people during and after the sessions. People are nice, kind and warm. Most of them are happy to help. Most of them are fun to hang out with and to have meaningful or meaningless talks. People have humour, some of them can make you feel at home and at ease in a second. This experience was a great one. I cannot express the outcome in knowledge and feelings through a few words, forgive me. I have now with me the best of memories, and I would like to thank all the participants and organisers for making it happen.
Last but not least, a big thank you to PlanBe for giving me the chance to participate.