After I attended many Erasmus+ projects I thought it’s time for my first training course. And so I took the challenge and applied for the training Course “Hop On - The Train to Trainings” implemented by wEUnite and I was really happy when they accepted my application. I had big expectations for the project because I wanted to improve my skills as a facilitator and learn how to write and organize my own projects.


We were located close to Klagenfurt in a castle surrounded by beautiful nature. I think it was a perfect choice to be outside of the city, with a calm landscape around so we could put our focus just on the project and get some energy in the nature when necessary.

At the first days we got quite some theoretical input such as the Johari’s window, our own and others' communication styles, Visual-Auditory-Kinestetic (VAK) learning styles, Kolb's cycle, the circle of creativity and quite some more. But the training was clearly not just about theory. It was more about “Learning by doing”. We all had the possibility to choose and organize either an energizer, team building or problem solving activity, prepare a session in a pair of trainers or work in a trainers’ team, in which there was one main trainer and 3-4 assistants to support the trainer. The trainers supported us anytime we needed help and clarified that we shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes, because this is the place and space to practice. After thinking it through, I took the challenge and was the main trainer for one session. With a team of 5 people from different countries we created a workshop about dancing. At the end of all the workshops the trainers always gave feedback immediately, to make it time-bound and relevant for whoever took the stage for that session. Through that we learned how to give useful feedback, which we practiced after every session, and also how to take feedback.

I really enjoyed the fact that we made small reflection groups with 4 participants and one
trainer, that was our support system. We met twice a day and had the opportunity to mention if we don’t like something or if we just needed help or to focus on the day. In these groups we also had the chance to lead the reflection or prepare a morning focus for our small group. Sometimes it is easier to express feelings in a small group where you feel comfortable.

At the last day we just focused on how to organize our own project and I had the opportunity to talk with all of the 5 experienced trainers and could ask the for all the information I needed. They split on 5 different tables and answered questions around risk management, how to write and coordinate a project, what to watch out for with budgeting, what opportunities there are under Erasmus+ and throughout one hour we could ask them anything related to these topics but also beyond.

All in all I had some extremely intense days in Klagenfurt. I met so many interesting people from different countries and many of them became my friends. At the same time I learned so much about organizing workshops and projects and improved my facilitator skills.

Thanks to all the participants of the training and to the trainers of the training. It was just amazing!


Yours,
Martin


From the 21st until 29th of October wEUnite took part in the training course “Coach your team by coaching yourself” in Ravnogor/Bulgaria. Besides getting to know all of the 34 participants, organizers and trainers from all over the world (17 different nationalities!) we were shown advanced techniques to not only coach the teams we work with, but also how we can coach ourselves.

The project took place in Ravnogor, a small town around 3.5 hours away from Sofia, Bulgaria's capital. Ravnogor is completely different from what we are used to in Austria. It was definitely a great experience to disconnect from “our real-life world” and dive into the pure, breathtaking nature of Bulgaria. What made our stay there even more pleasant were the temperatures (up to 27 degrees!), which is far from what we are used to in October.

Over the course of 8 tightly packed project-days we encountered numerous tools and theories behind advanced coaching methods. The first days were more about coaching in one-on-one settings and in more challenging situations. In pairs and trios we were able to practice methods and solve real-life problems of our coachees and observe how others are using the tools. We also gave each other feedback to get the most out of practicing.

The second part of the project was more focussed on teams. We learned how to find out which type of person your coachee is, what communication style is dominant in any of us and what difficulties leading a team with different characters brings, but also how we can overcome these challenges. We also had some team-building exercises,  for example slack-lining with a team to support one person or "flock-challenges" that happened in complete silence. For both activities communication was strongly needed, verbal and non-verbal, and it showed that clear intentions and communication are useful. By experiencing those stressful situations we learned a lot about what it means to be a leader and what is needed to be a good one.

The last part of the project was all about our dreams and goals. We learned about successes, that all of
us have in our every day life, how to get more clarity on the path of our current goals and also about how to find our own purpose in life. On the last day we even had the chance to prepare and attend small-workshops not necessarily related to coaching. There was open space to share best practices and learn even more from each other. It was amazing to learn more about theatre, creativity, journaling, group dynamics, energizers, drawing and even singing.

When during the packed project there was free time we used it for a lot of talking with each other, exchanging ideas, practicing some more coaching techniques, networking,  playing board and card games and also exploring the nature of Bulgaria. After 10 awesome we have not only learnt how to coach our team and ourselves but also made 33 new friends all over the world! :)


And because personal impressions tell more than anything else, here some testimonies by participants:

“This was my first Erasmus-project and it was so much cooler than expected! I learned a lot of the importance of coaching and also what it means to go out of your comfort-zone. 10 days flew by and I look back to wonderful memories with awesome people”
- Matthias -

"Through this training I had the chance to improve my skills, gain new understandings, ask questions and create new connections with myself and others, on a personal but also professional level. It was definitely an eye-opening experience and I am thankful that I was part of this 8-days-journey in Ravnogor! What I take home with me is trust and one of our leading values "What is, is. What isn't, isn't." "
- Nina-

"I joined this training course because I want to develop and practise my Coaching skills, as well as create Coaching Trainings in the future. I was excited when I learned that the participants represent 17 nationalities as I love multinational environments! I also learned a lot from my learning buddy as she follows a lifestyle that I totally admire so I earned new insights, ideas, and suggestions for my lifestyle too! I finished the training with many new ideas, new coaching tools, new friends, and new habits for a positive social and environmental impact!"
- Markos -
"I went to Bulgaria with almost no knowledge about coaching and an open mind and heart willing to face anything I encounter there. I came back with a bunch of coaching skills and competences, inspiring new friends, a lot of experience of any kind, as well as a mind and a heart even more open for anything that comes."
- Ula -

"If i need to summarize the journey in one word, it wil be "competences".Why? Because durring the project I had the opportunity to see, to learn and to apply different coaching techniques. I coached myself first, by assuming and stepping thru these techniques and then I had the opportunity to apply them and see how it works, and see the things from the coach side. This project is a good journey for those who want to learn and observe more about people around them and for those who want to learn to put some condiments into their coachees life's to bring some new questions for new bright solutions! I felt coached and I learned to let myself to be coachable. Thank you Sipi, thank you Tisho, thank you dear participants!"
- Aleex -

"It was a very strong experience.  8 days in which I worked and reviewed many of my beliefs and future projects thanks to various coaching techniques. It was amazing how so many cultures have blended to perfection and we have stimulated everyone's growth"
- Alice -

"The training gave me the opportunity to experience myself in different roles: as a coach, coachee and as a leader. Most significant for me was to discover that if I want my coachee to follow I need to be very secure about the journey to which I'm inviting my coachee, very clear about the goals and the tools I want to use. Honesty is the key to build connection in this relation. Also flexibility, creativity and intuition are crucial in the process."
- Monika -

"I returned from the workshop with a lot of energy to go back to my work and with a lot of new thoughts, new ideas, new connections and new relationships.  The main thing that I took away from it is the new friendship with 29 wonderful people from all over Europe."
- Liat -


Yours,
Matthias & Nina

“Younique” - Diving into a new reality

From the 05.09. - 14.09.2019, I and 23 other people from eight countries took part in an Erasmus+
trainings course called “Younique”. As the title of the training already tells, it was all about how to find your own uniqueness and how to help others finding theirs. The great thing with Erasmus+ is that everything you do is interactive – it´s based on non-formal-learning and for me it´s just so much more rewarding being part of a non-formal-learning environment than being cramped into a formal-learning system.

About the training: The hard part with writing this article is that no matter how well I choose my words it can just give you a glimpse of what may have happened. Everything I tell you runs through my own filters of reality and is just my understanding of this experience. Therefore, I choose not to give you an overview of the training, but I´d like to share some key moments with you, that made this training special to me.

The first moment I would like to share with you is when we were all facing our fears. This exercise
was probably one of the most intense in this trainings course. It lets you have so many emotions and thoughts running through you. The aim was to find a fear we had inside of us, giving it a name and finally facing it. This was executed in four steps. Step 1 was a short guided mediation with music. Than we were writing our fear down on a piece of paper. In step 2 we were all one by one walking a path in the woods. Along the path, we found different pictures attached to the trees. These pictures should help us to reflect upon our fear(s). It took me one hour to walk the whole way, even if it was just around 20 pictures. It was just me, the trees, these pictures and my own picture of my fear in my head. When I came back, we had to draw our fear on a piece of paper in step number 3. Music was playing, people were drawing – everyone was in his/her own world. You could see pure emotions and it was okay to show them, because we created a room, where it was possible to show ones vulnerable sides. Step number 4 was the hardest. We went outside on a grass field. There we divided in groups of four to five people. The task was to face our fears. Four of the group were turning their backs to the fifth person. Now the fifth person said: “I am ready to embrace my fear of….” – while facing the others backs. The tricky part was, that the four people who turned their backs to the fifth person did not turn around, until they would believe what they were hearing. Imagine the feeling of standing behind four people you barely know with the task of opening up to them, showing them your vulnerable side and telling them about your fear and that you embrace that fear. All these emotions and thoughts rushing through your head and body. “Why should I do that?” “Who are these people I am opening up to?” But even, if you don´t know them very well you still feel connected to them, you feel safe to let go and you feel that they will take care, of what you show them and tell them. When all four people turned around they would open a hole between them and the fifth person could go through that hole – entering his/her new world/reality where he/she would be set free from this fear to the very extend he/she could allow himself/herself to be set free. It was all about us. It is about you and how much you dare to be vulnerable, how much you dare to show yourself and how much you dare keeping this new reality alive and not letting it fading away, when coming back to “the real world”. 

I wanted to share more moments with you and I could go on for pages, but I won´t do that. I hope that
you got a glimpse of what may have happened in this trainings course and I am glad if it helps you in some way. I don´t want to tell you, that you have to attain such a training, because of whatever reason – even if it is awesome. Just always, think about what feels right for you and keep in mind to dare…. Dare to be you, dare to be vulnerable, dare to step out of your comfort zone and dare to show your true self. For me the Erasmus+ TC was perfect for that. What can YOU do in order to find your own uniqueness?

Yours,
Luca Mark
From the 5th until 14th of September wEUnite, together with partner organizations from Spain,
Romania, Bulgaria, Italy, Czech Republic, Greece and Lithuania organized a training course all around the topic of uniqueness and authenticity in Grafenbach/Austria. Through many non-formal and experiential methods in different environments, the 27 youth workers first got to know themselves better and then found ways to use the tools and methods in their youth work to help young people be more happy with their (yo)unique selves.

The idea behind the project was that through our daily work with people we know that authenticity, empathy and courage are the keys to healthy social relationships and societies, yet these are not skills usually discussed or worked with. Young people are strongly influenced by social media and ideals of beauty and form unrealistic images of how they should be in comparison with the role models on social media platforms. Through "YOUnique" we counteracted these issues and learnt to appreciate ourselves as we are.

Throughout the project we asked ourselves many questions, but the starting point of our journey were these:

How can I see my own uniqueness?
How can I support others in seeing and appreciating their unique selves?
How can I co-create more open, authentic, truthful and connected communities?


From getting to know each other, creating reflection groups and setting our personal learning goals we jumped into the program by diving deeper into masks we were in life instead of being our true selves. We experienced, talked and realized things about ourselves and the communities we live in. In the following days we worked in groups, pairs and alone to understand how we act in different settings. After 4 days of unlearning and learning it was time to create our own workshops, share with others what is precious to us.

We discovered that everyone is unique and has something valuable to contribute. Through contact improvisation, a sound path, team building spider webs or boom-games, the museum of intelligence, tarot cards and enchanted forests inside the training room we learnt to be a leader or stay in a group. The activities were prepared in a short time and we even recorded them for you to use. Check our Video tutorials out!


And because personal impressions tell more than anything else, here some testimonies by participants:

"Participating in the TC “YOUnique” was an amazing experience for both professional and personal
field. I learnt how to appreciate people uniqueness and look for the qualities that I admire from them, so that I can incorporate them to myself in order to grow as a person. Besides, I enjoyed new team-building and self-reflection activities which for sure I’ll incorporate to my lessons as a teacher."
- Jaime -

"For me, participating in an Erasmus program was a life changing experience. I learned how to appreciate myself for who I am as well as how to interact with people from different cultural backgrounds."
- Stratis -

"Spending these 10 days in Grafenbach were the best I could ever hope for. The place was majestic, the people that I met were incredible, the activities that we did were exactly what i needed.. I would safely say this project went way beyond my expectations."
- Atanas -

"What is remarkable for me from Younique is how a group can go through difficult times. Even though this periods might be hard, everything that doesn't kill you, makes you stronger and that's what happened on this project. We had difficult moments, facing conflicts and funny days, making inside jokes and rolling down on hills and in the end that's what life is about. Living every given moment intensely and fully."
- Eszter -

"Younique project is one of the most inspiring projects I have ever participated. The time spent there and the connection between people was so strong, it felt like we are a huge family and known each other for already several months. I appreciate the facilitators and team members for creating this amazing atmosphere where each of us could feel unique in every possible way"
- Danielius -

"Besides all the useful tools i learned and the nice connections i had, this project brought back a part of me that i forgot about and helped me to integrate it. It somehow helped be more complete, and for that i am grateful"
- Andrei -

"YOUnique has been an enlightening project in which I found myself getting new insights about my inner state and outer behaviors, I got the opportunity to explore what it means to face my fears and to support others in living their experiences"
- Tommaso -

Are you curious to see how our project was? Here you go : ) 

Yours,
Nina

The Butterfly effect was the name of a partnership building project that took I part in from the 25th of July until the 2nd of August. The project is a Training course which is organized by BetterMaking organization or BMO. 25 participants from Serbia, Greece, Germany Austria, Italy, Romania and Spain took part and all participants are involved directly or indirectly with youth work and Erasmus plus. The project took place in a small, quiet Town in lower Austria called Melk, which was great for both relaxation and productive work. The premise of the whole project is that the focus should be on building connections between the many existing NGOs rather than creating new ones.
 
Day one was the day of the arrival. No activities were assigned other than for everyone to settle in for the next day, which marked the introduction and primary briefing of the project. What I personally enjoyed that day was how fast we got to know each other and that there was little to no need for Ice-breaking, because everyone was in a great mood and got along very well very quick.

On the 2nd and 3rd days of the project we were taught through methods of non-formal education what the life cycle of an Erasmus project is, as well as the classification system of Erasmus plus (Key Actions 1 through 3 and each of their properties).
We also had the chance to present the Organizations that we´re active in and each of us offered the group a glimpse about what their organization did, what the target groups are and what kind of projects they organize. It is also worth mentioning that we were informed about project-funding possibilities other than Erasmus and the criteria they have for the funding.
The project was mentally demanding as we needed to actively learn how the whole system of Erasmus plus worked. Due to the demanding nature of the training course we were given a day off, in which we could spend the time as we please. My teammates took a trip to Vienna that day to see the city. I on the other hand decided to have a chill day at the venue and enjoy how calm and beautiful Melk is.

In the remainder time of the project we were assisted into making our own Project. We were split into two groups, each had a different topic for an Erasmus project that addresses a given issue both locally, as well as on the level of the EU. We were split into four groups, each had a different responsibility of writing a part of an Erasmus Project. My group was tasked with figuring out what the Impact of our project is and how we can measure it. 



It would be an understatement to say that I learned a lot during the project. It would be another understatement to say that I had a lot of fun too. We learned and laughed during the day, relaxed and laughed some more during the night, and we said goodbye with a wholesome group hug that was the perfect way to end a great project :)

And here is the official video  https://www.facebook.com/bettermakingorganization/videos/2439267716138380/


Yours,
Ibrahim Bashimam
I met Nina during a training course in Czech Republic, after that I got to know her NGO, wEUnite, and seeing the great work they do with young people I decided that I really would have liked to cooperate with them, writing a youth exchange about personal expression through music and and free movement. When Nina accepted my proposal I was very happy and excited, and since then our cooperation started. I enjoyed the fact that everything went smooth thanks to Nina's organizational skills and the great team Ari and Tommi. When finally we implemented our youth exchange in the amazing Austrian castle and we met the participants everything was different than my expectations, I felt overwhelmed by how much the group gave to the activity in terms of commitment, emotions, support and challenges. We held the space and people created the magic, I am really thankful to participants for sharing their unique creativity. Finally I am grateful to Nina, Tommi and Ari for being such a supportive team, always caring for each other and for sharing the same values that made this project so great. - Yours, Matte
I remember clearly the moment I arrived to the location of Re:Sound. A beautiful castle in the middle of the countryside. And I started imagining how it would be to deliver the project we had in our mind in that location: I pictured the group inside, the activities, the reflections. Meanwhile, my little, ordinary fears came up: will the group feel motivated and involved? Will they find the activities inspirational, as we pictured in our mind?

Well… As the group arrived, and I saw all the people together in the accommodation… these little thoughts vanished, and creation started.

Re:Sound made me understand how a project is created by participants, by the group itself. Even though I had my plans, my activity proposal in mind… It is incredible how they get shaped according to the people who are living it. I realized how the contribution of everyone leads to the creation of something unique and beautiful.

After this project, I am happy to say that Youth Exchanges are a beautiful opportunity of creation of space for exchange of ideas, thoughts, openness, personal and professional growth. I am amazed by the fact that, even though from a coordinating perspective, I lived the activities discovering new things of myself, that will guide me to create my path here back home.

Moreover, I am very thankful to the team, who taught me the importance of cooperation, mutual support and, most of all, care.

Finally, after Re:Sound I am even more in love with what I do, my job and my personal live. I am looking forward to creating new opportunities for inspiring self-expression and self-consciousness through music. - Yours, Ari



Some months ago Matteo asked if we should do a project together, a youth exchange all around music, and he didn't need a long time to convince me. We had video conferences with Tommi, Arianna, Matteo and me discussing how to do what, when, where...
When the project was approved we got excited and started preparing everything right away. And I remember checking out the castle, our project venue. Immediately I started to imagine a group of people coming there, working together, exchanging ideas and creating something together.

Arriving in Neumarkt a day before the project started the building was already filled with laughs and ideas by an amazing team - who put a lot of thoughts, passion and positive vibes into the project. We finalized flipcharts, timetables, and had the chance to get to know each other in real life. Time went by too fast and I started to think whether everything is prepared or not. "Do we have a rough outline and plan? When do we pick up the luggage? Will everyone arrive safely? What if someone misses their train? Are there enough snacks for the arrival and welcoming of our participants? How should I ever remember so many new names? Did we plan enough activities? Will they like the project?" - these where just some of the questions that stuck in my mind for the last hours before Re:Sound started.

Looking back I am glad how smooth everything went and I am glad that Matteo convinced me to host this amazing youth exchange. 35 people from 7 different countries created 5 songs in only 1 day. Many new ideas for future projects were shared and new cooperations were established. Throughout the few days I gained new knowledge, experienced a lovely learning atmosphere, improved some skills and made new friends. It is incredible that it is already a month ago that we met, and I am glad that so many applied for this project and decided to take part in it!

Thank you Matteo for writing and implementing the project with Arianna, thank you Tommi for catching all the moments with your camera and creating daily videos for us :)  Once again I realized that this kind of work is fulfilling, joyful and worth it! THANK YOU to everyone who was part of Re:Sound. - Yours, Nina

Re:Sound has been to me the first time I've found myself immersed in a new and yet so smooth working team. Since the first hours we spent all together preparing the material and adjusting the activities for the upcoming participants, I felt immediately surprised by how easy we understood each other and how fast we connected. I believe this is the core of the Erasmus+ experience, building immediately strong bonds with people across Europe, even though you might have nothing in common at first, you know you definitely share the same inclusive, open and curios Europian values. And that, at Re:Sound, has been to me the beautiful starting point for a new, powerful and meaningful relationship, in which I've found a professional coworker, and a dear dear friend. Thank you Nina. - Yours, Tommi


From the 12th until 18th of May 2019, 35 young Europeans gathered at the Castle Forchenstein
(Europaburg) in Neumarkt in Styria, Austria for Re:Sound, an ERASMUS+ project about self-expression through music, movement, and connection with ourselves, our surroundings, and one another.

During the day, we devised choreographies, we re-created sounds using recycled instruments, we produced and recorded songs that were conceived in the matter of hours; we improvised… a lot; we experimented, we pushed our boundaries, and through all this, we grew. Apart from teaching each other the folkloric dances of our respective cultures, in the evenings we would also exchange stories, share our feelings and experiences, and gradually discover how much we all have in common. 
 
Artistic Night: On one of those evenings, each participant was given 3 minutes to present their authentic self to the group in whichever way he/she wished. At first, the task troubled some of us as we tried to determine how best to express something so complex in just 3 minutes and with limited preparation time. When the time came, each of us had some sort of performance prepared but at the moment of delivery, a lot of us decided to improvise a bit as well and through that, show another part of ourselves- perhaps a more guarded part of ourselves. Some participants chose to express their true selves through a song, a dance, or by reciting a poem; others gave us a glimpse of their innermost selves by telling us what the world was like through their eyes at that very moment. On the other hand, some participants chose to sit in front of the group and to not say nor do anything at all- nothing at all except feel the energy of the group and the way in which we connect with one another. A few participants chose to present to us something that I can only describe as the true definition of sublimation: converting our innermost complexities and impulses into a type of art. By the end of the evening, the bond between us grew deeper and stronger. Probably because we witnessed an unexpected degree of authenticity because we had exposed ourselves and been accepted exactly as we are. It was truly inspiring to see how each person chose their own unique way of expressing his/herself, and that despite our individuality we could still understand, relate to, and connect with what was being expressed.


I think I speak for the whole group when I say that we were fortunate to partake in a project that not
only had all the essential ingredients that make up a wonderful experience (e.g. delicious home-made food, a great venue surrounded by green lushness and snowy mountain peaks), but also passionate organizers who very tangibly put their heads & hearts into the creation and implementation of the project. We witnessed the humbling beauty of what happens when a group of people chooses openness & authenticity and embraces the entirety of an experience.

Yours,
Andrea Allmayer