First, I would like to thank the team of the Youth in Action Program – Lyaskovets, Bulgaria 18-25 November 2012 – ‘Social Networks and Social Media Tools in Youth Work’, for motivating me to start writing again. I had a wonderful experience and you were a true inspiration!
Part I. Departure to Bulgaria…
After a couple of months of soul searching and planning, I decided to embark in the Youth in Action journey, a program I wanted to be part of since the first year of college. After a short review of the projects available, I decided to apply for the Bulgarian one, which had an interesting topic on Social Media.
So, I started packing and adding besides warm clothes and a lot of cosmetic products, all my hopes and dreams, my passion for communication and social media, my longing to meet new people and my desire to learn more. I traveled with two new friends, Cristina and Eliza, and being our first time to stay in Bulgaria, we were all excited about this trip.
After checking in at the hotel in Lyaskovets, we went to visit the orthodox Monastery ‘Peter and Paul’. It was like stepping into a new world, a world of love, serenity and powerful convictions. We took pictures to remember these feelings and came back to the hotel where we met some of the participants, from Bulgaria, Cyprus and Greece.
Part II. Let’s all gather and make a circle
The next morning we were all lined up in the conference room and ready to start what was going to be the best intercultural experience ever! With the help of our facilitators: Nikolay, Ana, Oksana and Bartek, we started off with some ice-breakers and energizer group exercises. Then, we were supposed to speak to the person next to us, to find out as much information possible and present it to the group. There were many new names from different countries (Bulgaria, Greece, Cyprus, Italy, Lithuania, Latvia, Poland and Turkey) to remember and not the easiest ones to pronounce. Nevertheless, the week had just started, so we had plenty of time to learn them.
The schedule was quite crowded and the work intense, but we soon became a team, and working together was great fun. By using flipcharts, PowerPoint presentations and sometimes video cameras, we went from describing what social media and social networks are to creating mind-maps about their connection to important real life issues like education and employment.
The exercise I enjoyed the most involved creating a TV show about the future of social media. The ideas were diverse, from impersonating the facilitators by holding interviews with the participants and including famous lines like: ‘I’m sorry my English is not that good!’ (Nikolay), and ‘I am a Ping-Pong ball’ (Oksana), to showing scenes about the disappearance of human life in 2012 and the creation of the new humans in 2020, by using the profile information stored in social networks databases. (Special thanks to Dobromir for always being there to immortalize on camera these moments!)
Part III. Intercultural nights
After doing so many activities during the day, we had the evening to relax and enjoy presentations about the different participanting countries, taste their traditional food and even dance their traditional dances.
With the Lithuanian girls we sang a national song that still lingers in my head: ‘Welcome to Lithuania, the land of beautiful ladies.’
The Italians had a different approach and showed us a funny video with some negative aspects about their country, to which I think Romanians, can identify the most (bureaucracy, low parking skills, aggressive driving, etc.)
The Polish team prepared a rather difficult quiz about their country, history and culture, but with our efforts combined, we managed to find most of the right answers. The Polish dance was quite complicated too, but I guess it just proves Polish people have high standards in everything they do.
The Turkish team showed us an amazing video about the country, that instantly convinced us to visit it and they also brought delicious desserts like Turkish delight, baklava and sugar cotton-candy.
The Latvian girls taught us a traditional song and even if we had no idea what we were saying, it was great fun to sing it together.
Our team prepared a short video with key information about Romania and we used post-cards and chocolate to lure everyone into participating to a quiz. We then danced Brasoveanca and, finally, we offered them some of our traditional food: pork ham, bacon and cheese.
The Greek team also showed us videos of amazingly beautiful places to visit, local cuisine and gave us some information about their economy.
As expected, after listening to the national anthem and watching a video about the country, the Bulgarians filled the table with traditional dishes such as: Lukanka, Lyutenica, etc.
Even if we were tired and some of us could barely move from dancing so much the previous evenings, there was no chance we would miss the visit to one of the most beautiful cities of Bulgaria, Veliko Tarnovo. Known as ‘The City of the Tsars’, it is famous for being the historical capital of the Second Bulgarian Empire. We were so lucky to have a guide to tell us the history of the city, and I was so lucky to have someone to torture with my endless questions. Situated on three hills, Tsarevets, Trapezitsa and Sveta Gora, Veliko Tarnovo was the strongest fortification of the Middle Ages and the most important political, economic, cultural and religious centre of the empire. As you can see in the pictures below, the view was simply breathtaking up there and we all forgot about lunch and shopping. The day flew by and before we knew it, we were back at the hotel, getting ready for dinner.
V. A trip to remember
Saturday came with other few energizer exercises and with the evaluation of the project. It was like morning sun invaded our eyes and we started waking up from a long and beautiful dream. It was time to reveal our secret friends, to hug and to say goodbye. We spent the evening doing karaoke and promising we will meet again soon.
Thanks to Mr. Zuckerberg well all have Facebook to stay in touch and to plan future projects and trips together!