Míriam Pérez – from Spain to Lithuania
A story from Miriam Perez;
Country of origin: Spain; Destination country: Lithuania;
Three years ago, when I was bored at home during my summer holidays, I saw a Facebook event: “URGENT: Volunteers needed for a youth exchange in Lithuania!” Lithuania, youth exchange, volunteers needed…? It was the first time I heard about a programme called Youth in Action; it sounded like fun, so I just said “Why not?” I gave it a go and now, three years later, I can say that Facebook event changed my life forever.
That first youth exchange I took part in was called Eurobasket of Cultures and it was celebrated during the European Basketball Championship, in a country where basketball is not only a sport, but a religion: Lithuania. We were about 30 volunteers from seven countries (Lithuania, Latvia, Croatia, Greece, Germany, Turkey and Spain), plus some guys from other countries such as Italy, France, Georgia or Israel, who were doing their European Voluntary Service there. Our mission in Kuršėnai, the town which hosted our exchange, was not only to know more about the others’ cultures, but also to enjoy sport and basketball in particular with our European partners as well as with the locals, even if they were our rivals in the tournament. For that reason, we went to different schools, promoting the European programmes for youth people and the importance of the EU. It was amazing to see the amazement of those children, listening to us telling them about where we came from and why we were there. We gathered to watch some matches together in the fan zones next to the stadiums, we got to know about how basketball is lived in different countries and we also visited some important cities in Lithuania, such as Vilnius, the capital, or Šiauliai. Nonetheless, the activity we enjoyed and worked the most in was a festival we organized in the centre of the town. We had the chance to “celebrate” basketball, all together, showing locals what we were doing in their town and enjoying with them the spirit of sport and cultural diversity. We showed them our cultures and we could learn a lot about Lithuanian traditions and language with them. My fellows and I will never forget the faces of the children, dancing, playing and singing with us or their tears when we had to tide everything up and say goodbye.
From that very first European experience, I realized the power the EU has, the richness of our continent, the differences and the similarities between us and I definitely feel more European than ever. I learnt so many things and had such a good time that I decided to continue engaged to the former Youth in Action, now substituted by the new programme, Erasmus +. That’s why I took part in four more exchanges after my brilliant and unforgettable experience in Lithuania.
I definitely advise a mobility experience to my friends and family. In fact, I decided to organize an exchange in my city last summer, as I wanted to experience the magic of the former Youth in Action from a different point of view, as well as promoting these European programmes in my town, as they were not very well-known. Now, we are working to let people know more about the different options they have and how important this type of experiences can be in their life. In my case, Youth in Action has let me meet many friends from all over Europe; I’ve learnt about all their cultures; and I’ve forgotten all the prejudices about the different cultures I could have. Furthermore, I learnt and put into practice other languages and I feel more confident than I used to do, as I realized I can do many things I never thought I will be able to do.
Erasmus +, there we go!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2iJjl0oXutU Lipdub we filmed during our youth exchange in September, 2011.