CROSSING BORDERS - AN INTERNATIONAL YOUTH EXCHANGE

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YHANI and our partner DJH were proud to carry out a two-week cross-community and international exchange programme with 20 young people from Germany and Northern Ireland this summer. We were kindly funded by the EU programme Erasmus+.

We started on the 25th July in Whitepark Bay and after a few days in Belfast we made our way to Berlin on the 31st of July. After living the city life for a few days we spend the last days together outsite of Berlin in Wannsee before the NI young people returned home on the 7th of August.

Our trip was full new intercultural experiences for the young people and our four leaders alike. Thematically we started out with the connection of both Berlin and Belfast having been and being divided by walls and what that conflict does to our youth. Through interactive workshops, cultural trips, reflection sessions, discussions, arts and their own group dynamics of being together the group achieved what they had set as their goals: learn about difference, understand barriers and how to work through them together, have patience with each other, reflect on our shared history and identity in europe, speak up and listen to what is really being said, learn some norn iron slang and pick a bit of deutsch too. They all agreed that they have made friends for life.

One of our participants, Niall McShane, kindly volunteered to put his thoughts on paper and tell us about his view of the trip:

"To try and summaries this trip in just one page is a hard task in its own, but to be honest this trip has definitely had a huge impact on my life. It was one of the most eye opening trips that I have been on. There were definitely highs and lows for everyone but to travel the world with strangers was out of my comfort zone and truly humbling experience from start to finish. However getting to develop personal experiences doing so many activities which brought the group together more and more everyday by the end of the trip I was genuinely sad that it had ended. On the other hand I was eager to get home and share the story of how I had an experience of a lifetime crossing borders with some of the nicest people I could have ever have wished to have met.

I have taken a lot of knowledge and skills from this trip, from trying new foods, jumping into the sea, navigating our way through forest, speaking a new language and trying to understand and make myself understood (even though it might have been hard due to the thick Belfast accent that I have), playing games like volleyball, making friends from a different country and definitely hoping that I will one day meet them again and maybe take a group on a trip like that myself one day.

Germany is one of the most amazing countries I have been to. The culture and the people was astonishing. Seeing how they view recycling and how important the environment is for them was something I have taken away from this experience. The Germans who travelled with us were all amazing. Everyone had their own role to play and everyone’s different personalities created some real moments of good humour.

My culture and identity is very important to me as the person that I am. But our generation has to be open to new cultures and new people. To spend time with different cultures can only have a positive impact on everyone. The world is so multicultural everywhere now due to different things such as immigration which we also discussed loads on the trip.

Personally I did have stereotypes of the northern irish people from the other community that I was traveling with and I just think that it’s natural to have these prejudices in mind. However this trip and the workshops we did has definitely had an impact on the way that I approach people from a different background, culture or religion in a positive way. I fell like I am now able to communicate my opinions clearly and really listen to what the others have to say.

One of the most challenging parts for me was listening to what the protestant views were on the Shankill Road during out Political Walking Tour (with Coiste). I consider myself to be quite open minded but to hear the opinion towards their side was very difficult for me. However I understand that it must have been the same for the protestant participants on the Falls road tour were there was obviously divided options. In the group we discussed some things that I would have never have thought I would be discussing in my life but I'm proud of how I handled the whole situation and by the end of the day we were all laughing together again this was probably the most eye opening times of the trip for me shows how far our generation has come. It wouldn't have been the same 10 years ago and I'm glad that I was able to share these memories with some of the (sorry to be Belfast) soundest people I could have been with."

 

At the Brandenburg Gate: (top row) Alisha, Mila, Rhia, Laura, Tim, Rebecca, Medbh, Tabea, Lennon, Annika, Oscar, Louisa, Codie (Bottom row) Anya, Judith, Brendan, Alessia, Marius, Niall, Matthew, Annette (Not in the picture) Miriam, Hendrik, Dorian

 Coasteering at the Northern Irish coast near Dunseverik.

Visit and tour of a mosque in Berlin Kreuzberg

Carrick-a-Reede Rope Bridge in Norhern Ireland

Visit of the Europe House in Berlin

Workshop "Hunger for Peace" at YouthAction NI in Belfast

Relaxing at the camp fire at the hostel in Wannsee, Germany

Artistic reflection on our "personal murals"