Hi everyone ! I am Ceren !
I am studying Politics and International Relations in Yildiz Technical University and it was the first time I have been in Europe as a part of a project. Actually until I applied to the project I had no idea about who is Lycian Pathfinders, what they do, what I will do in Europe with these people, how can I become beneficial to project and also I had no idea about non-formal education methods.
I really wanted to be a part of this project because of some reasons. As I said before, I am a student of Political Science and International relations. I have never been interested to international relations part of my education; the project would be useful though. More importantly, I checked the website of Lycian Pathfinders, they were looking cool: A group who love and respect to Mother Nature. I thought that they don’t seem some professionals who came together just for business, they look like they have spirit about what they do. I was right!
When we arrived one day early to Ljubliana, Zavod Apıs volunteers hosted us gladly at their youth centre before we went Elerji which we stayed for 9 days. Elerji was a small village near to Italian border. It was a place in touch with nature. We stayed in same rooms with other participants; sharing same rooms made easy to get to know each other and get close with each other. Living in there was like living in a simulation: Far from the society, a big house, a pool, a group of different people from different countries…
The place that we stayed was almost top of the mountain; we could walk and spend time in forest, we could see the bright lights and little Italian villages from the peak, we could lie down at vineyards under blue sky for hours… In short it was the most peaceful place that you can imagine.
To get to the main point; A European Dream Project which addresses identity crisis of EU, integration of European countries and position of EU about current crisis. Participants were from different countries; Netherlands, Ireland, Turkey, Poland and Slovenia. This diversity gave us a chance to get better conclusions from project. Because when we questioned refugee crisis there were refugees in debates or when we started to discuss Brexit, there were Irish participants who can talk about possible future changes of their lifes. For me there are two dimensions of the project. First thing is based on what I learned, what I learned about EU, what we did in there etc. Other dimension is based on how I felt about things that I learned there. So there were formal dimension which is informative and non-formal dimension which is more personal.
The project proceeded during 9 days between 6-14 May 2017. Every day we started to activities at 09:00 am after breakfast. Mostly training and activities took all day but we could stay focused through energizers of mornings and breaks. Except two days of the project, we had a general schedule like this; wake up, have breakfast, get energy from energizers, activities, lunch break, activities, coffee break, activities, dinner, and free time. Well, it looks pretty much! But one of the best thing about the project was we could fit all these things in a day without difficulty because we had non-formal education methods for all activities; so it was not just performing tasks every day. We became parts which create a meaningful whole of activities. Also we have a big garden to enjoy weather.
One of our activities was story telling. During 3 days we had a special educator for the activity; Metka Bahlen. She also works for an NGO which aims social development, especially for people who don’t have a public voice. When Metka asked us to choose an object and tell its story, I was not expecting to listen the story of flip flops who travel world and saw many thing that we watched on TV. We practiced an old Tantric tradition called Rasa Sadhana which is yoga of emotions. This practice encourages for happiness by emotional fasting. According to this tradition there is 9 Rasas which defined by emotions. Through staying in one of these rasas in a particular time, getting know the emotions behind this rasa, you learn to master your less desirable emotions. Everything is about our desire to happiness and this fasting of emotions aims to find and stay at happiness. For example, ‘sadness’ which called Karuna in Tantric tradition is related to compassion and pity. You find the points behind sadness, it gets easier to handle and gives place to a desirable rasa like Joy. But we used rasas for stories of objects. I think it was a creative way to use this old tradition and learning how to tell a story. So I could listen the deep sadness of a pencil.
Then we had presentations about national stories. We listened stories of all countries; it was more surprising and informative than my expectations. Because stories were based on that how established countries, how is their current politics and relations with European Union. So I realized that I knew barely anything about many countries of Europe and their relations with EU. Most importantly, I always looked at EU as cooperation of states, as superstructure but I noticed that there are societies, real people rather than states which create this superstructure. These people have different stories because they have different identities out of being a European. For instance, there were refugee participants in the project. I accepted that for a refugee who came to Europe with his family by a boat, being a European means something multi dimensional and really different that I didn’t understand before I met with them. The project achieved its objective through, we questioned that what it means to be a European and started to look at this from different stories.
Some of the debate methods that we practiced (world café, parliamentary debate, three corners debate, where do you stand) are much impressive for me. For example, ‘Take a Step Forward’ caused me to question myself. This activity aims creating awareness about being someone else who has more benefits or who is marginalized in society. In brief, we are all citizens of global society and the global capitalist system but some of us are luckier than the others. In this privilege walks activity, we got papers which told us our roles and I was a famous fashion model who has African origin. Then we had to move according to signs like ‘I have chance to take medical care’, if I agree I step forward or if I don’t I stayed in my place. I had a lucky character more than others, so I step forward for many signs. My first steps made me feel sad about others, I thought ‘why didn’t they stayed back’; then AHA moment came! Towards the end of steps, I stopped thinking about others and thought that ‘how lucky I am’. It was not good to realize this feeling but it reminded me my responsibilities as a human and keep my mind open even I am the ‘luckiest’ person in the world. This idea stayed with me for rest of the project. Whenever I listened experiences of a refugee participant, I remembered: Just understanding what is happening to refugess or just feeling sorry for them is not enough, we have to do something. Actually at this point, I should say that I gained more knowledge about refugee issue/social issues than my formal politics education at university. Non-formal ways of learning gave me more reality and internalization rather than reading all these articles and taking exams.
Things that I learned in the project didn’t stay there; I used non-formal education methods in my own university for a presentation. I had a presentation about Women’s Movement in Turkey, I could just read from the paper same as before but I chose to use story telling for the history of women organizations. I didn’t sit on professors’ chair; I chose to move around students and tried to keep in contact with them during the presentation. After I finished, we-presentation group wanted questions from students and created a little debate atmosphere. It was nice to practice some methods that I learned in Slovenia.
What is left from the project apart from all these things is friendship! I had good friends from Slovenia who will stay in my life for years. Also when I chose my buddy (who is responsible to get chocolate when you need), I didn’t know that he was someone special for me. Even it didn’t end up the way I wanted, I learned many things from the experience and made a good friend 🙂 Even we spend just 9 days together, most of us cried a lot when it was time to say goodbye. Now, we know that it was not the end because we already have a date for next meeting and we have some future project plans. Let me tell you one final word: Apart from all formal and non-formal gains (this experience that everyone should try) gave me something personal like unforgettable memories and chance to discover myself.