We’ve been here for just over four months now, but it feels like a lifetime. It’s very difficult to put into words the insane, crazy rollercoaster of a journey that this country and this experience has taken us on – but I shall attempt to.
The prospect of moving to an unknown country for 8 months was quite a daunting one, and it was only when I was on the plane that the immensity of my solo adventure into the unfamiliar hit me. For the most part, the little I had heard and read about Romania had been negative so I chose not to listen to such representations – this meant I arrived with very few ideas about what to expect. But any anxieties I felt about my trip were banished as soon as I landed. I could never have guessed that the people of Romania would give me such a special gift – a warm and welcome home. I was so pleasantly and lovingly welcomed, and I soon learnt that the people of this country (and specifically this organisation) are overwhelmingly friendly and generous. This is something that I wish more people knew as the media’s portrayal of Romania and its people is extremely biased, and in my opinion false.
Working on the various projects has taught me so much about myself and challenged me in ways I could never have imagined. My self-esteem and leadership skills have blossomed immensely and as a result of the situations I have been put in here, I now find myself doing things that I would previously have found extremely stressful and perhaps even impossible.
We are currently working on three projects as well as social media and promotion, Romanian language learning, and carrying out our own individual projects and self-learning.
Every single activity we carry out is created from the bottom up. We start with a plain piece of paper, which becomes a mindmap of ideas which (with a few more steps in between) becomes an activity that we carry out. It’s so rewarding to see our thoughts and ideas turn into real, concrete activities. We then evaluate each session to assess whether our intentions and aims were met – often things go differently to how we imagined or planned them and this is okay. Something I have learnt is that having too many expectations can be detrimental to lesson planning and in fact it can be much more efficient to take a more flexible, laid back approach – often the young people come up with responses to our activities that we could never have imagined. Being prepared to go with the flow is the best lesson I have learnt in the past four months – especially in the context of working with young children.
Agigea Daycare Centre:
Our role: to use our creative skills and upcycling techniques to create and facilitate activities that focus on generating an atmosphere of non-violence, tolerance, integration and cohesion amongst a group of disadvantaged youth aged 5-15.
This was one of the projects that I was most excited about initially. For the most part, I have a preference for working with younger children, and saw great potential in them from the offset. We had the idea that we could carry out an unlimited range of activities with them initially which with hindsight was perhaps a little naive. The young age of the children, language barriers and a consequent lack of authority were factors that prevented us from having full control over the group and from achieving all of our aims – as we couldn’t delve deep into the motivation behind the activities we designed. We have since learnt from our initial mistakes and have adjusted our activities accordingly to fit the situation and age of the kids. We did this by translating our posters and resources before sessions, and by ensuring that we have a mixture of theoretical and practical activities as well as a multitude of dance breaks and playtime outside to overcome restlessness. The outcome of these sessions has
improved greatly and is really evident in the children’s responses to the things we now do with them.
This is an example of learning by doing – which is at the very core of our ethos.. It has become extremely evident that we can only improve by making mistakes and by being open to learn, change and adjust our methods accordingly. This has been a massive learning curve for us and one that I believe will have positive repercussions for the rest of our lives.
Assertiveness Training at Treian High School:
Our role: to use informal education techniques to teach high school students how to be assertive, resilient and self-confident with the aim of increasing positive cohesion within classrooms.
To begin with assertiveness training was one of the aspects of this project that made me feel stressed and slightly uncomfortable. The thought of standing in front of a class of teenagers and discussing topics regarding emotions and conflict was terrifying. I know from my experience of high school in England that teenagers are not always the most pleasant towards their teachers. But in fact I was so wrong to feel this way. For me, these workshops have been the most gratifying, both for my own self progression and for the positive results I’ve witnessed in the students. The students are so open minded and eager to learn and get involved, it’s a breath of fresh air and I look forward to every session. I feel like these sessions are really beneficial for teenagers particularly, as it’s a difficult age involving learning about the world, as well as one’s self and often they have a hard time being nice to one another. The feedback has been extremely positive and they are overwhelmingly grateful for the opportunity to have classes that focus on being kind and confident and working on self-improvement.
Jean Constantin Youth Theatre:
Our role: to design activities and workshops based on both learning theatre and drama techniques that focus on anti-bullying and anti-violence with children from different and varied backgrounds.
I have a little knowledge of drama as I studied it for A-Level and was a member of a Youth Theatre so this leg of the project excited me greatly. Again our lack of Romanian language skills has meant that we don’t have the complete freedom to achieve everything we have hoped to – but our translator helps with this problem. The kids in the group have become more and more confident as time has progressed and this is such a lovely thing to see. Similarly their English has improved greatly.
For the most part, planning and carrying out theatre sessions is enormous fun, and in fact we have learnt lots of non-verbal ways of communicating with one another which is awesome. We have also really challenged ourselves to create sessions that often don’t require a common language which again has been really fun! The thing I personally love about the theatre sessions is that the young people choose to be there and keep coming back which is reassurance that we are doing something right.
Other things we do:
Amongst our regular schedule we have also engaged in a range of activities involving self-development, such as hosting events about our culture; facilitating creative workshops for children and the public; carrying out musical therapy djembe sessions; learning the Romanian language; representing our organisation at events; writing blog posts and using social media to promote our project and European Solidarity Corps, as well as spending our
days researching and planning new and innovative workshops and lesson plans to make our sessions the best they can be.
Overall, moving to Constanta and taking part in the project Creativity4Sociability has been the best decision I’ve ever made and came at the perfect time for me. The people I have met, the things I have learnt and the skills I have gained are priceless and I couldn’t be more grateful for everything this opportunity has brought me. On a whole I have become a much more aware and sensitive person with ever increasing interpersonal skills – I now consider myself able to engage in a discussion with anyone, of any age, even when we don’t share a common language. I have become much more decisive and able to take charge and for this I am extremely proud of myself. I can’t wait for the next four months and hope that I can take all of these amazing skills and use them back in my daily life. I would recommend that everyone partake in an ESC – it’s a genuinely life changing experience.
Rosie is an Erasmus+ Volunteer in the project Creativity 4 Sociability in Constanta, Romania. The project is granted by the Erasmus+ program of European Union. This article reflects the views only of the authors, and the Education, Audiovisual and Culture Executive Agency and the European Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.