Many of us have learned new things during the exchange. First of all, everybody has learned to be in time. People have needed to be precise with the schedual and it’s important being in time so that the schedual won’t be postponed.
Teamwork has also been important during the exhange. We have made a lot projects together and everyone has had to work with others.
Our common language has been English and during working everyone’s speaking skills have developed. English is not most people’s mother language so there is no judging If someone does not know how to say something or makes a mistake. Atmosphere has been really positive.
There have been people from different countries and cultures. It has been interesting to learn from other countries manners.
Situations in democracy between countries have differences. For example some contries have struggled with corruption and some countries have issues with humanrights.
After all we all might agree that democracy is not just a political system. It is a mindstate.
We Have learned that young people Have great ideas about democracy and we can actually affect things. Even the smallest actions can push things to a better direction.
In this youth exchange we have acquired knowledge about different types of democracy, realities. We learned about democracy in foreign countries and their historical past. The variety of different cultures motivates us to adapt and improve our cooperation, that lead to achieving good ideas and knowledge about new people and how to overcome issues. We enjoyed fun activities and exercises, delicious food, role plays and joyful atmosphere. Young people’s participation lead to fun learning and satisfaction. We are so different but we managed to overcome our differences through tolerance, because we all have similar values and problems.
Experiences about democracy
We had many people on our exchange, a group that was very versatile but connected by the fact that they all were young and interested and ready to learn about democracy. Here are some of the stories
The story of Sanni:
In May 2018 our youth council traveled to Helsinki. We got a good opportunity to go meet some members of the parliament and ask them questions. Our questions were about things affecting young people. The politicians are very busy and had just gotten off a long meeting. Some of them even skipped events to speak with us. A few politicians couldn't make it so their assistants came in their place with pre-answered questions. We got to see how politicians from different parties answered the questions and where they stood on things like education and young refugees. In addition to the understanding of democracy improving in our group, we learned about the values of the parties. Our personal opinions on the parties involved too and we knew better who to personally support. After the questions were answered and time was up, it was lovely to see that for a while the politicians stayed to have more personal chats with us, youngsters.
The story of Estella:
Estella, one of our members got a government internship at the public administration. After sometime she learned that this would be a good place for her to be in. The people in the public office seemed responsible and she thought this could be a good job possibility. She met politicians at work meetings and was pleased to see that they were very nice to her and talked openly. The politicians easily answered any questions that she or her colleagues had.
The story of Teo:
An internship at the parliament led Teo to meet a politician from the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats or ALDE. She got to speak with the politician about current problems in their country; Romania. The politician also explained about the law in France and was working on trying to expand a project that he was working on. The politician started a debate about how France gives money to families with children. The debate focused on how families from other countries would come to France and get said money and they wondered what was good and what was bad about this. They also spoke about how in Romania the pension is too low and it should be increased for the elderly to reach better living standards. She thought the experience of meeting a politician was nice and she learned about the process of meetings and how laws are modified.
The story of Quinten:
Quinten, one of our Dutch members has met many politicians, but he often feels like they speak too formally and thus the speech of democracy gets boring fairly often. The over formal speech is one of the factors why a lot of Dutch people don't care about politics and when elections come they don't always even know what they are voting on or who they are voting for. He has a favorite politician, a younger man from a smaller party; Forum for Democracy or FVD. This party has only a few seats which makes him lose interest in democracy and politics mostly for the reason that some of the smaller parties have good ideas and want to make bigger changes, but are not being heard for many reasons. One of them being the fact that the bigger parties feel threatened by them. Even though he doesn't like the fact that politicians often lack the strength for compromises and end up yelling to each other he has learned from politicians. He has learned a more formal way of speaking and by observing them noticed that most politicians are in it for themselves.
The story of Ysbrand:
In the Netherlands, the government gives money to schools so they would bring each class to the parliament building to learn about democracy. Ysbrand had the chance to experience one of these class trips when he was 11. He went with his class and got a learning course about democracy. At the parliament building, he met politicians and was allowed to ask questions. There he found out what the politicians do on a daily basis, if they attend all debates and how much money they make. There the kids were able to actually understand that the government is build of people, who make decisions that actually affect their lives. After that, they went to the fortress of democracy and watched videos and learned more than at the parliament building, which worked more like a tour.
The story of Toni:
Three or four years ago our participants Toni got to go meet the previous president of Bulgaria; Rosen Parvanov. There were reporters present and even our participant got to ask a couple with the time period of 4 minutes. He thought the president was down to earth and didn't live in a bubble like some politicians. Because of the president being an idol to him, Toni felt like the meeting was life-changing and helped him to realize who he wanted to be. He even got advice from the president which was to find the motivation to keep up his interest in politics and to study.
The story of Boris and Toni:
Boris and Toni have been part of a grassroots movement to make a difference in nature. With the help and guidance of an organization, they planted trees to help nature. As a project from a school, they joined the students in cleaning up the town from trash and planting trees to the city. The young students were happy about being responsible and to be able to help with nature.
The story of Sonja:
As a member of the youth council in my town, I was attending a gala. Some politicians seem interested in the youth and their needs came to the venue to attend the event. I had a chance to speak with a woman, who was my teacher at the time but also worked as a politician. We were fighting to get free birth control and condoms to all under the age of 25 to lessen the number of teenage pregnancies and to prevent the spreading of STD:s. I decided to start up the subject with her to show my support for the cause. For the fact that she was a teacher I thought she would understand me but in less than a minute I was shut down by this long speech she gave using difficult words and language. In addition, she spoke about these charts of lessening teenage pregnancies that didn't seem to truly exist anywhere. I believed she would like to hear what I had to say about the subject and was quite surprised about the worldly attack she quickly directed to me. When I asked why she didn't wish to give free birth control to the youth in our town she summarized it to idiotic reasons. She believed that young people would ask their parents for condoms. Any person under 25 remembers just why this doesn't make sense. The young people are too scared and uncomfortable to do this. Her second point was that she believed that not many youngsters in our town are having sex. Clearly, she hasn't been at the park after nine. If she had she would know just how needed free birth control is. I believe that there are politicians who love listening to the people they are representing not only adults but also to underage, after all, representing the people is their job.