This summer, in the beginning of August, a DIY SummerSchool took place in Destelheide. Youngsters from Belgium, Netherlands and Serbia gathered to share their experience and learn from each others during ten days.
During the first few days, participants got to know each other and shared their expectations for the next days. Since this youth exchange was planned as a DIY (do it yourself), participants could choose different art forms to take workshops- dance, acting and music. First, they had to choose which artistic workshop they would like to follow and on which level: they had an opportunity to go deeper in the field they already know or could discover a new one. The goal of this youth exchange was to create something in a DIY way by the end of the week.
Groups that will work together were formed according to the interests they had in common, and in the end we could see four different performances touching serious questions and themes. All four performances included different art forms, from spoken word and dance to music and acting. Many spectators can confirm that we had a beautiful artistic product in the end.
Naturally there were some fears of the unknown and many expectations, but when all participants started to work together, shared their experiences and looked for an interdisciplinary way to translate the theme in an artistic product, many of those fears transformed in a lot of creative energy. As many participants stated, this experience was full of ‘meeting different cultures and open-minded people’ but they also speak of the learning processes ‘Improving my English/it felt like we were working together and educating each other, both coaches and participants.’ Of all factors that were involved, learning about each other cultures was the most significant one. Peer education and intercultural learning were the most appreciated learning methods besides the fact that every participant had a chance to have an active role in project.
The importance of a youth exchange like this one is in its power. It teaches us that ‘youth in action can help us overcome the problems we have’ and not to make assumptions. Through working with other youngsters of the same or similar age but with different stories and cultural backgrounds, we learned to listen and to share ideas. ‘Everyone has a story so take time to get to know them’ might be the moto of this youth exchange since many participants commented on how this experience taught them the importance of sharing experience and opinions with others, being open to new ideas and appreciate other’s stories in order to accept others but oneself as well.
As participants say, accepting and being open to one another was probably the most important aspect during those ten days. Differences can and should be used as common ground to create by using the mutual and universal language of art.
Like every project including many participants, there were a few negative comments here as well. The most common one was the lack of time- most of participants find that having only 10 days for this kind of exchange is too short! The project let them also visit Ostend and festival Theater aan zee, which let them peak inside one of the bigger events in Belgium and was a really nice experience for them, but meeting so many diverse people makes you want to spend more time together and work even more intensively. Besides that, the fact that they were working hard on preparations of the performances, made them need more guidance through it and more group activities that would let them exchange even more with others. Things to take in considerantion for next year’s youth exchange.
In the end, this experience gave everybody a lot of positive energy and inspired them to make a change ‘as soon as they get home’ and pass to others the knowledge they’ve got. Projects like this assure a good communication and energy flow that makes ‘magic happen’. Many of the participants are willing to take part in next year’s edition for DIY SumerSchool. Some of them even wantto become coaches and work with participants as well!