Gdansk 2018 – “Volunteering in Sports”

A Saturday morning a friend of mine told me about a trip that was going to be made by an organization called “EVEC Athens” (European Voluntary and Educational Center) as she called it at a town in Poland called Gdansk. She added that everything was prepaid, including the transportation, the accommodation and the lunches as well. I was taken by surprise and I couldn’t believe it, I didn’t know that organizations like this existed. She told me that it was an Erasmus program. I love travelling and I also felt a little nostalgic to my Erasmus+ studies days in Italy, so I came in contact with Blagoj Ristov, member of the organization and stated that I would like to participate.                                                                                                       

We met in person among some others of the participants and talked about our fears and desires. I was very hesitant at first because he was a stranger and not even Greek. But we talked got to know each other a little bit and he reassured as that everything was ok! We also decided that our team would go to Gdansk with the organization’s van. So the trip became very big and full experience that lasted 2 weeks. It took us three days to reach Gdansk and three more to return to Athens. We stayed a night at Skopje, Budapest, Krakow and on the way back we visited Berlin and stayed at Prague, Zagreb and Skopje again. We spend close to 60 euros each person for the accommodation on these cities and in total I spent only close to 150 euros!                                                                                                                         

The Greek team constituted of seven totally strangers including Blagoj our awesome and very experienced driver. We passed endless hours in the van but we made the best out of it. It gave us the opportunity to get to know each other, we made fascinating discussions and sung all together Greek and foreign songs, very soon we became friends. Blagoj was the leader of the team and he was there for us to answer  all our questions, guide us in the cities we visited and help us when we did not feel good. We gave him the nickname Gentle Giant!                                        

When we arrived at Skopje we met the team from F.Y.R.Macedonia and we traveled together till Gdansk. We spent a lot of time together I even shared a room with one, we talked about everything, politics too and we realized that we have a lot more common things than differences. I was fascinated to learn how much they love Greece and especially our music! We were so close that the organizers in Gdansk even after a week couldn’t separate the teams they called the Macedonians Greeks and the Greeks Macedonians!                                                         

In Gdansk we visited the old city center, museums and a lot of close by areas of interest like Malborg castle or the aquarium of Gdynia. Between, the touristic visits we had educative lessons about the volunteering in sports. However, the most fun part for me was the cultural nights we had. Every night a team presented their country and culture. We had teams from Turkey, Spain, Poland, Macedonia and our team from Greece, of course. The Greek night was the best! The most important thing was that we became by the end of the program a big team all of us. We became all friends and learnt a lot from the cultural exchanges.

This was an amazing experience for me and I want to thank everyone that made it possible! I felt myself change by the end of the program I was a better listener, open minded person and understanding, this is the purpose of these Erasmus+ training courses. If you want to have a similar experience you can and don’t hesitate!

Nikos Koutsimpelis

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