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Three months in Pisa

by Nina Odenius

My name is Nina Odenius. I’m 26 years old and I’m blind from birth. I’m from Germany and I’m doing a MA in Romance Studies, with French and Italian.

This June I heard about the European project “VIP Awareness raising on unemployment”, financed by the EU and the Erasmus+ programme and co-ordinated by VIEWS International, an international association aiming to promote the mobility and independence of young people with visual impairment. The partner organizations are from Italy, Germany and France, with different profiles but all focusing on the integration of visually impaired and disabled persons. One visually impaired youth worker from each country is sent for three months to one of the other partner countries, to support and foster the development of the project. His/her tasks also include writing a blog, contributing to the drawing up of an awareness-raising brochure, and assisting with the organization of awareness sessions for employers and other people in the region (which mainly focus on assistive technologies and the job situation of visually impaired people). The youth worker brings countless benefits to the hosting organization, with his/her new ideas and activities.

In the hosting country, visually impaired youth workers receive a mobility and a daily living skills course. The courses, as well as accommodation, livelihood, travel, household items and a language course, are interily covered by the project.

When I heard that a German youth mobility worker could go to Pisa, Italy, I thought it would have been good for me to have another experience in a foreign country, to meet new people and to improve my Italian. I talked to the Italian organization Aforisma and applied for the project. Fortunately I was accepted and I was very happy to go.

My project started in September. I was very excited about this new experience in a foreign country! The people I met in Pisa were very kind. During the project I lived in Aforisma's student house, which is very close to the office. The students were very kind and I made many new friends. My colleagues from Aforisma were very nice as well.

I learned many things during the project. I was very glad to have a mobility course and a daily living skills course: for example I learned how to move around the town and how to get to useful places like the station or the university. As for my independent living skills, I learned to iron! Of course I also improved my Italian, because I used it for the awareness sessions and I had a language course at the university of Pisa, which I liked very much. It was also great to speak Italian for the whole day, as my colleagues and the students I lived with were all Italian. In the beginning, it was a bit difficult to introduce the awareness sessions in Italian, because I didn't have a very rich vocabulary to describe the job situation in Italy and Germany, or to talk about assistive technologies etc. However, I learned many new words in a very short time, and now I am less worried about my presentations.

The awareness sessions were also a new experience for me, as I had never made a presentation in front of employers before. I was glad to see that the audience was very interested in the subject: they asked many questions about visual impairment and how VI people can manage in their daily lives. It was great to see them so interested!

I also learned many things about the job situation in Germany and Italy, as I had to gather information on the subject for the awareness sessions: we discussed the job situation for visually impaired people in the two countries, as well as the financing of assistive technology. The topic was of great interest for me, because it will concern me as well once I'm done with my studies.

To sum things up, the VIP project was very helpful for me and I made many new experiences in different ways: living in a foreign country for three months, improving my knowledge of Italian, improving my independent living skills. I also improved my mobility and orientation skills by learning routes in Pisa and going around on my own. Besides, I met a lot of nice people and I learned to appreciate many aspects of the Italian culture.

I will fly back to Germany a few days before Christmas. I would definitely recommend to everyone to partake in this project in one of the partner countries.

To know more about my stay in Italy, you can read my blog.