By Anna Czaman
Have you ever been to Italy? Have you ever wanted to experience the Southern-Italian way of living with no filter on?
Let me tell you about my latest and very first Italian adventure I have experienced thanks to the Erasmus+ Program.
The 19th day of June was the day I touched down in Naples. First impression? Hot, so hot! One of the facilitators of the training course picked me up from the airport. As soon as we reached our destination, our venue in Torre del Greco, I could not stop thinking about how close to the beach we were – you cross the street and boom! There it is! You can now enjoy the sun, waves and the volcanic sand, which, by the way, was something I had never seen before.
The eve of the training course and the first part of the official first day were all about breaking the ice and getting to know each other. I must say, making new friends is never an easy thing for me, however the group turned out to be inclusive and fun to spend time with. We were a group of participants from Belgium, Bulgaria, Italy, Latvia, Romania, Spain and Turkey.
Something I genuinely loved during our stay in Torre del Greco was that the facilitators would try their best to make it as international as possible. We would create smaller groups (e.g. so-called home groups – mixing nationalities) in which we would talk about our thoughts, emotions, feelings and expectations – sometimes we would get so deep and personal, that there was nothing left but to unleash the vulnerability we all need to experience at times. Well, to balance it out, there were lots of moments of pure laughter and simply getting silly together.
During the Employability+ Training Course, we have gained lots of new information and received plenty of useful tools. As an individual with a visual impairment, I have had a chance to raise awareness concerning my own disability and find out how non-disabled people (mostly the ones, who happen to work with people with different disabilities) feel about interacting with us, disabled people. Turned out some of them had never really worked or interacted with blind/visually impaired people. I was happy to be there to answer their questions, have conversations with no taboo and just show them my reality. It is always important for me to mention that MY REALITY may or may not have anything to do with your reality and what works for me may not work for you. Blindness (disability in general is a huge spectrum).
We have been through a bunch of creative, but also challenging tasks we had to approach in smaller groups.
One day we went to see ruins of a really nice villa, where we were supposed to come up with an inclusive and accessible guide of the beautiful place. The challenge was not that clear at first, but then… in my opinion, we nailed it.
We have also had the opportunity to spend the whole afternoon in Naples. I do admit, that was my least favorite part of the whole stay in Italy. Not to mention, I had expected the city to be something completely different, with an utterly different vibe. Long story short, I find the city very inaccessible and, in fact, pretty dangerous. Mainly due to the fact that there are lots of quite narrow streets without sidewalks, frequently used by cars (and other vehicles) and pedestrians. As a visually impaired person, I find that scary. On the other hand, I had a good time hanging out with the other participants. We got to try some really nice, original, Italian pizza. Delicious!
My absolute favorite part of the training course was the 24th of June, which was the day for us to prepare our own workshops (in smaller teams again) and put them in action (making sure all our participants get involved). Now, I must say, we did great! Coming up with our ideas, collecting items we needed to turn our mini-project into something meaningful and inclusive was so much fun! Every and each one of us had a task and a moment to shine as a facilitator. That day we did lots and lots of blindfolding.
There was one more reason why the 24th of June was so special… It was my birthday! I genuinely felt special that day. Even though I did not have my loved ones to celebrate becoming one year older with, the participants and facilitators really made me feel loved and appreciated.
To sum it all up, let me just say how grateful I am.
My first time in Italy was not even close to what I had expected or wanted it to be. But does that mean it was worse? Less valuable? No. Not at all. It was a fantastic experience, with wonderful people. I have learned a lot and realized many things.
That place, that training course, those people… will never happen again…
Yet, the great memories I have made are mine to keep… forever.