To see the opportunities, you must look beyond the olives and the feta

This is Tea’s story about her voluntary expirience trough Europe House Slavosnki Brod  EVS project.

Thanks to Erasmus plus and Agencija za mobilnost i projekte u Republici Hrvatskoj this would never happen.


You try. You fail. You try harder. Accomplishment.

That overwhelming feeling of success that makes your lips widen into the biggest smile possible! Now let’s rewind. The try. For the first try, ideally we should create our own opportunity, but sometimes we just can not do it on our own, and let’s be honest, most people do need an external initial push, at least in the form of an idea. In other words, the environment has a big say in it, and I definitely came to the right environment by going to KANE, an NGO in Kalamata, Greece. After reading about the project, I didn’t have much doubt as it sounded just like the opportunity I needed. A couple of meetings later (both in person and via Skype), I was convinced it was the right thing to do. As for the non-work-related conditions, I couldn’t have decided which sounded more pleasing – the shift from living with my father to sharing an apartment with 5 girls or the fact that I would be living a few meters from the sea, surrounded by orange trees. Days flew by and a plane ride later I was deciphering “Αεροδρομιο“ and the more obvious „Καλαματα“. Coming to the office was not exactly like something you would probably imagine. It was an enjoyable experience in itself! I’ll just say it included cycling along the so-called train park (as it’s filled with actual vintage trains) in the shade of palm trees. And the office? We all know those kinds of people who we couldn’t possibly picture in an office, who seem like they were meant for the great outdoors! Now I know that I am not one of them. I thrive in an office environment, where everything seems professional and important. While some go pale at the idea of discussing business, I get a rush of adrenaline and feel excitement. I wasn’t aware of it before, maybe I even wasn’t that kind of person. Then again, some people have a very boring and sterile image in their mind when someone mentions „office“. That couldn’t be further form the truth when it came to our working environment – a colourful place where colleagues would sit down around a big wooden table. When it comes to work etics, soon I realized how the greeks don’t have a reputation of being the most punctual of people and I must admit that I never truly embraced that part and became comfortable with everything running late. Oddly enough, no one ever seemed to be upset by it, as if it was expected. „Intercultural learning“ – I often repeated in my thoughts. During my project in Greece, I got to know myself better, I experienced a lot (I made sure I would) and in return I got confidence and situation that would’ve made me feel uncomfortable (at least), don’t frighten me anymore.  So what did my experience really consist of? Firstly, one should know a bit about the organization I worked for in order to fully grasp the impact /understand how I managed to acquire such a rich experience. KANE is a non-governmental organization that does a variety of things, including hosting Erasmus+ projects, organizing lectures and conferences, but their two most notable initiatives are now well-established structures – a Youth Centre of Kalamata which they founded, and a yearly summer Street festival. The Youth Centre started as a wonderful volunteer-run structure that provided a number of workshops for the local community to attend in return for almost nothing. The topics varied from martial artsand dancing to painting and sign language! I found my place in the art department and was in charge of leading a workshop called Creative Arts. Thankfully, conducting classes is something I already had practiced during my university studies and speaking to groups wasn’t a problem as I already had substantial experience in guiding tour groups through art exhibitions. Adapting the complexity of each task to fit the workshop attendees, now that was the real challenge. What I loved was the freedom to chose and change the exact topics I would concentrate on throughout the year, so I started with drawing optical illusions and continued with Japanese paper crafts – origami and kirigami. The participants were thrilled at the opportunity to create something and take it home afterwards. They took photos of their creations and gave some as presents, or were inspired to recreate something similar at home. It felt amazing because I can’t imagine a better reward than inspiring someone to create. As the Youth Centre would regularly host a variety of thematic events, occasionally the opportunity arose for myself to create by providing decorations for the space. These events had very different topics and I participated as a speak several times. Helping to organize some of them made me comfortable to organize my own event later. Neither speaking at them or being involved in the organizational part wasn’t new for me, but I never had to devise?? All of it so it was a real learning experience – from coming up with the initial idea to the implementation. Apart from public speaking and dealing with people face to face, other tasks provided just as valuable experience. A lovely initiative that locals could also benefit from was KANE’s digital magazine Link. It was run by international volunteers and it didn’t take long for me to embrace the enjoyment of digital publishing. Appointed as editor, soon I realised just how much of a challenge it can be to manage people and, in a way, be responsible for their output. Setting deadlines, meeting your own deadlines, distributing responsibilities, motivating, inspiring, handling unexpected issues and reporting to a coordinator. I can’t stress enough the importance of building trust in the whole process and how much I learned about the difficulties of any management position. In adition, I got a change to slightly dive into the graphic design part which sparked further interest it that field. Now I’ve read a lot about typography, composition, current trends and the bad thing is that I started spotting poorly designed visuals everywhere! Really, they’re all around. Apart from trying to keep everything on track, I wrote a lot myself and discovered just how happy the process can make me. And I’m not talking only about articles for the magazine, we had a blog to update regularly as well. Other communication methods were used to spread the word about the activities too, like – the radio. First time speaking on air, one more thing for my box of new experiences.  Something else I find extremely important to mention was my involvement in Erasmus+ projects. Thanks to KANE and a wonderful trainer that happened to conduct these projects, after showing genuine interest in these projects (I did participate in several of them before going to Greece) and the methodologies of non-formal education, I was able to assist in preparation, administration and facilitation. From planning and structuring a learning activity, applying different methods to evaluating the outcomes. It was definitely one of the most time consuming (but worth every second of it) experience there. To conclude (and I could go on as I haven’t mentioned all of my learning opportunities and haven’t even started about other aspects of life), I will share with you a bit of wisdom I gathered during my stay in Greece. Your plans and wants, your dreams, whatever they might be, are too small. Don’t have inspiration? That’s a bad excuse. Creativity which comes from inside, the internal inspiration is something that doesn’t come naturally to most and needs to be practiced (and it truly is a skill that can be practiced). You can do more. Always. And you should. It’s scary, but let it be uncomfortable, that’s when you know you’re breaking new ground, at least for yourself. Try. Fail. Try again.

Tea Križanec

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