03. – 14.10.2022
In the project “The Island Quest”, you can say that we had one main quest, to explore the rural area of Syros, while learning about the people living there, their culture, and document it in short films that would travel around the world, echoing the people’s stories and the participant’s learnings.
What started off as small idea, turned out to be one of our biggest and most ambitious projects yet. Forty participants from four countries across Europe, gathered in the small island of Syros. There, we stayed at the beautiful village of Galissas where for twelve days, we spent time getting to know each other, discovering new cultures learning new things and above all, having lot’s of fun while doing so. As our main focus was to document and share the stories of the locals, that meant we had to meet with a lot of people, hear what they had to say…..
As a result of this project, participant learned valuable skills around filmmaking and visual storytelling, they learned about their own but also other cultures, they got to break out of their social bubbles by seeing how life really is in a small rural island thousands of kilometers away from their homes and so much more. The organisations involved in the project strengthened their partnerships and and other various competences that will help us to organise even better events in the future.
Since one of the main focus points of this project was the documentaries that participants would produce, that would showcase the culture and life in the rural area of Syros, we spent a lot of time discovering the vast world of visual storytelling.
From practical things, like how to operate a camera, how to capture clear sound to more creative things like what narrative to use or how to tell an emotional story with the respect it deserves. We delved into many different topics that comprise a good documentary, and the results should speak for themselves.
Our short films are more than just visual productions; they are the result of the collective efforts of many individuals. This extends beyond the participants of the project to the people of Syros, who generously opened their hearts and homes to us. They shared their personal stories and culture, revealing the depth of their passion and love for their community.
From the inspiring story of a person who chose to start their life anew at 40 by moving to Syros and becoming a teacher, to the university students who may only have a temporary stay on the island, yet are deeply connected to the people and culture, everyone had a unique story to tell.
By capturing these stories, we were able to showcase the incredible spirit of the people of Syros and their deep connection to their island home. Without their contributions, our films would have been incomplete and lacking in soul.
Through this project, we were reminded of the importance of human connection and the power of storytelling in bringing people together. We are grateful for the opportunity to have met and worked alongside such wonderful individuals who enriched our lives with their unique perspectives and experiences.
If you’re used to living in a mid-sized or even a small city, it can be difficult to comprehend what life is like in a small community that’s isolated by the sea and heavily reliant on external factors such as ferries and airplanes. However, our youth exchange provided an opportunity for participants to gain firsthand knowledge and experience of life in such a place.
The project gave them a chance to learn about the challenges faced by small communities that are geographically isolated and dependant on transportation systems that are subject to unpredictable weather conditions. They had the opportunity to interact with the locals and hear their stories, learning about their struggles and the ways in which they have adapted to life in a sea-locked community.
Through this immersive experience, participants were able to broaden their understanding of the world and gain new perspectives on the challenges faced by different communities. This is just one example of how youth exchanges can provide unique opportunities for personal growth and cultural exchange.
We always aim for our projects to be interactive and fun. Every youth exchange is different because the people who participate can have the biggest influence on how many of the aspects of the project will turn out. We also tend to create workshops based off of our personal interests and things that we know well.
During this event, even though we created several practical workshops around filming and filmmaking, a lot of the time participants would find themselves interacting with the local community and exchanging experiences and ideas which lead to many discussions and debates about several aspects of life in rural areas.
Ultimately, everything fell into place beautifully, as the interviews with the locals didn’t feel like a person talking to a camera, but rather as individuals displaying a genuine interest in Syros’ culture and the stories of its people.
One of our goals with these projects is to create a safe space for participants, where they can feel equal with everyone and safe to be themselves. This isn’t always as easy as we might like it to be, bringing together 40 people with different backgrounds, used to a different way of life and culture has it’s own set of challenges. Thankfully all of our partners have years of experience, and we good teamwork and communication we made it work for one more time. In the end it is very rewarding to see all these people coming together in a common space and working together.
There were of course the more practical challenges as well, like for example transportation in a rural area during off season time, or making sure that everyone has the freedom to explore the surroundings while staying safe. These might sounds quite trivial but if not managed correctly they could have been a serious bottleneck for the project, but once more, good communication and experienced partners made everything work out.
At the end of the day, it was crucial to take a moment to reflect on the lessons learned. Participants were encouraged to gather in small groups to share their thoughts and feelings about the day’s activities. They discussed what aspects they enjoyed and what could have been improved upon.
This feedback was immensely valuable as it allowed us to fine-tune the program according to the interests of the participants. We took note of the suggestions and recommendations that were made and used them to improve the activities for the following day. By actively seeking feedback and being open to constructive criticism, we were able to ensure that everyone had a fulfilling and enjoyable experience.
Our youth exchange was packed with a diverse range of activities, providing something for everyone to enjoy. From soaking up the sun and sea, to cultural evenings, games, parties, hiking and more, each day held something amazing in store.
To maintain a healthy balance between workshops and more lighthearted activities, we carefully curated our program. We observed that participants were more engaged during the workshops when there was a strong social program in place. This not only added to the fun factor of the exchange, but also helped to foster a sense of unity and camaraderie among the group.
While the natural beauty of the surroundings alone was enough to leave an indelible impression, it was the friendly competitions and other activities that truly made the project unforgettable. The memories and bonds that were forged during these moments will last long after the exchange has ended.
Get a glimpse of what this youth exchange looked like. Erasmus+ projects are an amazing opportunity to make new friends, learn about new topics and simply discover who you really are. It might all sound too good to be true, but the only way to find out is to experience it yourself.
We are also posting more about this project and many others on our social media channels so don’t forget to join the community!
The final videos created by the participants showcase the personal stories and experiences that make Syros so special. These short films capture the essence of life on the island, highlighting its rich history and culture, and the unique challenges faced by its residents. By collaborating with the people of Syros, the participants gained a deeper understanding of the island and its people, creating an authentic portrayal of life on Syros. These films are a testament to the power of cultural exchange.
This project has been funded with support from the European Commission Erasmus+ programme. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.