Hungarians in Slovenia
Wake Up Europe! Erasmus+
The Hungarian team’s experience
We spent ten days in Hodos, Slovenia in the summer of 2022: five students and one teacher from Politechnikum Alternative Secondary School in Budapest, Hungary. We started preparing for this project in the 2021/22 school year, in March, when we had our first meeting.
We knew that this ten-day getaway is going to be a unique experience as the organizer team, the topic and the venue of the Wake Up Europe project had the promise of a meaningful and worthwhile journey with Erasmus+. Our group is mixed: I selected two boys and three girls and I tried to include different age groups as well. Two students finished our school’s intensive language programme, two finished year 9 and one student finished year 10 in June 2022. One of the Hungarian students, Ákos Witkovszky was part of the previous years’ project by the same organizer team so he had some insight regarding our programme and the location which the rest of the Hungarian group found very useful.
We held four meetings before our travel to Hodos. During these meetings, we divided the project tasks among ourselves, planned our trip and created the presentations about the sending organization (our school) and its good practices connected to volunteering. We also prepared a presentation about Hungary and we collected items to give to charity.
The organizer team held a preliminary online meeting via Teams, which was a good experience, as it was the first time I met the organizers and the other group leaders face to face. I received more information about the project week, details about our accommodation and about the places we were going to visit during our stay in Slovenia.
We travelled to Hodos by train, and on the first day of our stay, we started making friends already. We discovered the nature surrounding us and played games with the other participants. ON the first day, we had our first group leader meeting as well, and I got to meet the team offline as well.
The rest of the week was quite eventful as well, I was really glad that we started with icebreakers on the day after our arrival. This way, we got to know each other better and the games provided a great atmosphere where everyone felt safe to share their hopes, fears and contributions in the next activity.
Games were an important part of this 10-day project, we played a lot and I learnt many things about my group and group dynamics during these activities. I really appreciate how much effort was put into each round of energizers. Each participating country had to prepare icebreakers as well, these were also well thought out and fun. The students of my group really enjoyed these games, so much so, that two of the participants also used many of the icebreaker activities for a different project, where they held a programme for more than 50 international students.
The learning diary was another important part of each day for our team. Each evening, the six of us gathered in one room and wrote down the most interesting, uplifting and memorable moments of the day. It was a really nice way to end our busy day and to think about our emotions and our knowledge. We reflected on the daily activities and of course, we joked around and laughed a lot during these learning diary sessions.
There were opportunities for learning about vulnerable groups, like the presentations about discrimination on day 3, and the environmentalism posters on day 5. The method of discussing these topics was group discussions and poster presentations. Many of these creative research activities were done in mixed groups, so we could see one topic from a variety of viewpoints and each country contributed to the finished product. Although the Hungarian participants were already good at research and presentations, they benefitted from these activities. Many of them gained confidence, conquered the fear of public speaking and became better at group work.
The programmes outside of Hodos started with a visit at the homeless shelter in Murska Sobota on the 4th day. This was a very interesting experience for our group, we got to talk to people who live in this home and we shared a meal with them. It was an emotional moment for many of us, and it also started a conversation among the Hungarian team about the homeless situation in our city. Our visit at the Roma village was also eye-opening, and we could draw some parallels to the Hungarian Roma community.
On the sixth and seventh days of the project, we learnt about some more good practices: we visited a retrement home in Rakican and took part in a cleaning action on day 6 and we went to a youth crisis centre and to an intergenerational centre in Murska Sobota on the 7th day. We used these opportunities to learn about society and vulnerable groups by actually doing things for them. These volunteering activities were also a valuable time for participants to build new friendships.
The evening activities, like the cuisine market on day 2, the Eurovision contest and the national evenings each day were unforgettable. The students in the Hungarian team were very enthusiastic about learning about each participating country and they really enjoyed themselves during these fun occasions. Of course, we also expanded our knowledge about Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Lithuania, Estonia and Portugal and we especially appreciated the way we learnt about these countries: through learning national dances, tasting traditional food, listening to their songs and learning some useful phrases from our new friends in their mother tongue.
The Wake Up Europe group explored many sides of Slovenia. With the help of the organizers, we learnt about the language, the culture, the history and more importantly, about the people of this country. Our visit in Ljubljana was part of this learning process. We spent the 8th day in this beautiful capital city, starting in the House of the European Union. We listened to an interesting presentation about the EU and then completed tasks connected to the EU institutions. Then, we completed tasks in Ljubljana in mixed, international groups. I enjoyed this trip a lot, it was a nice way to discover the city and to connect to more people from the project.
The last day before our departure was about recording our experiences in different forms: the end products, such as the articles written by the journalist group, the promotional film by the video group, the photo collages and art by the photographers and art group and of course, the dissemination by the group leaders are all records of the days we spent together during this wonderful project week.
The departure from Slovenia was really emotional, everyone was sad to leave but of course, we all felt grateful to have experienced so many beautiful memories. Towards the end of the week, in our discussions, I could feel that my group became very open, they shared their thoughts and emotions more readily. They weren’t hesitant to show vulnerability even in front of the whole community in the ’What we share’ activity. Each member of the Hungarian group conquered the fear they set out to defeat on day 2 and we gained even more that what we were hoping for before travelling to Slovenia. The activities and shared experiences strengthened the bond between us and we still talk about the days we spent in Hodos whenever we meet at the school.
To share our experiences and to motivate others from our school to participate in projects such as this one, we had our first dissemination as a group in September. We talked about the project in front of students of our school during an after-school meeting. I also disseminated in front of the teacher faculty during a faculty meeting. We are going to have a bigger opportunity to talk about Wake Up Europe during our school’s open day, which is in December. During this day, students and parents who want to apply to our school visit Politechnikum and they listen to lectures and take part in workshops.