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ECO future through the eyes of the participants🌱

It’s very nice to make a general blog about the project, but what is much more valuable for us is when the members of the Estonian team themselves talk about their experience!

Firstly, let's read what Iti says: I applied to the project because I had never taken part in the project with a topic of sustainability, ecology, or entrepreneurship. Of course, I know that one should travel sustainably and green transport, use refillable water bottle, and sort my waste, but this project helped me to understand different countries’ obstacles, different points of view, and possible solutions. It was a pleasure to meet new people from other backgrounds, learn about their lives and experiences, and come together to unite our ideas to build something powerful.

We learned how to debate, what are the 17 goals of sustainable development, how to come up with great business ideas, and what even is a great business idea. I liked this project because of diversity of activities - We had world cafe’s where everyone brainstormed ideas about questions such as “What was your crazy business idea as a child” or “What sustainable companies do you know”. We worked together in teams, to make educational videos and presentations about different problems in different countries. My team was working on a project on deforestation and the ecological footprint. In the end, we presented our solution, an app that helps companies to become more sustainable and sells them a “green footprint plan”.

Our ideas and points of views were represented in various debates. The first debate was, how to make Vilanova city more "touristable" and how different parties, and sides of the city, benefit from it. In the second debate, we debated topics, such as global warming, and whether pineapple goes on pizza or not. Now I understand more, why young people should be more active in their local communities, to make a change, because we have innovative ideas and strong voices.

The activities weren’t only held in the avenue, but also in surrounding areas. We went on a carnival in dinosaur costumes, to let locals know about this project’s purpose and the importance of being sustainable. It was very fun. We also went on a hike on the Santiago de Compostela road. I find it important, that projects include physical activity because it feels nice to move and the fresh air in nature is a pleasant change from everyday city life.

Vilanova de Arousa was beautiful, with the sea, green grass and I even got slightly sunburnt, in February. But I’m even more thankful for the people whom I met, because I made some really good friends, caught up with old friends, and learned so much about other people and their cultures.

Ilja: On the project I saw how people with different cultures can have many similar interests. Thanks to the activities that we carried out together, we combined many small ideas into one big international business idea which can give people the knowledge to travel without disturbing the local environment and respecting traditions. We also found those who support our point of view and ready for a future collaboration. Now we know how to build a business step by step, how to develop an idea by approaching it through SWOT analysis and what is needed to bring it to life. It was especially interesting to create and come up with advertising strategies to attract an interested audience. By presenting and defending our point of view, we became more confident and serious in our goals. It was useful that during the debate it was important to stay with your goal, taking into account the opinion of the majority, thanks to which we began to understand each other better.

Diana: Going on a youth exchange means going to another reality, to a completely new world. But this world is created by people and thus becomes so unique, beautiful and interesting. On the project in Spain we really broke away from the usual gray February mood and immersed ourselves in a sunny, hazy environment in the most beautiful little hidden gem of Villanova de Arousa. Waking up every day near the ocean, we could immerse ourselves in various activities and topics about ecotourism, sustainability and entrepreneurship. Such knowledge and skills are incredibly important, relevant and useful in our society. Now I feel like I know a lot more about these things, which makes me a more educated and well-rounded person who can bring small or perhaps later big changes in the lives of other communities, groups and societies. But more than that, people are the most adorable thing that happened to me on this project. Being in an environment with people from different cultures, getting to know each other and something new, experiencing incredible emotions and creating wonderful memories is the most enjoyable part of any exchange. Thus, I returned home with new knowledge and wonderful friends from different parts of the world. And with great motivation to learn Spanish since Estonian team is the most Spanish one ;) 🇪🇸🇪🇸🇪🇸🇪🇸🇪🇸🇪🇸

Amanda: The location of the project was exceptional, we were next to a beach, and a walkable distance to the city centre. We were a big group, and I was surprised at how well everyone got along with each other. We stayed in cabins with bunkbeds and it felt like a little community.

Dinosaur day really caught me off by surprise, but it was a welcomed one for sure! I never imagined that I would participate with about 40 other dinosaurs to protest about climate change, and have a karaoke party for the whole town to listen to. The locals certainly caught attention.

Another highlight for me was the hike… well that’s because my group got lost 😆. But that’s what made it an adventure! The hike had a beautiful river that would flow into waterfalls as we descended down the trail.

The activites were also engaging and sparked interesting conversations about how tourism is out of balance in Europe. There are countries with mass tourism and countries with almost no tourism. We had to come up with innovative entrepreneurial ideas on how to solve them.

What really made the project special for me was that this was my first time meeting Russian Estonians. As someone who was not born in Estonia and unable to speak the language like a native, it was really nice to not be alone when struggling to speak Estonian. It really broadened my perspective of culture and how these projects can give not only the opportunity, but also the space to connect us. Overall, I made a great group of friends who I will be keeping in touch with and I am grateful for the experience.

Urmet: This project was perfect in many ways. I definitely developed my knowledge in the green field. For example, how we created our brand to solve some kind of problem. It was also eye-opening to listen to the problem areas of other countries. This also showed me that it is actually quite good to live in Estonia. Our accommodation must have been in the most beautiful place in the world. View of the mountains and the sea. Of course, this small town was also lovely. You don't always have to end up in big cities as a tourist. And for last I was able to practice my Spanish, which I am very happy about, and become a more extroverted person. As someone who doesn't travel much, it's not the easiest thing to connect with everyone at first, but I managed it. Northern Spain is a magical place.

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