From the 16th until the 25th of January group of young Ukrainians took part in an youth exchange on Cyprus. There young people from 10 European countries met to talk about the misuse of alcohol. Our group members shared their impression about the exchange. Read them and maybe you will also want to take part in such youth exchange.

Yaroslava Larionova:

Everything is possible until a choice is done. (с)

So it was a youth exchange.

From January 16 to 25, our Ukrainian team was in Paralimni, Cyprus to participate in the YE Think before you drink – Prevention. Actually, me personally from 15th of January. The project gives the opportunity to come in earlier, and I had the desire to explore another city, Larnaca.

The name makes it clear that the topic of the exchange was to prevent alcohol consumption. For this purpose, the organizers brought together 5 representatives from 10 countries: Ukraine, Cyprus, Lithuania, Belarus, Moldova, Romania, Serbia, Georgia, Armenia and Turkey. Together we lived in the most comfortable conditions and had to share with each other our own experience of drinking alcohol, to represent the culture of drinking and traditions of our native countries, to have fun and to work fruitfully on the creation of final products.

It was expected that at the end of the project we would receive, in addition to real knowledge and personal changes, tangible objects, if you may say so:

– promo video of the project, as a trailer or a preview of everything;

– photo album;

– video about the project itself;

– videos, based on participants’ real-life experiences, about the harmful effects of alcohol consumption;

– a personal reflection diary from each participant and maybe something else

(I think that some of this will be attached to our reviews and readers will have the opportunity to see with their own eyes the results of the exchange.)

So, our program was very busy and tough, we spent a lot of time at work and little at informal communication. So, to meet someone new, you had to sacrifice sleep. But in the daytime there was always something interesting: we spent the whole first day playing and trying different energizers, then was Erasmus presentation, and for me it is always a fascinating event, then we had a fair of organizations and everyone learned who from where, from whom and what at home engaged. We were also working with the national team to relieve the tension and ride the cart from the supermarket on the streets of the city. And the nativity scene Vertep was shown to foreigners as an example of Ukrainian cultural traditions.

Even the guests came to us: the nurse taught first-aid courses (what to do with various poisonings and injuries, when you see a person unconscious, or when someone suffocates from choking on food), local police presented the results of a drunk driving research, and the Formula 3 racers told their stories and rules for safe driving, the rehab center representatives spoke about the harmful effects of alcohol, the safe age of first use, the relationship between try for experiment an addiction, that there are no ex alcoholics and drug addicts because these substances destroy and alter human DNA and then he/she will crave for something “forbidden” till the end of the life and can only hold back by force of will. We were also fortunate enough to see the premiere of the movie about Cypriot teenagers, their parents, and alcohol relations, as there is a serious problem of abuse in this country (here is a link on FB page of movie –

In the last days of the project, we had a half day off and all purposefully drove to another city, Ayia Napa. There we visited the open-air sculpture park, united by a bridge with a cactus park, and were even on the beach and some even swimmed, and then just wandered the empty streets of the city, exploring the color of the local resort, called the summer capital of Cyprus. And the next day we went to Larnaca because our hike to a local school was covered. This was not a problem for me, by contrast. It was supposed that we would share our knowledge with the children, and we would share with the locals and visitors of Larnaca. Our entire large group was divided into several small groups, within which we designed and produced a specific street performance or flash mob. This should get people’s attention and then tell them who we are, where we are from, why, what we did and what we learned.

I consider this youth exchange was successful for myself. I do not know if I was able to prove myself well, but I do know that it had a good influence on me. If you still doubt whether to go or not, just fill out the application form and give it a try and it will be visible! 😀

Erasmus is life

(and life is always about learning)

What I learnt (here is just a part of Jaroslava’s learning diary. Full version u can read here):

– that it is necessary to take the bus to the terminal F at the Boryspil airport;

– that a stranger in the middle of the street can talk to you in Russian in Cyprus;

– that there can be too many energizers;

– that there is no safe dose of alcohol;

– that teens are more likely to develop addictions;

– that the idea “better let him / her try at home than outside with friends” is a false one. It is better not to taste as long as possible at all;

– that you should not be ashamed of your position and subject under the public pressure, including drinking only because everyone else is drinking or to make company;

– that different people from different countries with different experiences and cultures have the same problems in life and society;

– that the statistics can be false (if calculated by a false formula);

– that alcohol alters DNA;

– that there are no “former alcoholics”;

– that the Ukrainian language has many common words and language references with Turkish;

– that people do not know how to organize themselves;

– that being assertive is even harder than it seemed before;

– that you will not run away from yourself;

– it is difficult to negotiate;

– that there will never be enough time;

– that even professional racers suffer from reduce the speed of reactions caused by alcohol, and therefore humans cannot and should not be so confident and presumptuous as to drive drunk.

Yulia Volynska:

Recently we were at an exchange in not a really warm (because of the winter) Cyprus, but it didn’t stop my face from burning up on the last day. We were talking about an alcohol, and about stupid things done by drunk people. 10 countries talked about the drinking traditions in their countries, and about reasons of drinking at all. By the way, i was shocked when i heard that Turks drink an average of 2 liters of alcohol per year.

One day we were visited by a cute girl, who showed us how to provide first aid. I had a driver license, so it was not so helpful for me, but other people really liked it. In turn i liked the meeting with Formula 3 pilot and a car journalist. Yes, to be honest their stories are unlikely to impress the 18+ age group, but their stories like “i was drunk, got an accident, will not do it anymore” can leave something in teens’ mind.

Cops visit was cool. They all speak english, and i was upset when tried to compare them with our, ukrainian police… I was amazed by the fact that on Cyprus there is a different permissible level of ppm of blood alcohol motorcyclists and for car drivers. Sounds logical, doesn’t it?

We had a lot of “energy exercises”, and i think now i have an allergy for them. Next time will write them together with a bell pepper allergy. I do not need to be forced to jump and run around the chairs to get my attention!

Time passed very quickly, because there were activities from 9:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. Sometimes i thought that i getting crazy, but then we were taken to Ayia Napa and it was fun.

I will lie if i say that this exchange forced me to hate an alcohol. But i found out for myself new ways of speaking with people about responsible drinking. In Ukrainian educational system discussion of alcoholism is built on intimidation, when there are more effective ways, which was confirmed by the performance in Ayia Napa. Moreover, the exchange allowed me to improve my skills in English, because there is a big difference in communication with a local people and in a group of project participants.

Mykhailo Hromov:

My fifth exchange has already passed, probably the hardest for me.Cyprus at first showed itself on the bad side, but the rain and cold left after a while. Many cats, lack of public transport, water tanks on the roofs instead of boilers, towns in the style of Yevpatoriya, resort oases of Larnaca and Ayia Napa, Russian inscriptions everywhere and magical landscapes I will remember this island.

We were settled in cute apartments and fed, and the next day the project began. The first half was heavy and oversaturated with stupid energy-raisers. Literally from 9 to 23, with short breaks, I had to stay with people and be active. I realized my introspection and already on the third day I realized that it was hard for me and not enough personal space. It was a pleasure to just walk alone. I envied people that after a busy day they could not sleep, but socialize. Because the communication during the activity seemed raw, indescribable, and the best communication took place with me during the game of basketball and during joint trips to the store or at sea, during those short breaks or at a later time. From the interesting: the police came to us and with the help of special glasses showed how complicated it is to drive under drugs, the drivers of Formula 3 came and shared their life stories related to alcohol, the director came and showed her very good film about alcohol problems in Cyprus, we visited Larnaca where they walked the streets and talked with people around the world about alcohol problems. Somewhere on the sixth day of the project we were taken to a resort town, it was a sunny, warm sunny day, which greatly raised our mood and energized us. After returning, I began to be more with people, better acquainted with the participants, and there was more free time. As for the topic of alcohol, most, even a little, I acted hypocritically, during the day they said that alcohol is poison, and at night they got drunk. Leaving the project, I felt that I had lost many opportunities, the people on the project were really smart, and it was outside the walls of the meeting room that they were fully disclosed.

If someone read my review at all, thank you, you might have noticed that I’m dissatisfied a lot, but in fact, it was an interesting adventure, I returned with awareness of my own problems and knowledge, motivation, to change myself and do something . If you’ve never been to youth exchanges, you simply have to sign up and try, it’s many times more interesting than just traveling, you will meet really smart people, learn something.

Summarizing [this is a fragment from Mykhailos diary

– I learned a lot about the culture and history of many countries, especially Cyprus
– I realized my own problems with the character and behavior
– I took some recipes with me, learned how to eat chicken with my hands and cook stewed oranges
– I upgraded the skills of needlework and drawing and acting
What I expected to know, but did not know

I evaluate the experience of the project as positive, despite many complaints, I am grateful to the organizers, I wish them to improve the programs, and I want to thank for the excellent accommodation

Mykola Vodolazkiy:

The program was full of useful information, meetings with interesting people, activities.

I got acquainted with traditions of alcohol consumption in different countries. We was sharing stories of out countries, was looking for ways of solving alcohol consumption problem among teenagers. Among teenagers there are a lot of people who want to change the situation in their countries, help people who are alcohol addicted.

We discussed with the participants, held performances, talked with people on the street. The host side spoke about the problems of alcoholism among young people in Cyprus, presented a film that was about the problem of alcohol consumption by adolescents. Local police officers in numbers and facts revealed the problem, introduced the programs that prevent the use of alcohol among young people. I also experienced not the most pleasant experience when I tried to wear glasses that mimic the use of a certain dose of alcohol.

As part of the program, we had inspirations stories. Meeting with successful people, the racer motivated to beat the goal, to believe themselves, to look for ways to realize their dreams.

First aid classes were valuable. The acquired primary care skills are a necessary minimum that everyone should know. Now I will feel more confident in situations where help is needed. Such classes should be at school, university, in the workplace. The ability to provide first aid can save a human life.

In the classroom, we were told in an accessible form about changes in the human body under the influence of alcohol. We made a film about how alcohol destroys relations between people, breaks their destinies. Participation in the program showed that by joining forces, young people can solve many problems, influence society, creating a new culture of thinking.

During the project, I learned how to explain to other people my ideas about fulfilling out tasks. Also now I know how to provide first aid for alcohol intoxication. The project helped me not to be afraid to take responsibility for my part of the task, taught me how to work in a team. I also tried myself as a director, actor. The knowledge gained while the project made me more responsive to my life, thinking about the consequences of my actions.

Sooo, what do you think?:)

Instead of an epilogue:

What is International Youth Exchange? And what can be learned from such projects?
International youth exchanges are a time and space for young people (13 to 30 years old depending on the focus of the project) from different countries to exchange their own experiences, knowledge, skills, values, attitudes.

I usually advise to “screw up” the level of own expectations for acquiring new academic knowledge. New experience (about yourself, others, your country, new country, worldviews) – yes you can get it. You will get academic knowledge, only if you are very lucky.
So, can anyone who has already attended more than 20 international projects learn something at such event?

Can. The main thing is to reflect on your own learning. So what was the experience I got that makes me richer after the international youth exchange “Think before you drink. Prevention»?

  • 100% increased own ability to work in an international team: to plan, to change plan, discuss, again change, adapt, try new;
  • Learnt, memorized and note several new energizers (yeap, there were to many sometimes);
  • Improved own ability tolerate ambiguity;
  • I really learned a lot about alcohol consumption in the participating countries and my native Ukraine (That in Lithuania you can buy alcohol starting from 20 years old and in Cyprus – from 17. In general, Lithuania greatly reduced the consumption of alcohol in the country due to raising prices, changing the legislation on the age of alcohol sale and hours of sale (from Monday to Saturday from 10 to 20 hrs, and on Sunday (attention!) from 10 to 15 only!), and also – they forbid to drink alcohol in the salon of the car. Cyprus has a very high number of alcohol-related car accidents. Because there are not very good public transport system, and people go to parties with their own vehicles and come back from parties at night by own car again. By the way, look for Cypriot anti drinking social ads below. I knew that is the most drinking country is Belarus (at least according to the amount of consumed / purchased / produced pure alcohol in liters per person the highest rate is here.) Once again I thought about the relativity and “accuracy” of statistics. I learnt that in Serbia you can order rakia (Serbian vodka) for breakfast and that’s ok, like tradition.)
  • Learnt more about traditional dances, games, costumes, cuisine, history and geography in other countries
  • Thanks to meetings with the police I change my own attitude towards police officers;
  • Through communication with experts from the KENTHEA – Rehabilitation and Training Center (Nicosia) my understanding of addiction formation, intoxication, binge drinking and “social alcoholism” has increased.
  • Communicating with representatives of the Cyprus Youth Board (their involved experts Formula 3 professional racers) has inspired me to new ideas and approaches in youth work. Personal stories of our guests about drinking and driving, and the “magic” avoidance of murder is quite inspiring not to drive after drink alcohol.
  • Watching the “Empousa: youth and alcohol” documentary and discussing the film with director Elena Alonefti helped me to learn more about alcohol consumption by Cypriot teens and the common European policies on alcohol sales and advertising, as well as monitoring consumption and responsibility for underage drinking.

There was a lot of learnings. As always. Even when you are going from home to buy bread by the usual route you can learn something. Here is the same with youth exchanges. Do not forget to reflect on your learing 🙂

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By jakov

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