Abroad // Youth Exchange “Sustainable Cities” in Navarredonda de Gredos, Spain

Through the project “Welcome 2 Sustainable City” we intended to analyze the different aspects that intervene in the sustainability of cities. We did not only focus on energy and environmental sustainability, but also on other types of sustainability, not so frequently mentioned, such as social and economic sustainability. All these aspects contribute to a great extent to the quality of life of the people residing in these cities. The objective of the implementation of this project was to create a space for the exchange of knowledge and good practices, thanks to which young people from different cultures and social environments can critically interpret the needs of their respective places of origin and contribute to fight for a more sustainable society.

Day 1

During our first day of an exchange, we focused on the integration of participants. After having breakfast, we had an official opening, during which we were able to get to know each other, play multiple games, which helped us to become a proper group.

After the first round of introductions, we had a coffee break, which allowed us to have a conversation in smaller circles. Later on, we made cards with our expectations towards the following week. At the same time, we have set rules that we would like to follow during an exchange to be able to communicate better and make the cooperation smoother. At the end of the day, it helped us to solve any small issues and improve communication.

Finally, we were divided into smaller multinational sub-groups, with which we had to accomplish multiple tasks, that relate to our cultures, Erasmus + and exchanges in general. It was an amazing experience, as for instance, we had to record videos and answer question from many fields.

At the end of the day, we had an intercultural night, that was hosted by Italian participants. We got to know the Italian culture a bit better and also try some Italian food.

To conclude, the day was packed with many activities that helped us to get to know each other and taught us how to cooperate, highlighting the relevance of group projects in life.

Day 2

Firstly, we learn new definitions and concepts of sustainability that are going to be used during all week.

In the second part of the morning, we engaged in theatrical activities. We had to create a short play about a sustainability problem of our choosing, such as fast fashion or recycling, and propose a solution to it.

In the afternoon we watched short videos about recycling in our city or state and then we commented on them.

We have faced the problem of Ethnic enclaves in our cities through a game. Each group of 3 people was supposed to create a monthly budget of a given family. Each group had a different background. After that, it was presented an imaginary city where we had to find accommodation. Subsequently, we reflected upon the topic.

In all the activities we finished late, because the participation was high, and the topic was interesting to people.

Day 3

We started our 3rd day with an active energiser that helped us wake up and prepare for the long day. 

The first workshop was called «Future Energy». We were divided into 9 groups and each one was assigned to a different renewable energy. Our task was to make a poster with the most important information and then explain it to the rest of the groups.

After the coffee break, we had a Wealth distribution workshop.

The workshop was opened with another energiser (“Ping Pong”). Afterwards, the whole group was divided into four different groups which all represented the government of one country for a game. The task was to produce certain goods out of paper and sell them to Brisa in order to make the most money. With the earned money they could also buy new resources which helped them produce more and better goods in order to earn even more. What the groups didn’t know was that their starting points in terms of resources were very different. So in the end, the richest group had more than ten times more money than the poorest group – depending on the starting position. Then we discussed how that can be adapted to real life and how to possibly solve these issues of wealth distribution.

After lunch, we continued the day with a workshop on Industrial Symbiosis.

We commenced the activity by dividing into various groups, where every group was assigned an industry and was tasked to manufacture a particular product by using 3 raw materials. Once the product was ready, we could sell the product and in exchange, you’ll get the money and a residue material. We have to get rid of this residue either by selling it to other groups or by paying the recycling company.

So, we learned that Industrial Symbiosis is an innovative approach that aims to bring together companies from different industrial sectors in order to improve resource efficiency and sustainability by sharing and reusing resources. This involves raw materials, products, energy, water and also expertise and infrastructure.

Last but not least, the SDGs bingo we were given a paper with 8 slots, and we randomly chose numbers in groups of 3, each corresponding to one of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Then, each team selected 4 SDGs that interested them the most and researched them. After playing bingo, the team that completed a line or the entire card discussed some of the 4 SDGs they had chosen, engaging in a conversation about the goals and their feasibility to be achieved by 2030.

Day 4

Today, on the 4th day of the project, we were able to work in groups in the morning. During the workshops, we were divided into parties with different programs for elections and local people based on their age group, future goals and current preferences.

We all agree that Aren’s speech was extremely captivating, and all of us made our own choices based on the way the parties presented their program.

In the 2nd part of the day, we had a pool evening where and when we could enjoy sunny weather, swim and play some interactive games amongst everyone.

Day 5

During the morning of the 5th day, we had the chance to explore our natural surroundings.

We went on a hiking trip that led us to some natural pools in the middle of the mountains, where the bravest amongst us decided to have a bath in the freezing cold water.

In the afternoon, we analysed the water quality of the places of residence of the participants, and we designed a possible urban garden for our local community.

Day 6

Today we started the day with an interesting energiser where each of us represented a molecule and had to change pace as temperature changed (colder- slower pace/ warmer- faster pace) We also had to build an atom with different number of molecules after which we stayed separated in groups of 6 for the next task. 

The following activity was a Sustainable challenge in which we had to complete a number of tasks that included, creating charts, memes, drawings and more and the most interesting part was the musical one – each team had to perform a song.

What followed was a lunch break and after it, each of us had the opportunity to attend or lead a specific workshop as per personal choice during the Open Space.

Some of the options were different games, theatre class, hiking, public speaking, debates, exercises and body relaxation practice.

Day 7

During the last day, we had the opportunity to learn more about Erasmus+ and European Solidarity Corps. Through a hilarious presentation using memes from the project, the facilitator presented the different programs offered by Erasmus+ and CES, their target group and how we can apply. 

Later, we were divided into groups and created our own project ideas.

And finally, the time to say goodbye came! We had a very emotional closing ceremony where we were able to say our goodbyes, or better, see you soons!