Palermo: a ProActive Learning Environment Represents Millions of Opportunities

jelena mazajI am Jelena Mazaj.

I’m the Head of the International Programme Group at Vilnius Gediminas Technical University (VGTU). I have spent the last 6 months of my life discovering Palermo. You may ask yourselves: how did it happen? Well, I will now go back to the start when this story began.

It started in 2006. At that time I was finishing my Erasmus exchange in Portugal. Thanks to that adventure, I understood, I was falling in love with this EU programme and its experience, which helped me to became aware of some of my strongest personal skills such as intercultural communication and ability to work in a foreign environment. During those months I also met a new ME: a young woman full of problem solving skills, with an international portfolio, and open to different lifestyles!

After that mobility period I had the honor to join the International Relations Office at VGTU as  incoming students coordinator, later I became responsible for LLP/Erasmus placement. Thanks to my job I have always been surrounded by international students, to whom we continue to offer amazing opportunities  Those days I thought that I would have liked to be a student again, so as to take full advantage of a placement abroad which could give me new working skills and open up new perspective. It looked like a dream which – I believed – would never come true.

Until I received an email from CESIE. They invited VGTU to participate in different projects. Then, during one of my first business trips to Palermo, I met CESIE representatives who offered me the opportunity to participate in Youth in Action programme. I was very surprised, because I was sure that I could not benefit from that occasion due to my work duties and  YiA age limits. Besides, I did not know that the programme was opened to youth workers as well! Therefore I found out that ″Youth in Action Programme, Action 4.3 – Support to Youth Workers’ Mobility, supports youth workers’ mobility and exchanges”! This new discovery provided me with a practical tool with which I could implement my old dream: a new long-term professional experience abroad based on job shadowing methodology.

So, here I am! In March 2014 I first entered CESIE offices in Palermo, one of the biggest NGOs in Europe, with its intercultural spirit and proactive working environment. How can I describe my experience in a few words? Six incredible months of learning by doing and exchange of experiences. These months I have been working on and preparing project applications for Erasmus+, HORIZON 2020 and Europe for Citizens programmes. I tested my skills as a trainer in Leonardo da Vinci and Youth in Action projects Moreover I contributed to develop working tools for partner institutions in Tempus projects (ARARAT, ENCHASE, GOVERN), along with study modules for Education for Spatial Citizenship project and so on.

The best part of this experience was working with professionals who were ready to listen to  and involve me in a wide range of international activities, which helped me to analyse and improve some new working methodologies to apply to future tasks. Personal development in a work environment  is the peak of the “professional mountain”, although I believe that institutional cooperation must be regarded as one of the key factors of any beneficial development. The proficient dialogue between CESIE and VGTU and active belief in its productive outcomes led towards a more consistent cooperation in LLP/Erasmus – now Erasmus + programme. In fact, some VGTU students have been accepted for long-term placements at  CESIE, while we are developing common mobility project in the framework  Erasmus + programme (Key Action 1). And  it’s just the beginning!

As to me, I became a European citizen, a person who discovered a new world: an organization, which  is changing Palermo with its fresh wind of  new opportunities and activities; and the City with its deep cultural heritage, diversity, different nationalities, languages, food and…well I also experienced being a victim of burglary! Despite this bad incident, my positive emotions and understanding of mobility process have not changed. Once again, mobility confirmed my conviction: there are touchable things, which you can buy any time. But you cannot buy experience – you must feel it!

That’s how I became part of this colorful and interactive world, full of professional and personal knowledge!

In the frame of ″Be a part of our world″* project. Supported by Youth in Action Programme, Action 4.3 – Support to Youth Workers’ Mobility.

Youth in ActionThis project has been funded with support from the European Commission. This communication 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.