Our trip to the 3rd project meeting of our Erasmus+ project “Green Teen Entrepreneurs” started on the night of Friday 24th Jan, when we all met at the train station in Aschaffenburg. After the twenty-minute wait in which we had prepared ourselves for the long journey that was awaiting us by getting tons of sandwiches, pizza and coffee, we finally got on board of the ICE that was going to take us to Munich main station. That was where for most of us the real adventure started. Everyone was excited and looking forward to seeing the train that was supposed to take us to Venice overnight but as soon as we stepped into the narrow compartment that could easily have been mistaken for Harry Potter’s bedroom at Privet Drive we felt somewhat claustrophobic. Making our beds and storing our suitcases in a couchette for 6 was a challenge, but when everybody was done complaining, we went “to bed” and turned off the lights.
Luckily most of us were able to get some sleep and ignore the fact that there had been several difficulties throughout the night, including a decoupling at the volume of an explosion that caused a small heart attack for some students, a nice visit at midnight from Austria’s border police and a rattling ladder. The next morning, we successfully arrived in Venice and without any further ado we made our way to the city center.
After a long city walk with lots of great cultural impressions,we went back to the train station to continue our journey. The next stop was Bologna, a beautiful historical city, which is well known for the red brick buildings (“Bologna La Rossa”) as well as the famous university (“Bologna La Gotta”) and the rich cuisine (“Bologna La Grassa”). We spent the day with a shopping trip to the city center and in the evening we met up for dinner with the Spanish students who were attending the exchange as well. Socializing with other project participants in the crammed space of an apero-cena restaurant, where only disposable plastic plates and cutlery was available for the buffet (!), and after a very long and exhausting day we finally got to sleep in the apartment- hotel we had checked in earlier.
We started off Sunday with a huge breakfast to prepare for the guided tour through the city where we met the Spanish students again, but also the Lituanian group which had arrived at the airport that morning. An Italian guide took us on a 3-hour-walking tour and we got to see the beautiful buildings and the ancient streets of Bologna. In the afternoon, we took the bus to Borgo San Lorenzo, where we finally met our Italian host families.
After a very short night, we met at Giotto Ulivi School, where we started off with some ice-breaker-games to get to know each other, followed by teacher presentations on career orientation at the participating schools. We learned that career preparation varies greatly, depending on the school.
It was also the day when we first had to practice for the flash mob that would cross our path quite often in the course of the week. We also listened to a very interesting presentation by Inga Hockenbring, a bilingual/bicultural business coach. She talked about the historical background of Erasmus, about cultural stereotypes, which can lead to prejudices, where we face them in our daily life and how to prevent them. When it comes to business etiquettes, however, knowledge of cultural characteristics or even stereotypes can also be helpful in an inter-cultural context.
We spent the evening in international groups at some host students’ homes, where the students of each nationality were supposed to cook a typical dish for the whole group. In some groups the result was delicious, in some others – to put it mildly – at least interesting.
On Tuesday we visited the local market and set up our tables to sell our products. Unfortunately, it was a rainy day and the market was not as busy as usual. We were divided into international groups so that some groups could go to the supermarket and do a market survey while the other groups were selling the products of their companies on the street market.
When the market closed, we had a reception in the town hall before we walked back to school where we did a pasta and cake workshop in the school kitchen together.
We got up early on Wednesday to take the train to Florence where we enjoyed a walking tour through the city, guided by the Italian students. We visited Pitti Palace and the Boboli-Gardens and split up in two groups afterwards. One group went on a long walk up to Piazzale Michelangelo, where they could enjoy a beautiful view over the city, the other group preferred to go back to the city and spend their free time in groups of at least three people to go shopping or pick up something to eat.
On our last day in Borgo San Lorenzo we attended a lesson at school with our exchange partners and experienced that lessons in Italy seem to be very different from German ones. Later, we visited the brand-new exhibition space of a company called “La Marzocco”, which produces coffee machines used in coffee bars. We learned about the entrepreneurial vision of the founders and a lot about coffee in general.
When we arrived at Giotto Ulivi, we danced our well-practiced flash mob one last time and took a group photo. After that, we “worked” a bit in the production section of our Italian GTE partner company “The Hive”: some of us produced soap, while others filled honey into jars. Both soap and honey are products “The Hive” sells. Our final task was to evaluate the market survey that we had done on Tuesday from a buyer, seller and customer point of view. In the evening we had a farewell party organized by the Italian students.
After we said goodbye to our new friends and their families, we took the train to Florence where we bought ourselves something to eat for the long trip. After that we spent the whole day on the train back home. Everyone was glad to see their families and friends again, but also sad because this exciting week was over and we had to move on with our day-to-day life.
by Paul M. & Lara M.