Thursday was the first day of the Youth Exchange You and the Mount (YE YATM) in Dolni Lozen, Bulgaria, which hosts six different countries – Bulgaria, Slovakia, Slovenia, Poland, Romania, Cyprus, and Bosnia and Herzegovina. The morning was traditionally filled with icebreakers and activities where the participants could get to know each other. First, they started with an activity to remember each other names, altogether with the gestures. Second, the trainer Ismail Sehic asked everyone to take several toilet paper pieces. Soon, the participants have figured out that the number of taken pieces means the number of facts about themselves that they need to present. Third, the participants were randomly coupled to discuss the origins and meanings of their names which they subsequently had to explain to the other peers. Finally, it was bingo, where the participants were trying to find people who fit to the 25 different categories. The goal was to write down one name to each feature we got written on the paper. Winner was the person who completed this task first.
After the morning break the session continued with the video presentation of the project YATM. As the popularity of mountain activities alongside with relatively affordable equipment increases, the project aims to spread awareness about the safety practices in the exposed areas. The participants familiarized with the program of the upcoming week in Dolni Lozen and, moreover, they have formulated and agreed upon a set of rules to create safe space between the participants.
As of the first activity after the lunch, the participants worked in their national teams to prepare presentations (using PowerPoint or flipcharts) about some of the most interesting facts about mountains in their countries. Each of the groups had five minutes to introduce and bring in more knowledge about nature in their states. That way the participants had the chance to promote their homelands through visual materials which helped expanding their knowledge about partner countries attending this project.
After the afternoon coffee break there was an exercise where the participants could present their expectations, contributions, and fears of youth exchange. Everybody brought their ideas anonymously to the sticky notes. Afterwards, the notes were read out loud and discussed afterwards. The most common expectations are to hike and to gain practical knowledge. As the final activity the participants have shared the one skill they want to improve. Most of the participants want to improve their communication and social skills, besides the mountaineering skills.
The day finished with the first intercultural night. The marathon of the country presentations was initiated by the hosting country – Bulgaria. After outlying some basic facts about the country, the presenters also explained the traditions and history of mountaineering. To test the focus of their peers, the presentation was terminated by a quick Kahoot quiz, winner of which has received a beautiful cap for the outdoor walks. The tasting of traditional dishes or teaching of traditional Bulgarian dances was not missing. Everyone was leaving in a good mood.