This post is written by Niklas, who did a volunteering project in Italy.
In January 2020 I participated in an AIESEC Project on environment and sustainability in Castellana Grotte, Italy. I was lucky to stay six weeks in one of the most beautiful small villages I have been to. My work was about teaching the kids in the local Highschool on the UN SDGs and sustainability.My fellow AIESEC students were so kind to pick me up in Bari. They made sure I was safe and showed me how to travel to my destination. This was about an hour from Bari by bus.
My companion Mustafa and I most of the time lived together in a small apartment, or with families of the village. We switched our location almost every week to another place. This was rather inconvenient, but nothing too terrible. Every family made sure we were doing fine. All of them went above and beyond to make our experience as pleasurable as possible. In our free time Mustafa and I explored the city, and we enjoyed the amazing surroundings due to the closeness of the sea. It was one of a kind experience. I am sure that I will never forget the warmth of the people over there.
The teaching was quite difficult at first. I am so used to speak and think in English, that I did not think about the kids and their level of language skills. The first day in the first class I basically did a lecture on the UN and SDGs, in which I talked and talked. The kids faces were lit up and excitement was filling the room. I thought to myself wow this is amazing! Then I realized that they just pretended to be understanding what I was saying. Only then I realized that I should take it more slowly. We warmed up by playing games, asking questions and watching movies. Pink Panther was the hit in all classes. Slowly I was able to direct them into thinking about the environment. After a couple of weeks, with the help of the teachers, I had real discussions with the kids.
All of the kids were amazing, and the teachers were also incredibly caring and helpful to not only me, but also the kids. One of the older boys really caught me by surprise. I think he was about 13 and he was casually asking me on my view on a certain type of social constructivism, and shared his concern on flaws in its logic. He made an excellent point, and this little fella baffles me to this day. I hope that one day we will become colleagues. My time in Castellana Grotte showed me that the Italians are very compassionate and loving people. There was no real culture shock or anything, just small things that come along with being in a small village in the middle of nowhere. If you can handle that, this experience is more than worth to go for!