Athens is perhaps one of the most historically significant cities on Earth and has for the longest time piqued my interest. This is probably why it took me all of 20 seconds to accept FCV’s kind invitation to join the Catalan delegation at the ERASMUS+ training program on ‘Advocacy for Youth Employment’.

In my first half hour of traversing through the city, I passed the gorgeous Ionic columns shielding the Academy of Athens, walked through an anarchist neighborhood and witnessed an unobstructed view of the Acropolis from the rooftop of our hotel. Needless to say, I was positively overwhelmed and bracing me for what was to come and was by no means disappointed.

The beauty of ERASMUS + lies in its ability to attract extremely diverse people from various backgrounds with perhaps almost nothing in common apart from their desire to learn and grow and this program was no different. The kick-off dinner had us sipping Ouzo while feasting on not just Moussaka but also the stories of all the interesting people gathered there from scattered points across the globe and this theme percolated into our sessions on the following days as well. From Cali to Skopje and Naples to Bombay, session after session we approached our colleagues with intrigue and learned more about them as well as their cultures. This seamless flow probably would not have been possible without the marvelous efforts put into organizing this program by Inter Alia. Nikos’ calmness and Boraka’s empathy facilitated meaningful conversation that allowed us to truly feel comfortable while catapulting us outside of our comfort zones. 

One of my favorite parts was the reflection at the end of every day where we split into smaller groups and confronted head-on our learning from that day. I must admit, I was definitely a little fortunate here to find a brilliant group for reflections as we merrily converted these 30-minute sessions into conversations that sometimes lasted over 3 hours!

After an initial couple of days of self-exploration and icebreakers, we began to delve deeper into our purpose for being in Athens: To better understand the current situation of youth unemployment in Europe and design campaigns to fight the root causes within our individual countries. The Spanish delegation was an absolute treat to work with as everyone brought with them their own unique set of skills. We had Andres with his bottomless arsenal of ideas, Elena with her experience of working on a grass roots level in Catalonia, Patricia with her keen eye for detail and a perspective like no other and me, a “business student” trying to structure these brilliant inputs and formulate them into an actionable plan. We eventually designed a framework revolving around the need for accessibility to mental health coaching for the youth in order to hopefully help them overcome the fears and hurdles standing between them and their careers.

All in all, if I had to describe my time in Athens in a single word it would be “Invigorating”. I was challenged on a daily basis and nudged into an environment that fosters growth and learning. The people, the place, the culture and even the food I will take with me in my heart as I strive to create a positive impact on my society in Catalonia, in Spain and wherever else I travel to henceforth.