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15-23 MAY, 2016

The flowers were blooming. It was a typical day of spring when one of my Albanian friends invited me to join him in a youth exchange in Pogradec. We had met earlier the previous year in another youth exchange in Turkey, so it seemed an intriguing opportunity to strengthen the bond with my international friend, and more importantly, to visit a new country and get involved with a different culture. So, I contacted the Italian NGO and arranged the travel.

On the 14th of May my adventure began. I flew from Milan to Tirana, where I got the chance to visit around and enjoy the night life, guided by my PR friend.

The following day we traveled to Pogradec by an “off-line blablacar”, which I found very strange. In that moment, I felt the thrill of discovering something new. The first step of what is called ‘cultural shock’ had already happened.

They say that Pogradec is one of the calmest city in Albania. No surprise to say they were right; there was a lot of tranquility surrounding the city. Spending a week there was very relaxing. Besides my expectation to know a new country and a different culture, it had already reached another level, of actually enjoying the country.

The youth exchange topic was about gender. We had a lot of interesting workshop which also involved going around the little city and interacting with the locals. We were almost 50 young people participating, out of which most were from Balkans countries and they somehow managed to understand each other without speaking in English, so at the beginning trying to interact with them in the free time was quite challenging. Despite this initial challenge, I must say that the communication among us became smoother day after day and it was not long until I created my own network of connections; brand new people entering my life and hitting my walls of perceptions with their ideas and perspectives.

The trainers were very good and in multiple occasions they had something for us to reflect on. During the project we were able to perform multiple activities, such as group meditation, interactive discussions related to the topic of gender, dance practice and we even managed to perform a flash mob in the centre of Pogradec. Another remarkable thing I enjoyed doing was biking to the beautiful little village nearby, hanging around by the lake, or visiting the city of Korca during our free day. I have a lot of beautiful memories from those times.

Albania definitely impressed me in a good way. I’d like to come back there in the future and spend some more time going around! As an ending, I would like to give a big ‘thank you’ to everyone who made this trip a special one for me.

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