Last week two international exchanges took place where students’ from 4 different european countries shared experiences of participating in the BEST project.

The workshops were conducted by David Sypniewski – a Polish photographer and educator. Students from Croatia and Poland met first, the Italian and Slovenian exchange followed a few days after. Both meetings were full of positive energy and valuable content.

Freedom of speech is the most important thing in this project! – students said – It doesn’t mean that usually we do not have such freedom, but in this project we finally have full freedom of speech. We can express our real thoughts and opinions and we are given space to do it.

Teachers, who were also present, emphasized that the BEST project gives them an opportunity to speak with their students about the topics they usually do not have time for. Photos as a piece of art help them initiate a talk about difficult issues, like mental health crises. Emotions evoked by the photos are very different, but all photos can be used as a starting point to opening up about the feelings students have. As students and teachers said, it’s much easier to talk about what we see, not about ourselves. Finally all discussions become somehow connected to personal experiences.

Mental health crises is a new world challenge

It’s not a surprise that topics of mental health crises and the pandemic dominated the meetings. However, young people mentioned with pride that they have become more aware of the mental health aspects and they became less ashamed to speak about it openly. Teachers emphasised the difference between their own generation and the youth – the younger generation not sweeping the mental health problems under the carpet anymore.

At the meetings, students have spent most of the time in a safe space, talking in smaller groups (breakout rooms). Despite the tough topics, there was time to enjoy spending time together, speaking English, sharing linguistic curiosities, and talking about neighborhoods and daily life. Everyone was curious to compare how schools look in other countries.
It was also a chance for teachers to share their experiences, especially on distance learning and difficulties connected with it.

All groups „got out” from the meeting happy and willing to meet again. We hope next year also groups from France and Spain will join us. Looking forward to it!

Schools which took part in the meeting:

  • POLAND: Complex of School of Communication in Poznań (Zespół Szkół Komunikacji im. Hipolita Cegielskiego w Poznaniu):Sandra Lasota and Joanna Obstalecka
  • CROATIA: Medical school of Osijek ( Medicinska škola Osijek: Mirta Faktor
  • SLOVENIA: Primary School Vič (Osnovna šola Vič): Ana Stranscak
  • ITALY: Liceo Ettore Palumbo : scienze umane, economico sociale e linguistico in Brindisi (Puglia): Toma Cetti

BEST: international students’ meetings