Day 5 of the Intercultural dialogue seminar: Human Rights day

Human  Rights day started terrible: I have finally caught the flu that has been going around in the group as well. It was incredibly difficult to get up on time to visit the Catalan Parliament. Since there wasn’t any time for breakfast either, I felt really weak all day long…  But being strenghtened by the tought that everybody was feeling terrible at this point, I got my act together and joined the group to visit the Catalan Parliament.

The building was so impressive: beautiful assembly halls, impressive corridors, the engravings on the ceilings and the wonderfull details that you could find everywhere you looked where really worth the suffering. On top of that, an MP explained the Catalan political situation to us in more detail. It helped me understand the  internal problems of Spain much better.

The visit to the parlament was follewed by something very rare: Free time! We could just stroll around the beautiful Barcelona, As long as we made shure to be  back in time for lunch!

After lunch we discussed human rights: Is it a universal concept? What is the EU’s role in promoting or enforcing these rights? Are there also duties connected to this concept…? We spent the entire evening discussing these and other, broader matters. I think it was very usefull to be able to talk about this concept so freely.

The planning for the evening was pretty straight forward: a night out in Barcelona. We had some trouble finding a nice place that could have us all at first, but after going to a bar we ended up in a pretty cool club! Unfortunately our Maltese friends had to leave that evening. So while we were partying, they had to say goodbye to go and catch their flight. It was all really sad,.. Hopefully, we’ll see each other again some day… I would really like that anyway!

Now, the awesome party went on until 5 o ‘clock, but the pictures aren’t fit for publication I’m afraid :-)

You’ll have to come see for yourself some day how it is done in JEF!

Okay, one picture…


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Day 4 of the Intercultural Dialogue seminar: Stereotypes day

Okay, this is only going to be a short one, because I rrrrrrrreally need some sleep.

We started of with a simulation game: Each of us got a post-it on taped to his forehead, without knowing what was written on it. We then had to interact with each other (without words) like we would in real life. Based on those interactions, we had to guess what identity we had unknowingly assumed.

It was immediately clear to me that I had to be something REALLY bad, ‘cause everyone ran away from me all of the time. (It turned out that I was a murderer, so I guess it makes sense that prostitute Michel turned me down). Troughout this game, we could experience a little bit what prejudice and stereotypes are about.

The rest of the day was filled with some really interesting discussions about stereotypes: what are they, are they always bad, can they be avoided or are they part of everyday life?

Peter invited one of his catalan friends for a creative workshop. The workshop was really cool. At first I was pretty sceptical (I think most of us were) but it was so great to open up… The concept was called “theatre of the oppressed”. We had to interact with each other without using words, and had to let our bodies do the talking. At first, everybody was pretty shy and closed. But after 10 minutes, we were dancing and jumping, crawling and hypnotising and using “body language” like we never did before. It was really cool to see how different people feel with the concept. We had to lose all socially accepted frameworks of communication and create an entirely new one. It really got us closer together as a group.

We finished our day with a quiz, because we had to be fresh for the next morning: leave at 08.15 for a visit to the catalan parlement!

The quiz was pretty cool, but after the quiz we decided that a little party would not hurt anybody…So we simply continued the international evening of the night before with a dance contest (Wich I lost – badly) on our room. Spontanious parties are usually the best, and so was this one! It was great!

Sleep tight! I know I will!


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Day 3 of the intercultural dialogue seminar: Cultural diversity day

Alright! After breakfast we started of with a nice energizer! I don’t remember all the specifics, but it was about all the different kins of beans we have in Europe: Broad beans, princess beans, mexican beans… It is kind of difficult to explain how beans can energize a person in the morning, but believe me: They certainly can, thanks to Tomas!

We then went to the seminar room, where we each got a lemon. We all got really close with our lemon, some even gave names to theirs, and then all of a sudden, we were seperated from our beloved lemons! All of the poor guys (and probably also girls) where just lying there, in a huge pile of lemons. We then had to find our own lemon back. And believe it or not, but we all found our lemons! Weird thing is, that when you see a group of lemons, they all look alike. But get to know them a bit better, see their in-group diversity, and you’ll notice that each lemon is different and has its own character! Anyway, I’m just glad that I got reunited with my dear lemon Suzy.

We continued after the much-welcomed coffee break with some explanations on migration and migration flows. (Apparently, more people migrate TO Afghanistan than from it – weird!)  The general tendency however was migration from eastern europe to western europe.

After lunch, we returned to Gracia, where we visited the CNJC (Catalan National Youth Council). We were explained some more about diversity and multiculturalism in this youth organisation and then continued on to visit park Guel, a beautifull fairy-tale like parc designed by Goudi, who also designed the famous Sagrada Famillia (we haven’t visited this majestic cathedral yet). Unfortunately, it was already getting dark so we could’t really see the parc in all of its glory, but it was still extremely cool.

And then, finally, the first party! International evening: everyone had to bring someting to eat or drink from his or her own country, and share it with the rest. Needless to say, it was all jolly good fun. We played some games, had fun with each other, and got to know each other better. It is only a shame that we had to keep the volume down, beacause as I said earlier, we are staying in a monestary, where people try to enjoy some peace and quiet…

Anyway, getting up in the morning will be a pain…

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Day 2 of the Intercultural dialogue seminar


Alright! After a good night’s rest we were ready to start the seminar! Liga got us awake with a nice “engergizer”: Enthousiasticly shouting “GOOD MORNING” in our own language to each other got us redady for the introduction day.

We learned a bit about formal and informal learning before starting with a power brainstorming session. The power brainstorming is an excellent method to collect numerous ideas on several statements, like what identity is, what the essential elements of culture are… We also discussed some concepts of multiculturalism, which we could relate to the powerbrainstorming of earlier.

The “seminar” part was closed by a documentary, titled “like a man on earth”. The documentary adresses the issue of African migration to Italy. The problem isn’t really the migrition itself, but the way immigrants are treated. They have to pay an awful lot of money to intermediaries to smuggle them trough Lybia towards Italy. Once they reach Lybia, there is an enourmous chances to get arrested and locked up in this prison where they are humuliated, without food, with 20 people in a single cell,…  The most crazy part is that the Italian government supports this regime by donating cars, money… border patrols…

The documentary really got trough to us, we were supposed to have a debate after the film, but everyone was really quiet from the shock of watching the film… It is not a pleasant thing to watch, but you really should see it anyway… It will open your eyes to the unpleasant uncomfortable truth…

Still impressed by the documentary, we went to a bar in Gracia ( a nice part of Barcelona) to watch a football match. Now, I’m really not a football-kind of guy, but the atmosphere was amazing: It was like all of Barca was either at the stadium, at home watching the game, or in one of the bars to watch the game on the big screen. I really into the match, and was even excited (imagine that) when Barca scored (they won with 2-0). After that, we went to another bar to get a drink, and got back to the venue because the metro stations close at midnight. On our way back, we talked some more, and decided to stay up late: we had to be quiet so we didn’t disturb the other guests, so we just sat in the hallway, talking to each other and getting to know each other better. It was really great,!

As I’m writing this, it strikes me that it was only the first day, and yet I’m really getting along well with these people… I love it!

Unfortunately, only 6 more days of intercultural fun are left …  I hope the other days will be as nice as this one!

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A week in Barcelona: Day 1 of the Intercultural dialogue seminar

Monday 23 november 2009: 


Today all the participants arrived in Barca! When I arrived in Barca after about 6 hours of trains, buses, one plane and two metro changes, I was quite disorientated: It was way warmer here than in Belgium, I still had my tshirt, sweater and thick coat on, so I was sweaty and alone, and on top of that I couldn’t find the street that was supposed to be opposite to the Montbau metro exit (of course, now I know I took the wrong metro exit)

Luckily, I noticed a blonde, english-speaking girl, that was asking directions to one of the Catalans in the metro: She was holding a piece of paper that looked pretty much like the little google map JEF-Europe had sent us in advance, so I guessed she was one of the other seminar participants. Thank god, someone to help me find the way in this town!

So with Katja (from Tatzikistan)’s and a friendly Catalan’s help, we managed to find the seminar venue: It is truly beautiful: this old Salesian’s farm/hostel domain with fountains, palm trees (that’s awesome if you’re used to Belgium), large patches of grass… delightfull!

So at around 7, most of us were registered and we could start getting to know each other with some ice-breakers. We have a really diverse group: I’m not going to sum up everyone, but there are Romanians, Hungarians, a Welshman, Germans, French, an Italian, a Suede, Moldovans, a Kroatian (Chernick: my roommate), Maltese, an Austrian, a Tatzikistani, a Slovenian, our “trainer” is Latvian, some Belgians of course,… Pretty cool! I guess we can really make this an intercultural experience!

So after the ice breakers and remembering each other’s names, everyone was really tired from travelling.  So we got to bed at around 12, which isn’t to bad if you keep in mind that we have to get up tomorrow at 8 o’clock…

I’m going to try to make it on time and get up at 8, so wish me luck on that!

All right, thanks for caring! See you tomorrow!


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Three days in The Hague

Wow, my first blog entry ever! This should be fun!

Last Thursday, the Europe@MYDESK event started in The Hague, a beautiful city in the Netherlands. I arrived around noon at the Holland Spoor station, where Ruben (the former JEF-Leuven president) and Zane were waiting for me. We then drove straight to Albert Heijn, some kind of enormously popular Dutch supermarket. We saw so many Albert Heijn stores in The Hague! Incredible: they are everywhere!

We then went to the project venue: the people of WFM were so friendly to let us use a conference room on the first floor of the building. Thanks guys!

The first day of the project was Europe@mynewsdesk. It consisted of a workshop on the use of new media technology. Since we didn’t know much about this ourselves, we got a specialist on the topic to explain everything to the participants. Jon Worth, (ITguy/EU-enthusiast/atheïst bus man/former JEF-europe president/blogger/twitterer,…) really got into everything digital: he explained to the participants how to use blogs, facebook, twitter, and everything else on the internet to get some attention and get support for a project. He was really great. (Actually, this blog probably wouldn’t exist if he wasn’t there). After the seminar, we went out for a drink in The Hague. Unfortunately, we didn’t know where to go, so we ended up in some Belgian beer bar, drinking the beers we already knew, listening to 90’s house music… Urgh…

On the second day, it was time for a Europe@myschooldesk intervention. Because spontaneous discussions about the EU are interesting discussions most of the time, we just went to Leiden University to talk with some students. We told them about Erasmus programs, about other exchange programs, and we discussed. We discussed strengths and weaknesses of the EU, opportunities and threats, we talked, laughed and discussed with one student for over 45 minutes! We didn’t have to agree on everything to just get along. United in diversity, you see? I think I learned more out of these discussions myself, instead of “teaching” others! Awesome!

In the afternoon we got to work on preparing the grande finale of saturday: the project management workshop…

On the last day, we got up real early: half past seven really isn’t my prime time of the day… but it was time for Europe@myofficedesk. The workshop on project management started at 10 o’clock. No specific guest-trainer like Jon this time, we had to do this one by ourselves. Well, not completely by ourselves actually; the participants gave a lot of feedback during the discussions, so we actually didn’t have to “teach” them. They taught each other new things in a way on certain moments. I really like this kind of brainstorm-group learning approach. There were several participants that really contributed a lot: mister Prashanth Shanmugan, an Australian internationalist/backpacker knew an awful lot about the history of management (and about a lot of other things as well). He also has a blog, which I can recommend: it will undoubtedly prove to be an interesting read.

So, after some brainstorming, presentations, some lunch, writing our own project, a lot of coffee and some more lunch (héhéhé)  it was time to say goodbye to the Netherlands. But Prashanth had other plans: he gave us a guided tour of The Hague,  took us to his favorite bar and a nice pizza place, and we had a few drinks (Jaegerbomb!) before we went back to Belgium. It’s so nice to meet great people!

Anyway, we all really enjoyed our time in The Hague. Let’s just hope the other Desk events will go as well as this one!

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Europe, tear down this wall!

The 9th of November JEF Leuven’s first activity took place! We celebrated the 20th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, together with several of our JEF departments all over Europe! Our goal was not just to reminisce about Eastern Europe’s new found freedom, but also to point out that despite our progress, there are still many visa-restrictions that need to be taken care of. We set up our cardboard wall in the Leuven city park. It took a while to convince bystanders to take a shot at breaking down the wall, but soon people were joining us spontaneously. They enthusiastically destroyed the wall using a football, a boxing glove and even a baseball bat. Exactly what we wanted! JEF Leuven has torn down the wall successfully! And we have the pictures to prove it!

Post by Inge van Hulle

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De Standaard – June 2009 (Nederlands)

In the run up of the European elections in June 2009, two of our board members at that time were interviewed by De Standaard, one of the main newspapers in Flanders. You can read the article about Ruben Loodts, former International officer of JEF Belgium and former SG of JEF Europe, and Elisabeth Velle, former JEF Belgium president, underneath.

                        Media                 De Standaard - Elisabeth
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