The meeting in Istanbul took place between the 16th and 22 October 2022. There we could get to know the Turkish culture and make new friends under the motto “Happier Youth in a Healthier EU”.
On October 16, the trip started with the flight to Istanbul. By the evening, each of us could meet our host family at dinner. On the first morning in Turkey we met all the participants of the Erasmus program from France, Germany, Spain, and the Netherlands and were warmly welcomed by the Turkish school. In the early afternoon, we all watched the movie “The Cure” together in English.
Tuesday started with a relaxing boat tour. From the water we could discover many sights. Since the boat was chartered for our whole group, we played music on the deck and got to know Turkish dances. Later we visited a typical Turkish Spice Bazaar.
The third day consisted of many cultural sights such as Topkapi Palace, Hagia Sofia, Cister Basilica and the Grand Bazaar. At the Grand Bazaar we could taste and buy typical Turkish specialties.
We started Thursday at the Eyüp-Pierre Loti, a viewing platform over the Bosphorus. As the day progressed, we got to see the Galata Tower and Dolamabahce Palace.
We spent our last full day with our host families, saying goodbye to everyone with a big party at the school in the evening. Before that, we worked some more on our project, collecting ideas on what is important in friends and friendship. We used these results to work together and create a chain of friendship.
On Saturday morning, it was time to say goodbye to our host families. This was not so easy, many tears were shed – but also reciprocal invitations were extended, so that we might be able to visit each other again privately in the future. On our return flight, we realized what a wonderful time we had, with all the Turkish traditions and how many beautiful friendships we had made.
In an online survey at their individual schools, students participating in the project answered questions on their eating habits. During the meeting in Germany, students then looked at the results of the survey and deducted recommendations for the future on how to eat better in the future.
The questions included aim at three different topics:
“Traditional” eating schedules and eating habits in different countries. The reasoning behind this set of questions is that there are different habits. In some countries, breakfast or lunch are the main meal of the day, in others it’s dinner. The answers to these questions, especially when comparing the answers from different countries, help students to become aware of different cultures. Food and the daily rituals connected to its preparation & consumption touch every single person at a very “deep” level of their individuality. When for example looking at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maslow%27s_hierarchy_of_needs ), food is listed among the basis of physiological needs. When students travelling to another country, living in another family are confronted with different times for main meals, these differences can (if not explained beforehand) create stressful situations, hampering a “perfect” outcome of the mobility.
Eating habits of students. What do they eat, consider healthy and what do they know about healthy food.
What and where do they (or: their parents) buy food. This aims at the environmental aspect of food shopping. Not mentioned is organic food (which might be too obvious). Instead, there’s one question as to where they buy their veggies (for example, if food is bought at a farmers’ market this more likely is regional food which would mean a lower carbon footprint). Another question asked about fruits and vegetables they/their family bought in the two months before taking the survey (i.e. in late winter / early spring). The examples listed can (during the European winter) only be imported from the southern hemisphere (e.g. South Africa, Costa Rica, Brazil, …). So if someone had bought for example grapes this would not be environmentally friendly.
At the Futurium in Berlin, students worked in groups on several topics. In the exhibit, they collected information and pictures on their topic. These findings were than used to incorporate into further work and to create posters on several topics.
Presented here are the tasks and some of the results.
Where will our food come from in the future?
Agriculture: Growing food (vegetables, grain, fruits, …) on traditional fields is so 19th century.
Where will we plant, grow and harvest our food in the future?
Can we also modernize fish production in a similar way?
Farming / food production on a farm / a more natural and social way to produce food
Traditionally, farmers produce their food, bring it to the market (either a small farmers market or a big distribution center) and hope they can sell their produce. They also hope to get enough money / to not go bankrupt. If they can’t sell their food, they have to throw it out. Big farms today rarely come into contact with us, the consumers. We as customers usually don’t have any contact with the farms and farmers. We have become distanced from our food.
How could a farm also be organized (today or in the future). In the future, there might be a more communal concept of agriculture: What is it called, what’s the concept behind it, how is it organised, how do people get involved, …?
Food from the laboratory / Improving and enhancing our food with the help of science
Can science, scientific development, research help with the food we eat?
From the laboratory onto the field? Is that possible? If yes: How? Are there examples?
Environment and sustainability
Current environmental problems connected to food / farming / …
Possible ways to make producing food, shopping for food and eating food better for the environment.
What can we as individuals do? Can science help?
Current problems in food production
Monopolies, transport and energy consumption
“Hidden” costs / ecological costs
Are there suggestions to solve these problems?
Humanity does not only eat vegetables, fruit & grain. We are omnivores.
Is there a better way to produce meat?
Where could the meat of the future come from?
A lot of research is still needed in the area: Which open questions are there?
In the back of food pantries, fridges and kitchen cabinets of (too) many households, one can find food that has gone past its expiration date. Usually, that’s no problem as it is possible to eat food beyond the “Best before” date – after all, most food is still edible a few days (sometimes even weeks) after this date.
But in the same cupboards, there can be almost “historic” finds of food that has been waiting to be used for years and years… Most likely not edible anymore. A lot of food gets wasted without ever being eaten.
In this exercise, students had the choice of either creating food art with “donations” of food that was no longer good for consumption – or to work theoretically on the topic of food waste.
Day 1 of the meeting in Germany, afternoon and evening.
With the help of a dietician and in cooperation with a regional adult education center, students created a buffet style dinner. Later on, host parents and siblings were invited to school to start off the mobility together.
The recipes were chosen and provided by the dietician. A main focus lay on a variety of healthy salads. These accompanied some healthy dishes prepared on the BBQ (consisting of vegetables and lean meat). As we had learned from the food pyramid in the morning, sweet treats are not “forbidden” but should be chosen wisely and sparingly. Consequently, desserts were also included and consisted mostly of fruits, dairy (and some not so healthy ingredients…).
While cutting, grating, mixing, seasoning, …, students got to know each other (always working in teams with mixed nationalities). The results were very delicious and the few remaining left-overs were taken home to be finished and enjoyed later. The local newspaper came by as well and reported on this event (and the project in general).
What’s on the top of the food pyramid should not be on the top of the list of foods you eat every day…
Our food journey started out by looking at the food we might eat – and by getting to know each other.
For this purpose, students were handed magnetic cut-outs of typical food items (e.g. different types of vegetables, fruits, drinks, meats, legumes, snacks). Each food item was given to two different students.
In a first step, students were to find the partner with the same food item. As a team they then went on to complete the draft of a food pyramid, discovering the concept and the “position” of each food.
In another step, students did a short activity on language exchange: What is “their” food called in their language, in their partner’s language, in English?
Often, we were able to discover quite similar names for food in our languages. In some cases, “false friends” can, however, lead to misunderstandings. These we need to be aware of. For example: Does the word “pasta” mean the same in every language? In Spanish, it can mean a lot more than just Italian noodles (for example also building material, money or a small cakes), in Turkish as well it designates a cake, in French the word “pasta” does not really exist at all.
In preparation for our meeting, students from all participating countries collected some of their families’ favorite recipes. The task was to identify healthy recipes, and recipes that are good for the environment for a number of reasons. The recipes were then collected in a cookbook. We had this cookbook printed professionally and distributed it to all participants at the beginning of the mobility. It will also be placed in school libraries etc.
Visiting students had been asked before the mobility to plan on cooking “their” recipe together with their host families. In this way, also parents and siblings were involved in the topic and work on the project. Moreover, sometimes hosting students and their families are at a loss when it comes to the question of “What can we do together with our guest?”. Cooking something together, creating a meal and enjoying a new inspiration from another country, another family can create a sense of community to forge lasting bonds (also beyond the rather short duration of a mobility).
The five days of our Erasmus+-project-meeting went by very quickly. On the last day, students worked in groups on an evaluation. Unanimously, they agreed that participating in a European project is very valuable and that there are many advantages, for example:
getting to know other cultures
improving language skills
getting to know people
becoming more independent / learning how to travel
Pictured below are both the brainstorming process and posters created.
In addition, students were asked to reflect on what they liked about the meeting in Lille. Even though this is specifically about this meeting and this location, the feedback can be used to improve future meetings both in Lille and in other places. While Erasmus+-projects are a lot about project work, students’, parents’ and teachers’ satisfaction beyond project work will directly impact their retention of the experience. Moreover, if satisfied, they will talk to friends and peers about Erasmus+, thus spreading the idea even more.
Even though movies are made primarily for entertainment, they also show us real life problems. One example is “The Perks of Being a Wallflower”. Working with excerpts and quotations, students reflected on possible themes and topics of this movie. They reacted to it with a piece of creative writing. Moreover, they conducted a survey on what for them personally is important for their mental well-being.
It is interesting to observe that in this survey, many students put friendship first. Even more interesting to see is that also health in general (so the well-being of the body) is in the top quartile of their answers. The well-known sentence of “Mens sana in corpore sano” obviously is still true for today’s youth.
When asked what is important for their mental and emotional well-being, students name (among other things) physical well-being. The Erasmus+-meeting included a both theoretical and practical program.
Sports, exercises are sometimes seen as boring. The school in Lille, its gym offer a variety of sports opportunities, in this way enticing students to discover new sports and to do these together with friends in a good spirit. For most students, it was their first encounter with climbing. While they were very skeptical, even afraid at first, they quickly overcame their fear and followed the example of their already experienced partners. In this way, physical exercise, the confrontation with a challenging task also led to a growth in self-confidence with the discovery of being able to do more than first thought.
The ”Louis Pasteur Museum” is situated in Lille. It houses a small and interesting exhibition on the history of Pasteur’s work in the field of vaccination. Students learned about the times before vaccination was invented and widely available. Other topics covered are the production of vaccines and the different types that exist. In an interactive exhibit, they were able to see how well they are using disinfectants, scanning their hands for residues (germs etc.) after disinfection.