Bringing the EU and Italy to the University of Georgia
Europe is a strongly perceived reality in Georgia, but how many know the activities it offers for young people? That is why, on Friday 27th, my colleague Clara and I went to the University of Georgia to talk a bit about it with the local youngsters. After all, it is precisely for a European project that she and I are here.
We arrive in the middle of a lecture, so we wait outside the glass door of the classroom from which we catch a glimpse of the professor sitting at a desk among the students, interacting with them informally. I am surprised: based on my experience in Rome where classrooms are huge and professors sit at their desks, I never expected such a relaxed atmosphere. I must say that I like it, I find it an engaging method for the students.
We don't have to wait long for Professor Eka to let us in and sit down, introducing us as Europeans from Italy. I smile, I usually introduce myself first as Italian and then as European. The value of the EU and its benefits override the mere place of birth: here, being European is a dream, an aspiration, and they are clear about what it means to belong to this family or not.
The class is nice, and they greet us curiously, but our ice-breaking question immediately puts them off: what do you think the EU is? Silence falls. Slowly someone ventures an answer: an area of the world... United countries... A group of nations that help each other...
Let us borrow the words of Robert Schuman, one of the founding fathers of the Union, and try to formulate together the concept they are approaching: the EU is an entity in continuous development, leading its members to act in cooperation and solidarity, respecting common values and principles.
But at this point we ask ourselves, why talk about the EU in Georgia, which is not among its member countries? First of all, it is a country with candidate status; moreover, it is among the so-called 'neighboring countries, with close relations, facilities, and programs in common. These include the European Solidarity Corps, the target of our visit to the university. Their enthusiasm becomes palpable: a fully reimbursed educational experience that takes you traveling to follow a project you like seems too much to expect. We tell them about our journey, the Institute of Italian Culture where we work as volunteers, and our activities. No one had heard of it before, but everyone seems to want to take part following our presentation.
I leave the lecture room fulfilled, this is cooperation for me: networking, getting involved, and sharing means and knowledge so that we can achieve together.