„Open Society“ at the Easter Seminar 2016

More than 80 different young adults traveled to Pécs (Fünfkirchen) in Hungary in order to join the Easter Seminar from the 19th to the 25th of March. As always, workshops, excursions and fun were the most important topics on the agenda of the seminar. This year the organisation GJU (Gemeinschaft Junger Ungarndeutscher) hosted the seminar in Hotel Laterum, which is situated in the beautiful German speaking region Pécs.

What on earth is this workshop about and where does it come from?

The motto of the Seminar was “Open Society” and the five workshops (Grass-root journalism and online-campaigning, E-youth participation, Motivating and Activating young People for action, Multilingualism and language diversity, Identity and culture of the Germans in Hungary) were working on this subject.

In the workshop “Grass-root journalism and online campaigning” the participants were dealing with the question: “How can I use social networks to promote and support my minority?”. Professional workshop leaders helped and taught the participants to write articles, write blogs and gave them basic tools to establish a campaign. The YEN-campaign #DiversityConnects was an important factor in the workshops and the participants have collected different materials for future actions of the campaign.

E-youth participation was the name of the second workshop, which dealt with the topic of youth participation from a political perspective. The central questions were: “Which institutions and processes are available in the area of european youth- and minority politics. How can i participate and contribute? How can I use new media as a tool to make decisions?”. During the workshop, the participants finalised a recommendation with a set of online-tools, which we want to use in decision-making processes in the YEN.

Another interesting workshop looked at Motivation methods and activating young people for action. Although the internet nowadays gives us much more possibilities of participating, the number of participants in youth organisations is decreasing on all levels. With the help of non-formal education the participants amongst others discussed the implementation of typical meetings (e.g. Assemblies and General assemblies) and how these can be shaped even more interesting. Methods of creative thinking and possibilities how we can “think out of the box” were developed.
Furthermore there were discussed different concepts to find right target groups, based on different examples from member organisations and the working group for member integration. What are the basic needs and aims? How do you recognize and achieve them?
In the end the participants of this workshop also wrote and motivation letter, which should be used to motivate people for different kinds of activities.

Another important point was discussed in the workshop called Multilingualism and Language Diversity in Europe. In this workshop facts were presented about language and the advantages of multilingualism. The participants were shown how this knowledge could be passed on in an interactive and playful way, and after that they designed a course for the Valeria Koch School and visited the Germanistic Institute of the University of Pécs. The participants also talked about the education and language issues their minority faced.

In the fifth workshop Hungarian German culture was closely examined, as it’s name, “Hungarian German Identity and Culture” already gave away. The main topics of discussion were: how do these people live and what defines them? Is it difficult for it’s members to maintain their traditions? In the practical part of this workshop the participants visited multiple Hungarian German villages, first of all to speak to younger and elder members of this minority about their identity, but also to discover the similarities and differences between the towns.

A day in the life of an Easter Seminar participant

As always, the days were long and exciting during the Easter Seminar! Just for you, our YENvestigator found out what such a long and exciting day for the common participant typically looked like.
For the sake of simplicity the word ‘subject’ is used when participants of the Easter Seminar are concerned in the following text.

08:00 The first item on the program commences: breakfast! A desperate search for certain subjects appears to futile. Because the perils of defect alarm clocks or incorrect information endanger the chances of these particular subjects to enjoy another day at the seminar, an Organiser Subject (capitalised because of it’s bigger importance) is chosen to do the honorary task of waking these subjects up by making acoustic signals in the vicinity of their known sleeping places.

08:59 The last minute of this particular item, breakfast, dawns upon all subjects. The biggest part of the subjects has been successfully ‘found’ and now approaches its foraging grounds with a moderate pace.

09:30 The second item on the program, called ‘workshops’, commences. The Trainer Subjects (illuminated subjects that are blessed with the wonderful task of passing on knowledge to other subjects) open the gates of the seminar rooms. Full of barely contained joy and armed with water bottles, the other subjects dash into those seminar rooms that are assigned to them, to get started with the exciting themes that have been laid out for them. The willingness to be active is sometimes so overpowering that the Trainer Subjects are forced to throw in some so-called ‘energizers’ (a merry folk dance that is supposed to boost the participants’ energy level). One of these special moments has been captured on camera by our YENvestigator:

12:30 Of course even the strongest subject is nothing without nourishment, which is why the item ‘Lunch’ has been has been established by wise minds. At this thing called lunch it is taken into account that the subjects are in great want of animal proteins, so that they may have enough energy in extreme emergencies (i.e. a lift defect).
At every YEN seminar however one certain group of subjects can be observed, who go by the collective name of ‘vegetarian’ (observe here). These subjects are forced to abstain from this thing called meat. During lunch consideration is shown towards this group, so that they may also live through the day without animal proteins.

14:00 To get to know their surroundings, the subjects are send out on a trip. Such a trip is also defined as ‘excursion’ by certain experts. At a so-called excursion the respective host’s cultural and culinary delicacies are presented. This time it could even be observed how a group of subjects was transported around in a 50 year old 2CV.

17:30 At every seminar so-called ‘Newbie’ subjects are represented. The special thing about this particular group of subjects is that it is still very much inexperienced in the ways of this wondrous world of YEN, and therefore is given a short introduction by older subjects (named ‘Oldies’). They usually gather at a certain time during the day and exert multiple initiation rituals. This Easter Seminar the subjects were taught how to sit properly at such an event.

19:00 Another nourishment intake ritual, called ‘dinner’, is started. It doesn’t differentiate much from lunch, and some subjects go so far as to make the claim that it is exactly the same! (#XFACTOR)

21:00 The Exchange Market is officially opened. It was established because of the known fact that most subjects do not originate from the same area. The goal of this market is to get an intimate look into the eating and drinking habits of all subjects. Sometimes it can be observed how certain subjects experience this thing called ‘culture shock’ and have to be transported to their beds at an early hour. It is very difficult to describe such an evening, but thankfully we got our hands on some rare footage:

05:00 The first rays of sun colour the sky and the average subject looks instinctively for it’s sleeping place, mostly to recover from the shenanigans it’s been up to in the past 21 hours. The occasion is also used to memorise all those pesky abbreviations of the YEN member organisation.

Excursions are a funny thing

As every year there were excursions this year as well. To getting to know the hosts better, we visited some Hungarian-German villages and explored the city of Pècs.

In order to discover Pècs, we did a City Rallye on sunny Sunday. All participants were able to solve exciting tasks to win a prize.
On Wednesday the Hungarian-German culture, history and cuisine were discovered. The day started in Bóly/Bohl with museum visits (Agricultural Museum, reconstructed granary with a Hungarian-German exhibition). Then it was already time to move on to Székelyszabar/Sawer. On a farm the participants had a traditional lunch and they tried old methods of butter and bread making. After that the workshop the groups exchanged outcomes of their workshops in a relaxed atmosphere.

In the end of day we went to Villány/Wieland in a famous wine-growing region, where the one or other glass of wine was tasted.

Discussion evening

Of course we were also dealing with current issues at the seminar, like the terrible happenings in Belgium and the refugee crisis. This is why there was organized a discussion relating to these issues and everyone was able to express his/her opinion and ask questions.
As an expert, there we invited the journalist Anna Frenyó, who also led through the evening. She spent a lot of time on escape routes throughout Hungary and was therefore able to talk about destinies from individual refugees as well as personal stories. Furthermore she also showed some videos and interviews with refugees she met.

Guests of YEN at the seminar

During this year’s Easter seminar as well, YEN was able to welcome some new guests. It was a pleasure to meet the Youth of the German-speaking Community of Belgium (ProDG – J), Phiren Amenca (Network for Roma and non-Roma volunteers) and the Youth of the Hungarian Minority in Romania (Miért) in Pécs. Beyond this, YEN entered into a partnership agreement with ProDG – J. We are very much looking forward to the cooperation with these organisations!

We hope, that all participants have had an exciting and great week and we are really looking forward seeing you all again soon!

On the whole, this year’s Easter seminar was a great success. The GJU (Youth of the German-speaking minority in Hungary) and the YEN team have done some fantastic work. A big thank you also to the outstanding trainers of this week’s workshops.

The seminar was supported by the European Youth Foundation, the German Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Konrad-Adenauer Foundation.