With Ideas We Grow - an all inclusive experience

Imagine this: an orchard full of orange and lemon trees. A cozy hostel full of pictures, games, books, musical instruments, and stories.


He was a welcoming host—welcoming in the sense that he made pizza on the stove on the first night. More than 30 strangers from all over Europe—who, by the end of the week, became friends. A wonderful organizing team with great chefs and food, and, the cherry on top, wonderful and skilled trainers who knew when we needed a break and made us feel at home from the beginning. Oooh, and this was all set in a beautiful seaside village in Sicily, where the sea was different every day but welcomed us with its greatness every time we took a walk or a bath.

This is how I would describe, in a nutshell, my experience at the "With Ideas We Grow" Erasmus+ training course.

Riserva dello Zingaro trekking and  nature creative workshop

But let me tell you a bit more.

In the ten days, we learned about the design thinking process, and despite it being an intensive process, the trainers, Virginia and Jela, made everything fun. From meditation in the morning, games, and very practical exercises to eating and just talking together, everything was designed to make us, the participants, feel good. The days were organized in a way that we could connect with ourselves and with others. In the mornings, after a session of meditation or dancing—yes!—we would work through the design thinking process on our team’s idea. In the afternoons, we always had some fun activities. My favorite was making cannoli with a local pastry chef, who, at the end of the activity, sang us his favorite songs from Sicily. We also had a music night with some local musicians, a day in nature at the nearby natural reserve, a bath in a hidden hot spring, and a bonfire.


Cannoli workshop with a local pastry chef

The best part of the training was the people and the way the trainers created space for us to bond. It was magical how so many different personalities found a way to coexist and be well, respect each other’s boundaries, and very quickly share the deepest thoughts and emotions with each other. It was a very colorful team, from extroverts to introverts, from people participating for the first time in an Erasmus program to those who had participated in dozens, from people who liked to talk a lot to people who were very keen to listen.

We laughed and had a lot of fun while working on some very complex projects. We had to choose a topic, or a problem we saw back home, team up with similar projects, define the problem, and in the days to come, we were guided to think outside the box and come up with ideas using the design thinking process. I feel that it was very helpful, and we learned a lot from the trainers but also from each other by sharing what is going on in our countries, our experiences, and most of all, how we see the solutions—how we, as citizens, can get involved in making this world a better place.

Morning dance session for reconnecting under Lemon and Orange trees

And let me tell you about my favorite part: the last morning of the training. The sun was shining beautifully, we were all in the orchard, dancing for a little bit to connect with our body, mind, and spirit, and then we had to give our appreciation to each other. This moment was when I realized how lucky I am to be part of this process. The people were so honest, so deeply grateful for the small things and for each other. It made me very emotional, and I won’t lie, it brought some happy tears to my eyes.

I cherish this moment—and all the others. I cherish the people I met there, the friendships I made, the good food we had, the hugs, the laughs, the dance, the silence, the sea and the sun, the sand and the great cannoli, the deep conversations, and the learning process. After two months, it is still here, in my heart, warming me every time I think of the time I spent in Sicily, surrounded by orange and lemon trees and wonderful, big-hearted, inspiring people.

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