This was my first trip to Poland and I was thrilled to experience the opportunities that are offered by travelling to a new country. I travelled with the most excellent Justin Colman of the Alliance of Sport which made the experience doubly exciting. Also I was interested to meet colleagues from other organisations across Europe. Ever since the UK’s Brexit decision, I have reflected on the positive opportunities for cross-cultural learning that I have experienced throughout my relationship with EPALE and before.
Learning a few words of Polish before we travelled, I was struck by the number of bloggers who mentioned the warmth of the Polish people – a fact that I’m pleased to say was 100% true. We landed in Modlin Airport late in the evening to horizontal winds and rain courtesy of Hurricane Lorenzo’s last hurrah from across the Atlantic. Helped by the fact that most Poles’ second language is English, the bus journey from the outskirts of the capital, to the beautiful Radisson Hotel and its yummy restaurant was full of positive experiences, setting us up well for day 1 of EPALE, Warszawa 2019.
The first day started off with a slightly unusual, but inclusive and musical ice-breaker from our Facilitator for the conference, which brought us all together. This was followed by several plenary sessions before we broke off to attend different workshops to explore how the EPALE website could be made more relevant – there are suggestions of a redesign to make it more inclusive for all European partners. The feedback from these sessions was all about increased accessibility. A recurring theme was the desire for an improved ‘Communities of Practice’ reflecting the accessibility of modern technologies.
Another recurring theme was, at first, the elephant in the room: Brexit. I was happy to discuss it because it seems to be just a current topic of conversations in the UK as on the European mainland. Colleagues were interested to try to understand the political personalities and the differing and evolving politics involved back in the UK.
At the end of the first day, we were given an opportunity to go on a walking tour of Warsaw. One of the learning experiences I have always tried to gain from trips such as this, is more culturally focussed. The experience of an hour’s trip around the Polish capital and seeing the sights and sounds (all Chopin!) made me determined to return with my family at some point in the future. The warmth and the pride of the Polish people at how their capital city with its deep and rich history, that has risen from the ashes of world wars and occupation – both in the last 100 years, made me want to come back and find out more.
The final day was more workshops, plenaries and lots of conversations with colleagues right the way across Europe. Lots of people I spoke to were equally warm and enthusiastic towards my adopted home city of Cardiff, whether they had visited, worked or studied there. At the conferences conclusion, my colleague Justin and I hired a couple of electric scooters and whizzed across the city to Side One Records: here I picked up an album by Poland’s finest krautrock psychedelic rock band Tentent, on the recommendation of Side One’s owner. Warsaw and Poland are beautiful places and I can’t wait to return.
Thank you to Rufna and Janett at EPALE for the opportunity, Justin for being a brilliant travel partner and finally thank you to everyone I met and spoke to at the conference, for making it so memorable. Dziękuję!
Jamie is an independent trainer, educator & researcher in Prison Education, Higher Education and Community Development in South Wales. He is currently a director of Inside Out Support Wales supporting people with convictions into self-employment and further or higher education. Jamie also works as a freelance trainer for the School for Hard Knocks supporting adults to make positive changes in their life, through increased physical activity. He has also recently published his first book on the only prisoner football team in Wales, called '90 Minutes of Freedom'.
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