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This summer, the European Youth Project kicked off for the first time in Würzburg, Germany. 9 young adults with dyslexia from all over Europe gathered for a week of work and fun. Emily from England has written a nice report from the first week ever.

 

Hello readers, my name is Emily from London England.

I was lucky enough to take part in an international English project ran by the EDA in Würzburg and I am here to share my experience with you.

Arrival

Now anyone can say they have been to Würzburg, stayed in a youth hostel surrounded by a number of noisy school children, but they would not have had experienced a week such as ours, as a part of a project by the EDA – European Dyslexia Association. I arrived in Würzburg, picked up by the one and only Lucky Lukas expecting to find a group of 30 or more young adults but to my surprise, and a nice one at that, I saw a small group of 8 young adults all with similar problems as myself. DYSLEXIA.
When people hear the word dyslexia the look of fear spreads across their face. Words such as dumb, incapable, lazy, slow and uninterested all become part of their expectations on those people with dyslexia. This week was to prove those people wrong and show that dyslexia is not have to be a weakness, but can be proven to be our own personal strength.
 
Nervous but excited we wondered into our rooms and got to know our roommates for the next 6 nights and then the time had come…deep breath everyone… the first meeting. Now learning names was never my strong point, but with a few name games, they slowly came to us.
 

Meet the team

The team on a stairwell at the castle

Lovely Lisa, Lucky Lukas, Joyful Justin, Rocking Ricardo, Interesting Idil, Energetic Emily, Mechanical Marius, Magical Maddy, Amazing Anthony and I do not think anyone remembers the word for Xavi, then again you do not find many adjectives that begin with X.

 

 

 

Day 1, the Fortress of Würzburg

The fortress of Würzburg
The fortress

Then the next morning with our walking shoes on and with our eyes rested and fresh, a trek up to the fortress in Würzburg was planned. This was the perfect warm up to a week full of amazing culture, sights and endless walking. Personally I am big on culture so I was excited for the whole week. When reaching the top of what felt like 500 stairs, I was by no means disappointed as we were presented with breath taking views and outstanding architecture. Looking around this fortress “Marienberg”, now a park and museum built in AC 704, it was clear it fitted in perfectly into the small city of Würzburg. It made it a prominent landmark to this city, high above the vineyards: a fair bit smaller to London which I am used to.

The fortress from another view

The afternoon brought more culture and more stunning views in the form of the Käppele. With an additional 247 steps to the top, legs burning, we could already smell the local wine served in the restaurant at the top. I was certainly encouraged by the beautiful building ahead of me, to get to the top and to enjoy the skyline of Würzburg from high in the mountains. I thought it was really enlightening to see a type of culture that can truly interest all age groups, and the wine certainly tasted good as well.

 

Day 2, the city of Würzburg

Day two brought us a city tour, wine tasting and some more history of Würzburg. Only a small population of 130’000 people, it was surprising how much history this city actually held. It was so nice how the Mayor of this small city interested herself in the EDA and introduced herself and spoke to each individual in a very comforting informal manner. From my personal experiences, you would find it very difficult to get Boris Johnson to take 30 minutes out of day to talk to a group of adults with learning difficulties. The churches in Würzburg were stunning, however the Cathedral in particular really caught my eye as it was traditional yet modern. In my opinion it was a beautiful tourist attraction.

 

Day 3, the “Rezidence” and Bamberg.

Completed in 1744 and part of the UNESCO world heritage site. The residence is an amazing building both inside and out with amazing gardens which stretch for miles. It is very difficult to describe what we saw, but outstanding art, design and culture are only a few words I can used to describe what grabbed my attention. Each room was perfectly painted, carved and styled until there were no imperfections. This stunning building has now been in reconstruction since 1945 after the Second World War; certainly a building to protect.

The guys climbing in the trees
Monkeys in a tree

Personally I enjoyed the gardens, which fitted perfectly to a warm summers day in Germany. Walking round, enjoying the views and taking photos is my perfect way of spending an afternoon. We decided to have a seat and rest a little and before I knew it the boys had discovered a perfect tree for climbing. Like monkeys they all jumped up into the tree and appeared to really enjoy it. It is just so nice not to be lying on a beach all day, but rather have a day full of adventure and laughs. PERFECT!

An hour down the road, and day three took us to the town of Bamberg. I did not know what to expect, however I only heard positive things previously. With not much time, we wanted to see as much of Bamberg as possible and with Anthony’s intelligence we were never short of information. First stop was the church in Bamberg, in the same area as the famous film “the three musketeers” was filmed…feeling like a celebrity. The church its self was very classic, but in my opinion very similar to other churches I have seen. Nevertheless I still found it a brilliant touristic element of Bamberg. To follow we walked into the stunning rose gardens. Camera at the ready I took loads of photos of the carefully structured rose garden, where once again the boys acted like monkeys in the trees. Fantastic entertainment.

 

Day 4, the beer museum

The main event of the day was the beer museum, probably something the men were very much looking forward to :D. It was interesting to see how much equipment you need to brew beer, however I would have liked a tour so I could understand what was being used, and at what stage it was being used. Another nights sleeps and we awoke into day five.

Day 5, boat trip

A boat trip
Not the boat, but close...

BOAT TRIP! Now I do like a boat trip. This one took us to the small town of Veitshöchheim. Not having a lot of time, we decided to visit another garden where we were able to lie down and rest in the grass next to a beautiful pond, and before we knew the time had flew by. I was told it was a lovely place to relax and see yet more stunning landscape gardens. However, in my opinion I found the garden to be far more artistic and structured with almost a story behind it. Then with just enough time to grab an ice cream we began to head back to the boat.

On a side note… the big children we are, we found a childrens playground and just used up the last of our energy and found the children within. There are still arguments as to who is the captain of the ship.

Day 6, at the university

And there it was…day six, our last full day in Würzburg with a chance to see the University. We meet a lady who was in charge of special needs at the university. We had an interesting conversation about how they deal with students at the university who need help. Being a university graduate I was happy to realise that other students are getting the help they need, just as I did.

Of course this week was no just about exploring a new city, the workshops were an integral part of the week. Throughout the week we took part in three workshops ran by Lisa and Lukas. The workshops work really well, as I personally was able to realise and accept that there are other adults with the same learning difficulties as myself.

These workshops were designed to push us to get us out of our comfort zone and express our feelings to one another, in a non-classroom manner. Which appeared to a very positive thing for us all. We were able to talk about how dyslexia affected us personally in school, work and even day to day life and how the support we had or in some cases did not have could help us in certain situations. Of course dyslexia is handled very differently in each country, but I was surprised as to how differently it is handled and to notice that England is far more advanced than many others. Much to my horror, the next task was to write down our strengths and positive characteristics. As someone with server low self-esteem, it was something I was not accustomed to do. However, it appeared that the others saw a lot more in us than we did in ourselves. Maybe this was them seeing past the dyslexia, whereas we are stilled faced with an invisible barrier we cannot break through.

Achievement treeWe created an achievement tree, as you see here, which was a way of writing down our goals for the week, such as making friends, learning English, seeing a new city and many more. This was left on the wall for the whole week so we could reflect and thrive to achieve our goals. My main goals were to make new international friends and to explore a new city and these were most definitely achieved. I cannot speak for the others, but I can say it gave me a confidence boost, which we could now take with us on our journeys back home. For me, I was touched how others saw me which put a smile on my face. In the future we are now able to think back to how others see us and show there is more to us than our strongest “weakness”…Dyslexia. The workshops were full of fun, laughter and smiles, but at the same time they contained serious talks on personal feelings towards our invisible condition.

Work shop results

Well it was all work work work. As well as planned days, there was always enough time to relax and have some free time. Personally, I believe we changed the way UNO should be played. It almost became an aggressive competition against one another, which brought many laughs. More games such a table tennis, Wärewolf, volleyball made sure we were never board in the evenings.

Day 7

The swimming poolFriday morning had arrived and I was so happy to hear that we finally had the opportunity to go swimming in the outdoor swimming pool. Swimming, jumping , slipping and sliding as if we were all 9 years old again began our last day in Würzburg with the greatest enjoyment. That evening we all spent on the Main with a BBQ. Everyone really enjoy a relaxed and fun evening with food, wine and newly formed friends.

Each day was an experience which I do not want to forget. Now, with newly formed friendships in Germany, Spain, Turkey, Switzerland and England, I can go on in confidence knowing dyslexia does not make you weaker than anyone else, as finally you have met others who have gone through the same as you have. These friends are the ones I will be able to turn to when I am lacking confidence. I am really looking forward to next year, when I hope to see familiar faces and also new faces in the project. I hope the experience this project has given me, will in the future give others the same and will continue to grow as a project. I’ve learnt to roll my “r’s”, putting “li” at the end of each work to make it sound Swiss and to communicate with actions. It just shows that an international week like this, language barriers do not stand in the way of true friendships.