In October, the first Erasmus+ Youth Exchange Project of SEKEM Austria and the Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development (HU) took place in Egypt under the title “Greening the Desert together! Acting against Climate Change”. It was joined by 12 students from Austria and 14 students from HU to get an experience of involvement in a personal and cultural dialogue.
The program was designed for ambitious students eager to make a positive impact on the world and explore their own potential. It covered a wide range of activities, from the development of universally valuable skills such as effective communication and problem-solving to spiritual growth and creativity. During their stay, Austrian students had the chance to explore SEKEM, travel to the Wahat Bahareya Oasis, plant trees under the scorching sun, and, of course, make new friends among Egyptian students.
Beginning of the Journey
The jointly developed program started with a guided tour of the SEKEM farm and companies, and followed by a barbecue evening, where the Egyptian and Austrian participants met for the first time. The shared Waldorf background among most of them provided a common ground for connection, and despite language barriers, all students managed to gradually overcome their initial shyness, realizing that no one would make fun of them for making mistakes, and their peers were always willing to help fill in the gaps.
The eight-days program was very intense and full of new experiences for the young people. Challenges were part of the journey, especially during the students’ trip to the Bahareya Oasis. The desert heat is exhausting, especially during activities like tree planting that was a part of the project. However, this hands-on experience allowed students to tangibly feel their contribution to the world. Many shared a lasting impression from the feeling of bringing a positive impact by planting life in the midst of a barren desert, with the potential to transform the landscape and provide shelter for other plants and animals in the future.
Full of Impressions
During their stay at the SEKEM Wahat Fam, students learned the basics of organic agriculture in the desert, explored local neighborhoods, visited archeological sites and museums. Various forms of artistic activities were always part of their learning journey, as well as everyday evening reflections over a campfire and open discussions on the burning topics such as climate change.
After returning back from the Wahat Bahareya, Egyptian students took an initiative to show their Austrian peers around the Heliopolis University. Back at the SEKEM farm, all the participants prepared a presentation and showed it in front of the SEKEM audience in the form of a play that covered all their adventures in Egypt. On the last day the students visited the pyramids and had their farewell to say goodbye to each other.
Captivated by Egypt
Austrian students found themselves captivated by Egypt’s beauty and culture. They pointed out the wonder of stargazing in the Black and White Desert, the breathtaking desert sunsets, and the rich flavors of Egyptian cuisine. But the most cherished memories were those created in the company of their Egyptian peers—shared conversations, games, inside jokes, and the profound bonds forged during their time together.
Egyptian students extended a warm welcome, always ready to offer a bottle of water or a helping hand. As one Austrian student expressed, “I particularly liked the fact that the Egyptians accepted us into their group so warmly; we felt like part of their family within just a few days… In the end, despite all the cultural differences, we realized that we are very similar”
Austrian students are eager to reunite and extend the same warm hospitality to their Egyptian friends in Austria. The bonds formed during their adventure across Egypt’s landscapes have left an indelible mark, reminding us all of the power and importance of human connection.