We caught up with Swati again after she returned from Paris to hear about her adventure with YES Akademia and it sounds like it was a truly life-changing experience for her:
“Tell me about your trip to Paris”:
Swati: “It was an amazing, awesome, fantastic, good, dream come true, mesmerising 2 weeks. Some days we visited tourist attractions such as Le Louvre, The Eiffel Tower, the Community Gardens and Station F. Station F is a huge place where thousands of business start-ups are taking place for many different industries – the concept is amazing – with people from Google and Amazon, for example, supporting the start-ups – I’ve never seen anything like this before.
We also went to a restaurant called La Felicita which is a huge restaurant and I really loved the toilets there as they were really colourful and different. We also visited Jardiland, a massive garden centre where you can buy flowers and fish etc.”
“What did you do as part of the YES Akademia Program?”
Swati: “We did a number of workshops with YES Akademia and played some games.
We did a workshop on worldwide oral consumption, looking at firstly your own country and linking it to yourself and how it would be possible to reduce waste. I liked this a lot and it made me think differently. They showed us a video with an example of a solution to this problem of waste; this particular society tackles the problem through an exchange concept.
We also did a workshop on personality and how to understand yourself better. There were lots and lots of questions which helped determine which of 9 personality categories you fell into, such as mediator for example. They did this to enable us to understand ourselves and others better, to tackle misunderstandings, manage conversations more effectively and find solutions to these things. This whole concept changed my pattern of seeing things as I was a little judgmental before and this has made me take a step back and understand others a bit more. It has showed me it is important to focus on myself more than others.
There was 1 more workshop focused on the situation of women in your society and we discussed a number of important issues around this and how it impacts in different countries. We also explored different associations that can help; that can provide a home, a job and skills to earn money to try and empower the woman
On 8th March, for International Women’s Day, we attended a Forum and we had to consider how the forum would work – which subjects would be discussed and who would host. I was handling the desk on Violence Against Women and we made a circle and I had to explain everything and discuss the problems and potential solutions that I had come up with.
I feel that education is the solution to any problem. “Education is the big solution to any big problem in society”! It is difficult to fight against anything but knowledge will empower the woman and help them to know where to go for solutions.”
“What did you enjoy in Paris?”
Swati: “I really enjoyed going to the Forum because this was my first time talking in front of so many people and I had to explain things, I also loved seeing the Eiffel Tower.
I enjoyed travelling on the train, metro and bus in Paris as we had one pass for all modes of transport and only had to show this pass which is very different to India where you need separate tickets for everything.
I liked the food such as mixed veg soup and chicken roll. We even went to a restaurant where they had an eat all you can buffet where they cooked anything fresh for you such as pork, chicken, Chinese rice and noodles. There were lots of different desserts and 5 kinds of cake; I ate so much there, it was amazing, Me and my friend were sitting together and kept trying more cake.
I also spoke with the barman and asked for Apple Juice in French; S’il vous plait jus de pomme. I was so happy to speak a different language; it was amazing for me to speak a little French. I like to learn new languages, so I tried to listen to the French and learn whilst I was there.”
“What did you find difficult in Paris?”
Swati: “I found it really difficult to converse with the some people in the group as they were much more quiet so it was difficult to get to know them. It was also difficult as I am an open-minded Indian girl and others from India are much more traditional in their thinking.”
“What did you gain from your experience?”
Swati: “My perspective about life has changed – how – before going I wasn’t giving many chances to people in my life and I would stop talking to them. Since Paris I have learnt that you need to give more chances to people as it takes time for everyone to become friends and integrate and everyone has had different experiences that impact them.
Going abroad was my dream, visiting just 1 country was my dream and now I want to see many more countries – it changes everything. Before going I thought everyone was like Indian people and now I understand people are different in every country and geographical area.
Now I want to go to many countries; Japan and Egypt would be top of my list to visit. If I ever get the chance, I will visit these places as it’s such a good experience, it opens your eyes and everyone is not like you so it changes everything.
Since coming back to India my brother-in-law said to me “I don’t know what you gained from Paris but I know one thing, you have changed how you dress and look much better, more fashionable”.
My father is really happy to see how I have changed, and he is very proud of me. He loves and supports me a lot and he can see how much I love him.”