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From 13-20 September the EFIL seminar “Inclusive Europe” took place in Kirov, Russia. The seminar gathered a total of 29 participants (staff, board and volunteers) from 16 countries to discuss and share practices on school relations.

The trainers team was composed of Inga Menke (EFIL staff), Eva Vítkóva (AFS International staff), Sebastian Diem (AFS Austria), Filipa Lagoa (AFS Portugal), Anica Rimac (AFS Serbia). The team was supported by Julia Tyrnova (AFS Russia staff), Anna Kopysova (AFS Russia staff) and Marín Björt Valtýsdóttir (EFIL). The team’s diversity and expertise with the collaboration between EFIL and AFS International ensured the success of the seminar.

The seminar started with an adventurous night train with the Trans-Siberian Express from Moscow where participants used the time to get to know each other. Upon arrival in Kirov the group was welcomed by AFS Russia, marking the beginning of the seminar and the work a head.

In the following days through workshops, discussions and group work, participants got to know the different realities of school relations in each country as well as inspiring each other in how to improve the relation between AFS and schools all across Europe. The sessions included topics such as Global Citizen Education in AFS, how to approach ministries of education and sharing of best practices between the countries. The needs of smaller partners were taken into special consideration and space was given to sharing of best practises. Participants did not let the opportunity pass to discuss the role of AFS and migration linked to the current migration crisis in Europe. They shared what AFS chapters across Europe are doing in the name of active citizenship to assist and support the migrants arriving in Europe.

One of the highlights of this seminar were school visits to Russian schools organised by local AFS volunteers and staff. In smaller groups the participants went to different AFS schools in Kirov and got to know the educational system of Russia, see what student life was like as well as seeing the preparations each school was making for Intercultural Dialogue Day. The hospitality and programme made by each school was superb and the motivation that the Russian teachers and pupils showed was inspiring.

Last but not least, the group enjoyed evening activities ranging from a Russian folk night to an evening in the “banya” or Russian sauna.

Big thanks to the very motivated participants of this seminar. Their enthusiasm and curiosity was what truly made this seminar an inspiring learning event for both organisers and participants.