Last week we had the opportunity and privilege of getting to know two new sides of Graz. Following the model of the site in Chile, IUHPFL is expanding the commitment to not only enjoy but also give a little back to the greater Graz community.
Thanks to help from our on-site coordinators, we made contact with the Volkshilfe Organisation, a non-profit organization that provides support and volunteers to different social assistance groups in the area. Our first visit on Wednesday was to a nursing- and assisted/independent living home in Wetzelsdorf. The students were really great in coming up with creative ideas for a small program, and Team ABC was impressed with the students’ grace and ease in interacting with the residents. As a group (under direction of Arne) we sang two traditional German songs (Die Gedanken Sind Frei and Kein Schöner Land), which the residents really enjoyed. Sarah and Jarred both played songs on the guitar, and Hayden played a song from the movie Amelie on piano. Seth, Claudia, Emma, Jordan, and John took turns reading from two different poems by the Styrian poet Peter Rosegger. After our small program the students divided into pairs and conversed with the residents about questions they had prepared in advance. All in all, it was a huge success, and we think the students and residents both got a great deal out of it.
On Thursday we traveled a little bit outside the city, to a suburb called Gratwein, to visit a youth center where we would meet with a group of young refugees. We were also joined by students from a religion course in Graz. While waiting for the refugees, our students made some great connections with the other Grazians, playing foosball, pool, and cards. Once the refugees arrived, all of the students split into groups of 3-4 and worked together to come up with 4 things they shared in common. There were some language barriers, but we think the students were able to see that language barriers don’t always block communication. It was an eye-opening experience for our students, too, to see first-hand that even though these other teens came from extremely different circumstances than their own, as people we are not altogether different. We all have things that make us happy, interest us, and make our lives full. Some students had similar career aspirations, some found physical similarities between themselves, and nearly every group had ice cream and soccer at the top of their lists. 🙂 What an enriching way to spend an afternoon.
Today the students went to school with their host siblings to get a peek into how Austrian schools work. On Friday we are looking forward to a full day of hiking, visiting another fortress, and, most of all, the Zotter Chocolate Factory (and its unlimited tasting tour)! It’s going to be another great week in Graz!