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Sailing with Njord, God of the Sea
Start date: Jun 1, 2014, End date: Nov 30, 2014 PROJECT  FINISHED 

During this project, 35 youngsters from 5 different European countries (The Netherlands, Norway, Germany, France and Denmark) have participated in a Youth Exchange onboard historical tall ship ‘Morgenster’. Together, we got on board in Aalborg (Denmark) on July 19th, sailed to Bergen and said goodbye to our new friends again in Esbjerg (Denmark) on the 4th of August. As one European team, we were introduced to all aspects of open sea sailing by the professional crew of the Morgenster. They taught us about navigation, sailing rules and maneuvering, which all required a lot of teamwork. We learned to challenge ourselves and support each other in doing so. All the while crossing cultural and/or personal boundaries and, not to forget, making new friends. At sea, the whole group was divided into three groups, called watches, all countries were represented in each watch. Watches are need onboard because sailing day and night is a 24/7 operation. This meant that every 4 hours, one of the watches was responsible for everything that was going on onboard, from setting sails to standing watch, helming the ship and preparing food, cleaning toilets and taking care of possible seasick shipmates. On a ship, there is no getting away from each other, or picking and choosing who one wants to work with. As such, we experienced cultural differences and similarities all day, every day. To enhance this intercultural learning experience even further, we used a day to day program of cultural activities. Examples are debates, country presentations, international dinners and cultural activities in the ports of call. The main working method is operationalized by the Sail Training Program (STP), which requires participants to confront many demanding challenges, both physical and emotional. It inspires self-confidence and the acceptance of personal responsibility. It promotes an acceptance of others whatever their social or cultural backgrounds, and develops a willingness to take controlled risks. Sail training includes instruction in all aspects of sailing but its purpose goes far, far beyond this. Sail training uses the experience of being at sea principally as a means to help people learn about themselves, discover hidden strengths and talents and understand the value of working as a team. Both the crew and the mentors were experienced with the Sail Training Program before this project. As a result of the STP in combination with the intercultural learning activities, the participants have not only developed their teamwork and leadership skills, they have also learned how to deal with challenges, whether they were physical, practical or caused by cultural differences. We have learned to take responsibility for ourselves and have gained a new perspective on other countries, nationalities and cultures.
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