Caucasus Student Exchange Project
In frames of the Confidence Building in South Caucasus program, implemented jointly by UNA Georgia and UNA Sweden, a Caucasus Student Exchange project (CSEP) was held December 1-10, 2012. CSEP was organized as a follow up project to the CBSC summer 2012 conference on Human Rights and Gender Equality. The Caucasus Exchange entailed 30 participants (16 Georgian, 6 Armenian, and 8 Azeri) visiting and hosting each other in their native countries in order to gain valuable cultural experiences, apart from the knowledge acquired through seminars and meetings with local NGOs.
As part of the Exchange Project, 8 Georgians visited Baku, Azerbaijan and were hosted by their Azeri peers for a four day cultural/educational experience. What differentiated this particular project from others organized by CBSC was the focus on cultural exchange. Since the participants had the opportunity to visit their peers in their native countries and stay in their homes, they got a unique perspective on the culture and traditions of these countries; this could not be achieved as successfully otherwise. The Baku trip included sightseeing of the beautiful city, tasting Azerbaijani national cuisine and meetings with local NGOs to learn more about their programs and projects. The participants were often overheard talking about various different issues including religion, cultural differences, and educational experiences, their past and future plans. Being given the opportunity to interact with each other in a more relaxed environment they built stronger, more interpersonal and lasting relationships.
Between 7-10 December a concluding CSEP exchange was arranged where all participants from previous exchanges in Azerbaijan and Armenia, came together. The exchange involved interactive seminars on mediation and conflict management and it gave many opportunities for the participants to integrate and deepen their relations. On the agenda were also, in addition to the seminars; sightseeing in Tbilisi, different socializing activities, evaluation and certification. The Tbilisi exchange was just like the previous CSEPs very appreciated and the participants were much enthusiastic about getting to know each other as well as to participate in the discussions and activities.
The CSEPs were characterized by positive emotions and interests for the others, which is some of the most important components in confidence building as it creates an atmosphere of confidence and a platform for sharing thoughts and ideas, eventually resulting in mutual understanding and awareness. The exchanges have given the participants great opportunities to share their own opinions, views, create new lasting friendships and memories together. This was successfully achieved during the Caucasus Student Exchange project. The participants also had the opportunity to showcase their own countries, including the food, national heritage, nature and culture. The experience was both educational and entertaining and left the participants with lasting positive impressions.