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Erasmus Project, How to Study, Live and Work in a different EU Country

Erasmus Project, How to Study, Live and Work in a different EU Country

Just before Christmas last year myself, Gemma, Regan and Ben found out that we had been selected to go on a Erasmus + project trip to Sicily on the 9th- 16th of January 2016. We were all really excited to go to Sicily, explore the local area, make lots of new friends from around Europe and of course escape the Great British January weather!

A fairly early start (it was a Saturday as well!) was needed to get to Gatwick Airport in time for our 12:20 flight to Catania. We arrived in Catania just as it was getting dark, but we could still make out the majestic outline of Mount Etna (the 3,350m largest active volcano in Europe that last erupted a little over a month before we arrived!) as we travelled the half an hour from Catania to Scordia in a minibus. Below is a picture of what we would have seen if it had been lighter! We all spent the evening getting to know our host families, who were all really nice and accommodating, we were all very lucky to get them as our hosts for the week!

On Sunday, we spent the day with the families getting to know each other and the town. Scordia (below) is a commune (municipality) in the Province of Catania in the Italian Region of Sicily. It is located 37 miles southeast of Palermo and 19 miles southwest of Catania and has a population of about 17,000 spread out in 9.4 square miles. It was also our first day experiencing Italian foods, the food was definitely a highlight for everyone, trying both Italian foodstuffs and local specialities.

Monday morning was the first time that we got to meet the students from all the schools from around Europe that had gathered in Sicily for the week. The schools that were present were from Landgraaf in the Netherlands, Rovigo in Italy, Aguilar de Campoo in Spain, Leszo in Poland, Azpeitia in the Basque Country, Talin in Estonia, Tornio in Finland and of course us! After a welcome meeting we all headed off to visit Oranfrizer, who are located just outside Scordia. Oranfrizer describes itself as one of the important ambassadors of Sicily’s citrus fruits in the whole world, in particular the Sicilian blood orange. The company is owned by the Alba family, today three generations of the family have worked or are working for the company. The enterprise has its own farm, Carmito and also works with hundreds of producers. Oranfrizer main products are citrus fruits and fresh citrus juices (even though they also sell peaches, nectarines, melons, watermelons, potatoes, tomatoes, pomegranates, prickly pears and coscia pears) which it sells on the domestic market and also exports to Japan, Korea, the USA, Europe and South Africa. We were given a presentation on the on company by Annalise Alba and then a tour of the factory. Orange groves have a very noticeable presence around Scordia, so it was interesting to see what happens after they are picked.  Back in Scordia we visited the M. De Mauro Museum to find out more about more about the history of the town and in particular it’s employment history. This was followed by a meeting in the Town Hall with the headmaster and the authorities, including the mayor. The day was finished by presentations from the students, which gave us information for when we write up the project, entitled ‘what it is like to live, study and work in a foreign EU country’.

On the Tuesday of our visit we visited 3Sun in Catania by coach. 3Sun is an Italian company working in the field of renewable energy, in particular the production of solar panels. The company was founded on the 4th of January 2010 as a joint venture between Enel Green Power (who now own all of the company), Sharp Corporation and STMicroelectronics. The Italian state contributed 49 million euros to the financing, capital funding 210 million and project financing 150 million. 3Sun was inaugurated on the 8th of July 2011 and now aims to become the largest European producer of solar panels. 280 people are employed at the factory. We often associate Sicily with very a tourism based existence and not necessarily at the forefront of modern technology, so it was interesting to see another side of Sicily (they have a lot of sunshine definitely so they should use it!). We then had some free time in Taormina, a small town on the east coast of Sicily, located midway between Messina and Catania, which has been a tourist destination since the 19th century. Taormina and the views from its Roman Amphitheatre were stunning, and it was probably my favourite part of the exchange and definitely a place I would return to!

Wednesday was based around visiting two major towns in the region. The first destination, Noto was a town full of breath-taking 17th century Baroque architecture, and was a really great place to visit. The second town was Syracuse, and historic city notable for its rich Greek history, culture, architecture, amphitheatre and being the birthplace of Archimedes!

Thursday was a very different day, firstly we visited Caltagirone, to pay a visit to the school’s ceramic laboratories. The art we saw there was very impressive and it was interesting to learn about a very unique school. After walking into the centre of the town as well, you could see why it is known as ‘city of Sicilian ceramics’, there is pottery everywhere! After having lunch in the park (which had palm trees in!) we spent the afternoon at a Roman villa, which had some beautifully preserved mosaics.

On Friday the school held a conference based largely around the Italian school system. The speakers were very varied and included Annalise Alba from Oranfrzier, the Italian undersecretary of state for education and the local mayor. A lot was learnt by everyone though!