In the age of digital technologies and online meetings, visiting people of different cultures and different backgrounds live is still one of the best ways of learning how other people think, speak, and live. The Erasmus+ program, which is funded by the European Union, enables just that. And it has enabled the 60 individual students and 12 teachers from 3 different schools to meet in person 4 times, twice in Slovenia, once in Estonia, and once in Ireland. The objective of the project called ‘To Train Your Own Sustainapreneur’ was to train adolescents about sustainable entrepreneurship, to give them an idea about how to develop their own business idea, and how to think and live sustainably – but most importantly, its objective was to foster transnational friendships and relationships, which would otherwise have been next to impossible.
The project was heavily marked by the covid-19 pandemic. Originally intended to last from the January 2022 to December 2021, the project activities had to be extended by one year as it was impossible to travel in the year when the SARS-CoV-2 took such a terrible toll. Consequently, the first exchange in Novo mesto took place in November 2021, almost a year and a half later than was originally planned. Despite the fact that the meeting happened in the middle of one of the covid-19 peaks in Slovenia, it went very well and without any complications. The second exchange was organized by the Estonian partners in March 2022, and the third in Ireland in May of the same year. The last exchange was again organized and hosted by Gimnazija Novo mesto, the lead partner of the project, this time in October 2022.
During the four meetings, the participants learned about the essentials of business modeling, learned design thinking techniques with which they explored the problem they were addressing with their business ideas, learned of ways to make their products and businesses sustainable, and got to know the business and sustainability entrepreneurship ecosystems in each of the countries the exchange took place in. Most importantly, though, the participants made new friends, friends that they still keep in contact with despite the closing of the project. To Train Your Own Sustainapreneur is definitely a project that has aged well. The students have already planned their next trips abroad in coordination with their friends from Estonia and Ireland, and are planning to visit their friends in their home countries this summer or the next.
Erasmus+ programs finance projects like “To Train Your Own Sustainapreneur” for precisely the reasons that we worked to achieved while navigating through the rough seas of the covid-19 pandemic. The four exchanges have now been completed, but the results of the project remain with us and will endure through long-lasting friendships and sustainability projects that will come to fruition in the future because of them. And this is the greatest worth of the two-year endeavor.