Erasmus+ project “Under the European Stars” in Varaždin, Croatia

High-school students from Finland, Hungary and Spain spent a week in Croatia hiking in nature.

The fourth and final mobility of the Erasmus+ project “Under the European Stars” was held in Varaždin from 2nd to 9th May, 2023. More than 40 students and 10 teachers from four European countries participated in this mobility. The main purpose of the project “Under the European Stars” has been to raise awareness about the importance of nature, mental and physical health, how to do digital detox, and improve face to face communication. The project has also taught the students about mental resilience, strength, strategies for facing stress and a mindful life. The students participated in various activities where they had to push through their boundaries of comfort, which they will never forget. 

The kick-off in Varaždin

The students and teachers from Finland, Hungary and Spain arrived in Varaždin on 2nd May and they first met their host families. On the following day, all the participants were first welcomed at Prva gimnazija Varaždin and then they explored the town of Varaždin in the Urban Trek activity. Later, students got a chance to go in nature in order to ddo the mindfulness exercise and send kindness to each other. The day was finished by a game of disc golf, which everyone enjoyed.

From the magical Trakošćan Castle to Ravna Gora and Ivanščica

On Thursday, 4th May, the students and teachers traveled by bus to Trakošćan and had a tour of the magical castle surrounded by woods on top of a hill. After that, all the participants went hiking to the Ravna Gora. After 2,5 hour-hike, everyone reached the top of the mountain and the students had to give their phones to the teachers so they practiced digital detox for 3 days, which was really challenging. In the evening they were devided into six groups and had to cook dinner – beans and pancakes. Students who made the best dinner were awarded.

On Friday, 5th May, the objective was to hike to the other top of Ravna Gora where there were a wide range of interesting outdoor activities. The students could go and try the zip-line, build shelter out of wood, and listen to the sounds of the animals around the camp. In the evening, after having roasted sausages on fire, the students reflected about the negative impact of the smartphones. They also gained some insight into how to be in control of the time spent on the phone.

Saturday, 6 May, was the final hiking day and the mobility participants went to the region’s highest mountain Ivanščica. They were divided into three groups and each group took one route that leads to the mountain’s highest point: route Mrzljak and route Prekrižje, easier ones and both surrounded by beautiful nature with some eye-catching sights, and route Vuglenišće – the most challenging one that was reserved for the bravest. At the top of Ivanščica, firstly a number of delicious dishes were served for lunch, then another mindfulness activity followed after which everyone hiked down the mountain and drove back to Varaždin. 

Family day and the closing ceremony

Sunday, 7 May was a family day, without any challenging activities in nature. The Finnish, Spanish and Hungarian students spent the whole day with their Croatian host families and had a chance to hang out with them and connect with Croatian lifestyle even more. In the evening Croatian teachers organised a Farewell Party and a closing ceremony at the Prva gimnazija Varaždin for all the students, teachers and parents. After looking back on this mobility and also on the whole project that has come to an end, everybody tried tasty cakes, „klipići“ and „štrukli“ that parents prepared and had fun dancing together.

The Plitvice Lakes – a fascinating natural wonder

On Monday, 8th May, the students and teachers visited one of the most dazzling places in Croatia – the Plitvice Lakes. Everybody was amazed by the stunning sights of nature and 16 beautiful lakes. Even the rain couldn’t ruin this wonderful experience.

All good things must come to an end

After six days of all kinds of challenges, socialising, speaking English and overall fun, the Hungarian, Spanish and Finnish students and teachers headed back to their own countries filled with many great experiences and new friendships. The project brought joy to all of its participants.

The objectives of the project were achieved, as the students developed resilience to challenges, spent time in nature and hiked a lot, socialized with friends, spent less time on mobile phones and they learned about the mindfulness techniques to help them in everyday life.  This project was an unforgettable experience for everyone who participated because it taught people so many beautiful lessons to take with themselves through life. The Erasmus+ project “Under the European Stars has been really a life changing experience and students all around Europe should be encouraged to participate in these kinds of activities, gain knowledge about various topics and experience the beauty of it all.

Written by Jelena Nakić and Vilma Ostrognaj, students at Prva gimnazija Varaždin, Croatia

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