Swiming at 2100m above the sea level

Hello from the beautiful Austrian Alps! My name is Gintare, I am from Lithuania and I am a new member of the IVY volunteer team!

Back at home, I was working in conservation sector and I always thought it would be great to expand my horizons and learn more about European conservation projects. So, as soon as I saw an opportunity in Interreg I took it, and for sure that was my best decision ever!

Currently I am involved with Interreg CentralParks project. It aims to improve integrated environmental management capacities of protected areas within Carpathian region; to reconcile conservation and sustainable tourism; and to promote the Carpathian Network of Protected Areas. Honestly, before starting the project, I did not understand most of these words and thought that the objectives are impossible to reach. But during my first month, I have already learned a lot about how to create international cooperation and how important it is. I have met project team and was impressed with how professional, knowledgeable and passionate they are about their project.

In addition, I have participated in an online synergy meeting between Interreg CentralParks team and Interreg CEETO (Central Europe Eco-Tourism) project. The goal of the meeting was to share best practices about sustainable tourism development in protected areas. Interreg CEETO has developed many useful tools and strategies for sustainable tourism during their project time and Interreg CentralParks team was able to use this information for their project goals. I was fascinated and inspired by how much people can achieve in cooperation. In addition, I am also learning about the structure of European projects and how they are carried out. These experiences are very inspiring and useful for me. I am looking forward to applying this international experience back in Lithuania.

In my free time, I am enjoying the beautiful Alps. I have never lived in mountainous area before, so it is all very exciting for me. I am enjoying hiking and biking and discovering beautiful sceneries every time I head out. So far, I found a glacier on one of my hikes; swam in a lake which was 2100m above sea level; collected many wild strawberries and blueberries.

The team I work with is very friendly and very international. Each person comes from a different European country. In order to learn more about each other’s culture, we have decided to make thematic dinners every week. So far we have tried traditional German and Slovakian cuisines and Lithuanian night is coming soon! I find it very interesting to learn about the life in different countries. It is amazing, how different and how similar we are at the same time and how wonderful that we get a chance to connect via European Union.

Over all, I am very happy to be taking part in IVY initiative and would strongly recommend doing it to everyone. It expands one’s knowledge about European union, different cultures and provides with unforgettable memories!

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