How will the cities of tomorrow be and look like?

This question, and many others, did youths from different European countries discuss on a camp in Scotland. Sunday 11th of August did 9 youths, including me, and two leaders travel from Indre Østfold in Norway to Scotland to participate in an international youth camp two hours outside of Glasgow. On the bus from Edinburgh airport to the campsite we met our first new friends from Latvia and Russia. To keep up the spirit on the five hour long bus drive, we taught each other funny words in each other’s languages. We laughed a lot and our adventure finally begun.

On Monday morning we finally got to meet all the other participants. We were about 21 participants from six different countries: Russia, Latvia, Germany, Norway, Poland and Scotland. We also had leaders from Poland, Germany, Scotland and Norway, which I think fulfilled the feeling of a truly international environment. Every day went by with different workshops.

Monday we learned about different challenges European cities faced today – challenges that probably will grow even bigger in the future. We also got to design a phone application which was somehow supposed to solve or make a challenge in a city easier to live with. The challenges we discussed touched topics as transportation, healthy environment, issues of space and weather. Tuesday was spent in Glasgow. We got to listen to architects giving us insight in issues regarding architecture. How will the cities of tomorrow look like? What kind of transportation will we have? Will we have skyscrapers or houses? We also got to design our own dream city where some of today’s challenges were solved without compromising the components that made the city a good place to live. We spent the rest of the day shopping and sightseeing in Glasgow. Some of us were even lucky enough to experience a band of bagpipers playing in the streets – a real taste of Scottish culture!

When we got home everyone was quite tired, but we found the energy to play some funny games to really get to know each other. Wednesday was spent at our campsite in Benmore. We got a visitor from the organization Article 12 –an organization fighting for the rights of Gypsies/Travelers. She held a very interesting workshop about the challenges Gypsies/Travelers and local communities face when the two communities have to interact. The lecturer asked us to find solutions to some of the problems we faced today. We came up with many creative solutions – for instance a system where students studying languages or to be an educator teached the Gypsies/Travelers the language in the country.

When the workshop ended and we had had a delicious dinner, each country presented their hometown and the different challenges their hometown are meeting regarding for instance urbanization. For us Norwegians, coming from small villages, it was very interesting to listen to the problems faced in big cities, such as St. Petersburg and Moscow. The camp was held by two organizations – Planning Aid Scotland (PAS) and Innovation Circle Network (ICN). PAS is an organization based upon voluntary work. They offer assistance and information on issues regarding the planning system – the system where it is decided what should be built and what land areas should be used for. Generally there is a lack of interest and knowledge of these matters in the Scottish population and PAS wants to improve this. Initiatives they do to improve knowledge and interest are for instance courses, assistance from experts in different fields and also this youth camp to raise an interest among youths. ICN is an organization that works to create growth and sustainable development in cities and smaller towns in Europe. Various organizations and authorities from several different countries in Europe are represented in ICN. They meet to build stronger cooperation and understanding across country borders. By organizing different events and projects like this camp for youths, conferences for politicians and experts of different fields, they work to raise awareness, promote youth engagement and encourage dialogue. Several different issues are discussed and solutions explored. The secretariat is situated in Indre Østfold, Norway.

n addition to all these very serious topics, we managed to have lots of fun – both during the workshops and after. We played mime games, we sang karaoke during the evening and we had a disco. We also spent one afternoon outside playing sports games and “hide and seek”. We had such beautiful surroundings – huge trees, bushes and wild forest, and therefore perfect to play “hide and seek” in. Despite the big age difference in the group of participants, ranging from 14 years old to 21 years old we became close – almost like a family.

By cooperating closely and meeting challenges together we learned a lot about ourselves and each other. We learned words from languages we had barely heard been spoken before and we created friendships despite cultural differences and different languages. Many of us improved our English and our eyes were opened to challenges we hadn’t offered a thought before. We crossed so many borders together – and grew several meters in only a short week. We were all very sad when we had to leave on Friday the 16th. Memories were made – memories we hopefully never will forget. Though if there is one thing we didn’t feel entirely trained in, it was to fully understand the Scottish accent.. ;-)

 Oline Marie Sæther (17) Member of the youth council in Skiptvet Municipality, Norway