«Unknown continent – one should never cease to explore» – a YES experience report

Iana Perevoshchikova is an Erasmus Mundus scholarship holder, and graduated from International Master Programme in Horticultural Sciences, which took place in three European Universities in Italy, Germany and Austria. In 2017, the environmentalist and agronomist from Russia took part in the YES course in Costa Rica. She has summarized her personal experiences and learnings in a text.

YES; Youth encounter on Sustainability; Costa Rica; sustainability classes

Picture Credit: Iana Perevoshchikova

On a cold winter evening in order to bring some sun into my heart, I covered myself with a warm plaid and started looking at the photos from my trip to Costa Rica that I made in September this year with YES programme (see the description in my first blog on this topic here) Looking at the pictures I asked myself, what was YES for me?

YES was truly an unforgettable experience, an interactive 2-weeks lab with 24 students from sixteen countries. Mainly, participants came from Latin-American countries, like Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Brazil, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia, but also from some European Countries, like Germany, Belgium, Italy, etc. My room neighbour was from Curacao – an island in the Caribbean Sea (it’s a shame to admit, but before my trip, I didn’t know that this country exist!).

To summarize, YES was “inspiration, change, harmony, passion, exciting, wonderful, sharing, action, spiritual, motivation, friendship, liberating, empowering, life-changing, community, ideas, strengthening, connective” experience for all of us. We met many interesting people, learned and realized many concepts, and got to know inspiring examples of people following their passion and delivering value to this world.

What was it made from?

Interactive sessions. As learning tools, we used roundtables with invited speakers reaching sustainable development goals in different spheres, like Edga Mora – a mayor of one district of Costa Rica – Curridabat, who applies an innovative way of urban design with inclusive approach (citizens can participate), Andrea San who runs her NGO, and business representative who consults the business on sustainability issues.

We also shared information about main sustainable challenges in our home countries, and leaders who inspire us. We described our home countries presenting some indicators during the photo-session (like the level of CO₂ emission per capita, social progress index, etc), which was quite a creative way of learning.

Interesting lectures

We studied about the carbon footprint, energy systems, circular economy, sustainable tourism and Canvas business model. It was good to have an overview of great challenges of our century and ways to implement sustainable development goals. The lectures were given by such outstanding lecturers as Dr. Stefan Gara (Managing director, ETA Environmental consulting, PhD in physics) and others, as well as by invited speakers, like Monica Araya introduced us to the world of electric cars and buses, the use of which will decrease the CO₂ footprint.

Sebastian Gara focused his speech on purpose-driven companies, underlining that the value that the owner of the business delivers to the world is the main feature of success. The most important thing is to find your «IKIGAI» – which can be translated as the deal of your life, it lays in the middle between your talents, what you like to do, the needs of the other people, and what they are ready to pay for. After you find your IKIGAI, you should build up the network, trying to help other people, to introduce them to each other and connect those who need with those who offer.

Starting your own business, you should know very well your target audience, and it’s important to solve their problems, not just sell the product, but provide a solution.

Unforgettable excursions

During the course, we went to a banana plantation, to chocolate farm and to innovative experimental farm. I will share these memories in upcoming blogs.

“Hard daily routine”

Unfortunately, it’s a joke, our timetable was quite packed and we managed to spend just one afternoon on the beach.

Art-therapy sessions

We had an opportunity to participate in individual and group art-therapy sessions. Monica Ventura introduced to us persuade communication, vision board and other creative tools that help to express yourself, reach your objectives and analyze a certain problem in your life. I think art-therapy is a great instrument to express and analyze your emotions and should be widely introduced in everyone’s routine.

Explore the diversity

Costa Rica holds 6% of world’s biodiversity and that is one of the reasons why I was dreaming to go there someday. There was an evening, where everyone presented their countries typical food, brought back some great typical food and souvenirs. It was so nice to learn different traditions and to share and enrich the intercultural background.

Develop and defend projects

During the programme, everyone presented their own idea of a sustainable business project, few of them were selected by participants. Then, all participants were divided in 4 groups and worked on a chosen project. It was amazing to explore how the project was modified and developed by the groups and how it was enriched by creative ideas.

At the end of the course, we have presented the pitch to our jury, who gave us some tips for improvement. The whole process was guided by Dr. Matt Gardner - a lecturer in Harvard, who leads his own business in sustainable consulting.

Network and wonderful community

I was fortunate to meet excellent enthusiastic motivated future change agents. YES has its own community of labs’ graduates and now we all became a part of it.

What else?

First time:

  • I came to this continent and I got inspired to explore by it
  • I have seen the Caribbean beach and that’s how it happened
  • I have seen the fruit of cacao, I made and drink a real chocolate (but this is another story, coming soon)

I am very happy and thankful to share with you one of the wonderful experience that I had in my life. I strongly believe that we as YPARD network should continue to increase the opportunities for youth to learn and explore, to travel and to study, to make their own experience, emerge themselves in the multicultural societies and understand this world better.


About YES

YES Labs goes beyond purely transferring knowledge. They are interactive and serve to bring together participants from a variety of cultural and social backgrounds. In intensive fortnight-long Impact Labs, students, graduates and experts develop answers to questions concerning the challenges of sustainability using both theory and practice. These questions are put forward by local partners (universities, businesses, organisations). Participants from all sectors and countries come together and develop appropriate solutions in an interdisciplinary, intercultural and practical setting. At the same time, a global network is being created that encourages lively exchange beyond the individual courses and promotes sustainable development worldwide.

The YES alumni community meanwhile consists of around 1,500 individuals from over 140 countries. Many alumni now hold senior positions in companies, government institutions and NGOs. A large percentage have successfully turned a sustainable business idea into reality.

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