A collaborative effort was launched in May 2021 by Hong Kong UNESCO Global Geopark and Hațeg UNESCO Global Geopark, in Romania, to arrange online international exchange activities for young people in the two areas. The participants included 12 senior secondary students from CCC Mong Man Wai College, which is a member of the “Geopark Schools Programme” of Hong Kong Geopark, and 14 members of the Hațeg Country Geopark Youth Volunteer Program.
During the first online exchange on 7 May, geopark representatives from both sides gave an overview of their home cities and geoparks, touching on characteristic features. The participants were then divided into three international groups for group discussions. Following a round of self introductions, the group members presented their environmental protection-related study topic for the project. The study results were to be delivered in the second online exchange.
Participants from both sides maintained contact for three weeks after the first online exchange to learn more about each other. They worked together closely during the period to gather and sort information for their study topics. They presented their projects at the second online exchange on 27 May.
Unlike one-off online exchange activities, this project was a novel idea. During three weeks of exchanges, the participants had sufficient time to gain a thorough understanding of their peers’ home city, geopark, lifestyle and culture. The study topics provided a focus and cooperation opportunities.
Survey questionnaires completed by participants after the project show that they enjoyed the experience very much. In particular, they were delighted to use the social media of their choice for detailed communication about each other’s geoparks, city, lifestyle, culture, history and language for three weeks. To these two groups of young people, who live five time zones apart, it was really a new and extraordinary experience. Many participants said that they were pleased to make new friends overseas through this project and that they would keep in touch with their new international friends in the future. Others expressed a wish to visit their peers’ home country or city to meet them face to face.
This collaboration has provided the two geoparks with valuable experience. We will continue to work with other GGN members in the future to improve and promote this model of cross-regional youth online exchange. It is a great way to broaden our students’ knowledge, perspectives and vision, and is good training for communicating and collaborating with people from different cultures.