Hola! My name is Carla, I have been an intern at ACARBIO for over 5 months, and would like to share my experience with you.
I am 26 year old Chilean, studying Sustainable Development at Uppsala University, in Sweden. After spending my first two semesters learning more about the topic, having interesting conversations about different environmental issues and taking walks around the forests covered in snow, I decided to look for an internship which could help me understand how sustainable practices can be applied in real life.
Searching through the website erasmusintern.org the word ‘sustainability’ the first post that appeared was the one of ACARBIO. The description of the internship seemed very interesting to me, as it involved working with the local community in different environmental projects, plus I could improve my Italian skills.
I arrived to Tramonti on July 1st, right on the start of the summer. I might say was not an easy to get there. A lot of curves and buses full of tourists, aiming to spend beautiful days in the Amalfi Coast.
I met the ACARBIO team the next day, surrounded by the beautiful mountains and preparing to have an Italian lunch. A thing you might need to know before coming here is that Italian food traditions are very important, and there will be a lot of conversations during lunch time revolting around this subject. If you LOVE food as much as I do, this is a perfect place for you. Enzo, the president of ACARBIO, is passionate about it too and enjoys cooking a lot, so most of the days he prepares lunch for the whole team. However, what he was not expecting is, that someone who is lactose and gluten intolerant will show up in the office (a.k.a me). After the first initial shock, Enzo became very interested in my eating habits, and he was also very nice and kind to let me know whenever he was cooking something that contained flour or cheese, so I could eat something else. During the internship, we discovered that I was able to eat certain things that contained gluten and ‘lievito’, for example the famous ‘pagnotto’, ‘pane biscotatto’ or pizza, and we were constantly doing experiments with food, though sometimes did not go well and I had to suffer stomach ache for some hours.
Aside from food, this internship made me realize the amazing nature we have in our planet, and how NGOs work. The office of ACARBIO is located in the Parco Regionale dei Monti Lattari, which a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The team aimed to support the candidature of this Amalfi Coast to become a Man and Biosphere Reserve, but due to political reasons and changes in the administration of the region, this has been slowed down. In the view of this, ACARBIO decided to take another route and be part of different youth projects related to sustainable development.
When I arrived in July, the Erasmus + project ‘The Green WE Make’ was about to start, which brought together 30 participants from different parts of Europe to be part of sustainability discussions and team work activities. Meanwhile Antonio, Enzo, Cornelia and Emilija were living in the local school of Minori, I was adapting slowly to my new life in the mountains, while preparing the project Make It Blue. This project was developed from the 31st of July until the 22nd of August in the beach town of Minori. My friend Emilija and I were team leaders for the 20 volunteers that came to spend their summer holidays in a different way.
This was the fourth edition of Make it Blue, which aims to raise awareness about the pollution on the beach, by doing environmental workshops with the kids, cleaning the beach every day and doing flash-mobs or artistic interventions with what has been found in the sand. This year, we found around 9.000 cigarette butts in only three weeks, as they contain plastic and can enter the Ocean with the wind or waves, it becomes a danger for the marine fauna because they can mistake them for food. Aside from this, I had the opportunity of living in the beach town of Minori, take a swim in the warm sea and enjoy the stunning view.
After this project, I went back to the office in Tramonti, spend time a lot of time in the garden, where everyday I picked up tomatoes, eggplants, basil, chilli-peppers, figs, pears or apples, and helped Antonio and Cornelia with the Erasmus+ project applications. This type of projects, offers a great chance for young people to engage in activities related to local traditions, sustainability and intercultural exchange, so I would recommend anyone to apply for them if possible.
As soon as the autumn came, the chestnuts and walnuts started to fall, and the Re Fiascone tomato sauce production started! If you have not heard about this type of tomato, a heads up: it is an ancient re-discovery and tastes amazing. With the help of work-awayers from Germany, USA, Argentina, Uruguay and Turkey, the jars were cleaned, labeled and put in boxes, to be sent across the Atlantic Ocean. I must say that after these weeks, I appreciate much more a home-made or artisanal product, as I realized all the work that is behind and the planification it requires to put all the ‘parts’ together.
During November, Cornelia and I had the task of preparing an activity for the elementary schools of Tramonti and Minori, in the context of the UNESCO Week of Education for Sustainable Development, which had as main topic “moving away from plastics: a path to be built”. We decided to do a presentation about plastic pollution in the Ocean and how it affects the ecosystem, especially on marine life (as you may guess I got inspired by the Make It Blue period), and a beach cleanup with the kids of Minori. It was an unforgettable experience; the children were very keen on picking up the trash and were able to realize how their own beach gets polluted by visitors or locals. After taking from the sand almost 5.000 elements, mainly composed by plastic, they were asking us “when is the next one?”, which gave me hope on the next generation.
By the end of this last project, I realized that my passion for protecting the Planet grew stronger, that with all the experiences lived in this internship, I re-connected to nature and specially the Ocean. This would not have been possible without the support of the ACARBIO team: Enzo, Antonio and Cornelia, who decided to go on a different path that most people take and work for a good cause, something that gives back to the community and the Earth, and I am very glad I could spend this time with them.
Another very important part of my time in Tramonti, was the intern’s life in the apartment in Pietre. Long summer afternoons playing music in the balcony, with Emilija, Lorenz and Tania, transformed into cozy movie nights and local wine parties with Jenny, Jarek and Cornelia. I am entirely grateful to have met such amazing people and been able to spend half a year with them.
If you are still wondering whether you should do this internship, I can assure it would be a life-changing experience and will help you understand many things, not only about NGOs, but also about yourself. Life is too short to live it always wondering what if… give it a shot, you will not regret it!