Students in charge

Usually, when a group of teenagers goes on a trip in school or together with a club, adults manage all the organization. Here at KUS, we have the “Tagesprojektleitung” (the “project managers of the day”) for that. The idea behind this concept is that we students learn to take over responsibility for our future lives. In practice, every day of our land expedition in Cuba as well as in Panama is being organised by two to three students, so that in the end every student has organised two days. This organization happens in communication with our project leader Judith and the Cuba expert Ruth, but the students are leading through the day and take over tasks like talking to the locals to organise for example food for our vegetarians.

I had a lot of fun being “Tagesprojektleitung” because you can learn a lot, you talk in Spanish or English with local people, organise a bus, negotiate how much you have to pay or plan a metro trip with 37 people. Which of these things you actually have to do really depends on the day you get. For example, the day I organised in Panama City together with two other KUSis was not that much work because we only had to plan until noon, as in the afternoon everyone had free time to explore the city in groups. Therefore, the day was quite relaxed for us as managers, and the only time it got a bit stressful was when we had to lead the metro trip into the town centre.

In contrast to this day, my day in Cuba was very full and we had a lot to do, so we already met three days before with Ruth in order to have enough time to think about our plan and decide questions like when will we have breakfast, or how much time do we need to clean the ship and our cabins. In the evening before the actual day, we met again with Ruth to show her our plan and improve some last details. What was special about our day was that we had certain things that had to be done until ten a.m. because it was the day of our arrival in Cuba and the authorities were scheduled to come aboard the Thor at this time, so for example breakfast and the cleaning of the ship had to be completed by then. My tasks as manager of the day during this phase were mainly to keep an overview over how much time everyone still needed and find new jobs for people who were already done. This part of the day worked very well and we were finished even a bit earlier. Then, right on time, the boat the authorities should arrive in came in our direction, so obviously I was very happy that everything worked that well. The boat came closer, and really close, and passed us to drive off in direction to a diving spot. So we knew it would be some time until they’d come back, luckily a lot of us could use the time to prepare the presentations they would hold in Cuba or to write blogs, but I had nothing to do, so I just waited. During that waiting period I was quite nervous because I knew that the longer the authorities took the longer the day would extend into the night. After some time, Ruth called the authorities to ask what the problem was and was told that the bad street conditions were delaying the arrival. When the authorities had finally arrived aboard, I stayed nearby in case they would need something or someone. After they had left again, we really had to hurry with packing our luggage for Cuba and preparing the bikes. To do so, we split up into two groups, and me and Julian (who was the second manager that day) each went with one group to be sure that everyone was working efficiently and to look after our tools, so that nothing would get lost. During the packing aboard the Thor I just was there for questions and help, in case someone would need me. Packing was quite stressful for everyone because we all wanted to go to bed, but as we had started later than planned, packing went on until about one a.m. at night.

Looking back to my two days as manager of the day, I think the concept of “Tagesprojektleitung” is really good for us to learn how to take over responsibility in our future lives, and how to lead and organise big groups. Another bonus for me also was that the natural fear of talking to strangers in other languages is getting smaller by just doing it.