From November 15 to 19, Tbilisi, Georgia, hosted the Eurasia FLEX-Ability Workshop 2023, bringing together 63 FLEX alumni from 9 different countries: Armenia, Czechia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Slovakia, and the U.S. FLEX alumni workshops have been held annually since 2010, and for the first time ever, the workshop welcomed two FLEX Abroad alumni from the United States!   

Throughout the four-day workshop, participants acquired step-by-step expertise and skills in Project Development and Management. The workshop created a positive, immersive, and enriching atmosphere that offered practical insights into identifying and tackling issues in local communities. Additionally, it underscored the importance of developing skills in cross-cultural collaboration, networking, public speaking, presentation skills, and teamwork.   

To apply their newly acquired skills in real-time, participants collaborated in six groups organized around specific themes, developing projects aligned with alumni interests and community needs. The six general themes were: 1) Education and Leadership; 2) Business and Technology; 3) Human Rights and Vulnerable Populations; 4) Environment and Sustainability; 5) Health and Wellbeing; and 6) Career Management and Skills.   

After a highly productive and interactive learning experience, as the culmination of the workshop, participants pitched their ideas for community projects to peers and staff, refining their public speaking skills and engaging in a constructive feedback exchange. To support the alumni’s ideas, workshop participants were eligible to apply for grant funding to implement their projects. 

Each participant left the workshop with not only a set of new skills, knowledge, and new friendships, but also a renewed commitment to driving positive change in their societies. This outcome testifies to the success of the workshop in fulfilling its mission to equip the next generation of leaders with the tools and resources they need to make a difference in their communities.  

Reflecting on their experience, a few participants and mentors shared some of their highlights:  

Participant Sofija Sveciulyte ’23 shared, “As I bid farewell to Tbilisi, I carry with me knowledge and a network of diverse connections and friendships, a testament to the unifying power of the FLEX community. The memories created and the skills acquired during this workshop are poised to shape my future endeavors, propelling me toward success in my professional life.”  

While for most it was the first time learning more in-depth about Georgia and its culture, the Georgian alumni showed their hospitality and introduced other alumni with their home country. Nia Jikia ’23 shared, “I’ve had a unique opportunity to welcome fellow FLEX alumni in my beautiful city, Tbilisi. It’s been amazing to be able to reunite with some international friends, make new connections, and present the main treasures of Georgian culture, including national dances, songs, food, folklore. The workshop itself was a golden opportunity to learn more about Project Management and Development from our Lead Trainer Si Norton. He is one of the most inspiring people I’ve met, and I admire his ability to shine positivity and empower young people. As the City Representative of Tbilisi, I’ll use the skills and knowledge gained through the workshop to organize activities in my home community.”   

Markuss Saule ’23 highlighted his experience of working in a small group, also called a mentor group, and the cultural exchange among participants: “Sessions in the mentor group was the best part of my workshop experience! Our mentor Lida Asilyan ’19 was fantastic and extremely passionate, bringing our group closer together, motivating us, and facilitating the exchange of ideas. In collaboration with Ave Alamets ’23, we managed to develop a project idea – an online cultural exchange club that would connect youth from the U.S. with youth across FLEX countries. We’re currently in contact with our partners, local U.S. Embassies, and we will apply for a grant to turn this idea into reality.” 

The experience was enriching for both participants and mentors alike, adding value for everyone involved. Mentor Gerda Metsma ’17 shared her excitement about being a mentor, noting the growth and brilliant ideas she witnessed among the participants. She expressed, “It was a full-circle moment; I got to work with hard-working individuals and guide them in their project ideas, reminding me of my first workshop as a participant in 2017. This experience helped me grow professionally and gave me a chance to reconnect with the alumni community.”  

Mentor Lida Asilyan ’19 reflected on her role and its significance to her personally and professionally, saying: “What I valued the most about the Eurasia FLEX-Ability workshop is how it showed, yet again, the empowering force of FLEX, connecting us no matter the stories and backgrounds we come from. Whether through brainstorming, discussions, or actual project proposals, I, as a mentor for the “Education and Leadership” team, was fascinated to observe the beautiful thread that connects us—through the issues we face in our societies and the unlimited creative projects and solutions we propose. Being a mentor for this exceptional team was a rewarding experience for me, allowing me to make new friends, connections, and feel myself once again part of something bigger. Together with my exceptional mentees, we bonded from the get-go, and it’s something that will leave a forever important imprint on my career as an aspiring global educator.”  

The Eurasia FLEX-Ability Workshop 2023 is funded by the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs of the United States Department of State and administered by the American Councils for International Education.  The program was organized by Karina Vintere ’17 and the Secondary School Alumni Programs staff at American Councils, led and facilitated by Simon “Si” Norton, a global educator, and supported by six alumni mentors:   

Gerda Metsma ’17 (Tartu, Estonia, placed by World Link in Selma, CA) 

Giorgi Kakabadze ’17 (Tkibuli, Georgia, placed by World Link in Des Moines, IA) 

Giedre Krotovaite ’19 (Vilnius, Lithuania, placed by American Councils in Edwardsville, IL) 

Anush Isoyan ’18 (Alaverdi, Armenia, placed by Greenheart Exchange in Snohomish, WA) 

Lida Asilyan ’19 (Ijevan, Armenia, placed by World Link in Adel, IA) 

Diana Rogava ’19 (Tbilisi, Georgia, placed by World Link Ankeny, IA) 


Featured Alumni:  

Sofija Sveciulyte ’23 (Trakai, Lithuania, placed by Greenheart Exchange in Holland, MI) 

Nia Jikia ’23 (Tbilisi, Georgia, placed by PAX in Avon, IN) 

Markuss Saule ’23 (Liepaja, Latvia, placed by ACES in Zumbrota, MN) 

Ave Alamets ’23 (Tallin, Estonia, placed by ACES in Shasta Lake, CA) 

Karina Vintere (Riga, Latvia, placed by ASSE in Ruidoso, NM) 

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