Get ready for the upcoming Aliante Essay Contest! Below is a brief from last year’s winners, describing their incredible experience in Slovakia! Stay tuned: information on the 2015 Contest will be posted shortly!!
ADVENTURE IN SLOVAKIA
By Luigi Giuliano and Andi Themeli
In life, new adventures are unexpected and sometimes come from out of the blue, but as a result they can change you. We firmly believe that the Aliante 2014 Competition was just such an adventure. It all started when out of nowhere we discovered a small advertisement on our school-board’s website about travelling to Slovakia to participate in a NATO competition. Not knowing what it fully entailed, but incredibly interested in travelling, we decided to pursue this and see if we might be lucky enough to go.
We began to follow the steps required to be chosen; demonstrating our aptitude for the competition and filling out the proper documents, we were selected to participate. Partially surprised and fully elated, we accepted the invitation and began to prepare ourselves for the unexpected as we embarked on our journey to foreign lands. The Aliante Competition was the best experience of our lives and we would recommend every young adult to apply for the chance to go on this wonderful escapade.
The Aliante competition is something that has been going on for several years, but it was only in 2014 that Canada first participated in the competition. We are proud that we were among the pioneer contestants to participate and hope that there will be many others like us in the future. The journey started at Pearson Airport in Toronto where we met our coordinator and the other contestants from Canada, who had just flown in from Calgary.
As soon as we said farewell to our parents and our plane was ready, we left on a flight to the Chopin Airport in Warsaw, Poland. We were not able to leave the Airport, but it was the start of our exploits, and with hours to spare until our next flight, we began our exploration. In the Chopin Airport, we looked out the window to see what we could, we ate domestic potato chips that we bought at the shops, and waited for our flight to Vienna, Austria.
The time came for us to leave and before we knew it we were in Vienna where we met one of the competition’s supervisors and a former contestant. We boarded a bus straight for nearby Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Once checked into our hotel room we went out for dinner at a Slovakian pub and had local dishes such as halushka. We arrived back at our hotel later in the evening and settled down, tired from the trip we just took and ready for a good night’s sleep.
The next morning we were free to explore Bratislava and we took full advantage of our opportunity as we went on foot through the city and to the Bratislava Castle that overlooked the city and the River Danube. Our sightseeing was put on hold for a while since it was time to take a three hour bus ride to the site of our competition. But we weren’t finished yet, as later on in the week we were taken on an outing with all of the contestants to Banská Bystrica, where we explored the town and looked at the open air exhibition of World War II tanks and the Freedom Museum.
Seeing everything a country has to offer and learning about their culture is a rewarding encounter. The Aliante Competition has exposed us to something that we might have never experienced in our lives otherwise and we will at all times be grateful that we partook in the competition.
At this point one may be wondering what the Aliante Competition is about. Well independent of the travelling aspect of this journey, the majority of the trip is spent in the competition itself. Partners are matched with another pair from a different country to form a team that competes against other teams for the chance to win the grand prize. The grand prize in 2014 was a wonderful tour of Germany.
The Aliante Competition consists of physically demanding time trials and mentally challenging tests set up by the people stationed at the military base and the coordinators.
However, more importantly than the competition or the grand prize, the relationships that formed between the young leaders and the competitors was beyond words. We entered the competition and met many young men and women our age and we were not naive to think that every person we met would be kind. But we were stunned to learn just how kind the people we met were. Even though there may have been a language barrier to overcome, every person we encountered and talked to was considerate and genuinely wanted to get to know us. Both of us agree that some of the nicest people we’ve met in our lives, we met through Aliante. I believe this to be because every person selected is motivated, curious, and capable; they would not be participating otherwise.
The best night of the entire trip was the bonfire on the final day, where we roasted bread and sausages, danced to Slovakian folk music, and truly got to interact on a personal level outside the competition.
Our experience at the Aliante Competition was absolutely priceless, they are special memories that we will be able to cherish for the rest of our lives. The strain of the competition in distant countries to us is the essence of adventure, and the people and places you see along the way open your mind to countless possibilities. We still cannot believe that one little mouse click and a whole lot of work took us half way around the world, but this is what Aliante is and we couldn’t be more satisfied.