by Rachel Smith
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When you first created your CS profile, what did you put under Teach, Learn and Share? This information helps make CouchSurfing more than finding a place to rest your head. Everyone has the chance to be a student or a teacher, and events are ideal opportunities for knowledge exchange.
What can you teach, learn, or share? Popular ideas to get you started:
Arts & Crafts (origami, knitting)
Travel Advice & Experience
Exercise (yoga, hiking, martial arts)
Music & Instruments
Science & Philosophy
Teach, Learn, and Share Events
In Manchester, England, CouchSurfers meet monthly at a low-key bar in town to practice origami, knitting, poker and languages such as French, Turkish, Italian, and Spanish. Janis, the event organizer, firmly believes that everyone has something to share. “People who say, ‘I don’t have anything anyone would want to learn,’ are often surprised to find that something they undervalue can be really interesting to another person.”
The folks of Lisbon, Portugal, organized their first Knowledge Exchange Meeting this past December. The event had workshops on topics as diverse as self-defense, Austrian cooking, Pilates, Tui-Na massage, laptop recovery, and using Google Sites.
In North and South America:
A small group in Florida, United States, meets to share their common interest in travel writing. Freelance journalist and author Kerry facilitates the workshop, passing on what she knows about the writing industry.
In Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, CouchSurfers met twice this January for a discussion of modern physics, moderated by philosopher and engineer Márcio Galvão and by physicist Lucas Savi. “Pleasant afternoons spent in the company of educated people,” was how an attendee, Paula Paz, described these meetings.
A Dutch game lesson
photo by Liza
For over a year, the Weekly Dutch lessons in Utrecht, Netherlands, have brought CouchSurfers together for casual evenings of education and fun.
The lessons have given expats such as Jim Hart and Graham Wright the opportunity to make friends with locals and experience the Dutch culture. “It surprises me how detached most foreigners can be from the local language and culture,” says Jim. Graham credits his new friends for the extra motivation to attend classes. “I made some of my best CS friends through these lessons because there is a stronger bond between people who go through something difficult, like learning Dutch, together.”
As CouchSurfers, there’s one thing we all know a lot about: travel. Montreal’s CS travel conference “gave CouchSurfers an overview of China, from the big metropolitan cities to the countryside,” says Carlos, who presented with Stephanie Wang.
In San Francisco, United States, How to Get Lost featured presentations by CouchSurfers who taught English in Chile, researched flora in Indonesia and traveled solo in Iran.
Events designed to turn inexperienced members into savvy CouchSurfers are also popular. Mario, Ambassador for Heredio Centro, Costa Rica, believes New Member Meetings “encourage members to become more active and empower them to make CouchSurfing safer for everyone.”
Martine, Ambassador for Brugge, Belgium, taught workshops at the Independent Women’s Meeting and the Utrecht Midsummernight. She says, “it’s a wonderful feeling when you notice that one of the CouchSurfers you ‘trained’ ends up an experienced member who helps others.”
Ready to organize a teach, learn, and share event? Here are Janis‘ tips:
1. Recruit several core members in your area to help organize the event.
2. Find a friendly, welcoming venue that supports your group.
3. Choose a visible location. Greet newcomers!
4. Match skills and interests beforehand.
5. Keep tabs on the event attendance list, and encourage new people to come.
6. Create areas for different interests as groups begin to form.
7. Hand out name tags. Have people write their names and what they want to teach/learn.