The unique event takes place today and tomorrow at St George’s Market where students will take part in a vibrant programme which includes music, dance, visual arts, quizzes, workshops, exhibition stands, discussions as well as the chance to sample cuisines from Europe and beyond.
Highlights include CoolFM’s Pete Snodden hosting a quiz to test students knowledge on all things European with an opportunity to win prizes; the Onatti Theatre Company performing an interactive French play 'Les Garcons' aimed at students in years 8-10; language taster sessions in German, Irish, Polish, Italian and Portuguese; learning to salsa dance as well as the chance to take part in the Chinese Dragon dance.
2011 has been designated the 'European Year of Volunteering' and there will be special workshops at the event exploring this theme. Among these are having the opportunity to work with the RSPB towards helping with bird feeding this winter and finding out how they can make a difference at the World Police and Fire Games coming to Belfast in 2013.
Alderman Christopher Stalford, Chairman of Belfast City Council’s Development Committee, said: “The council recognises the importance of competing on a European stage and equipping our young people with the right skills to avail of the opportunities that exist in Europe and further afield.
“We are honoured to bring 'Opportunity Europe and Beyond' once again to St George’s Market along with the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland. In its eighth year, the two-day programme promises to be as vibrant and interactive as ever, exploring opportunities of living, travelling, studying and working in Europe with special activities planned this year to also mark the European Year of Volunteering.”
Maurice Maxwell, Head of the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland, said: "The European Union has a significant impact on life in Northern Ireland. Opportunity Europe and Beyond is a unique event that allows people to gain an insight into what Europe means for them. As well as highlighting the importance of Northern Ireland's European and international links and the relevance of language learning in today's global economy, 'Opportunity Europe and Beyond' encourages a greater understanding of the many different cultures in Northern Ireland."
Nelson McCausland, Minister for Social Development, said: "I’m pleased to be opening this exciting exhibition which shows the diversity of cultural life in Northern Ireland and the opportunities there are for our young people. Young people here today have a wonderful chance to learn about different cultures and languages and about the opportunities there are to study, volunteer or even work aboard."
“I hope today will give young people some ideas about how they can join in as volunteers and get involved in things that they care about and are interested in. The experiences and skills they gain can help them develop and mature into responsible adults and active citizens."
'Opportunity Europe and Beyond' is organised by the European Commission Office in Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council and supported by Northern Ireland CiLT, the British Council, Volunteer Now, the Office of the First Minister and the Deputy First Minister, the NI Council of the European Movement and Belfast Metropolitan College.