The World Organisation for Young Overseas Cypriots or NEPOMAK (Νεολαία Παγκόσμια Ομοσπονδία Αποδήμων Κυπρίων) has celebrated its twentieth anniversary. The organisation held two successful diaspora youth exchanges to Cyprus in July, The Discover Cyprus Program (NDCP) for those 18 to 22 and the Cyprus Culture Tour for young adults 23 to 30.

Diaspora Cypriots from Australia, Great Britain, USA, Greece, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Germany, Turkey and Canada all converged on Cyprus. Australian born Kerry Tantalos, 23, said it was difficult to pinpoint favourite moments “when everything was so perfect”.

The NDCP is a three-week experience that provides participants with a short summer scholarship to the University of Nicosia. Students attended Greek language, Cypriot history and culture, and Cypriot dance classes. After classes the group visited historical and ancient sites and, in the evening enjoyed Cypriot nightlife.

NCCT enjoying an authentic lunch on their Cyprus tour.

“We stayed at the university campus, did various activities and went on a lot of road trips. We were based in Nicosia but we visited quite a few other cities including Paphos, Limassol, Agia Napa, Larnaca, the Troodos mountains and more. In the afternoon we’d often go out on excursions to the beach, a bar or a club,” Joel Symons, 24 told Neos Kosmos.

Helena Manoussios, 21, said she “had the loveliest tour guide named Katie”.

“She was highly knowledgeable and willing to answer all the student’s questions. “She even serenaded us.”

On the trip Joel said that Lefkara was a “standout location” for him.

Joel Symons, pictured in Cyprus, said that one of the “really nice things the NDCP did was give us friends pretty much anywhere”.

“Lefkara is famous for its silver and lace industries. Across the village there are lots of silversmiths in tiny shops making jewellery. Many of the participants bought little rings or icons plated in silver. Lefkara has a huge olive farm, where I tasted beautiful olive oil right form the source.”

The NCCT is an 11-day professionally guided-tour of the island. Participants took part in authentic interactive experiences such as Cypriot cooking classes and Bouzoukia nights.

NCCT group in Cyprus ready for an adventure of a lifetime.

Advisor Stephanie Demetrios, 28, said that they began in Paphos, where they visited archaeological sites, such as the Tomb of the Kings, Agios Pavlov’s Column and the Basilica, the archaeological site of Nea Paphos and the mosaics, Palaipaphos as well as sites of geographical and environmental significance; Akamas Peninsula, Avakas Gorge and Lara Bay.

“We visited a kafeneio in the small village of Pano Arodes where we learned about how traditional coffee is made in Cyprus using hot sand. We also visited sites relating to the Greek goddess of Cyprus, Aphrodite such as Petra Tou Romiou and Aphrodite’s Baths.”

“The next part of the tour took us to Troodos. Here we stayed in Lemythou village. Participants visited a local family owned Commandaria winery and learned how the oldest wine label in the world was produced.”

Kerry Tantalos thought that the “whole trip was a highlight”.

Stephanie learned how Loukoumia are made and visited the Temple of Apollo, ancient Kourion and Kolossi Castle. The participants also attended a guided city tour of Nicosia before concluding their trip in Larnaca.

Joel said that one of the “really nice things the NDCP did was give us friends pretty much anywhere”.

“Come week three, everyone became a family. I feel like I could go to London now and not only would I know people there, but I might even have a place to crash.”

Kerry Tantalos called whole trip “a highlight. Before NCCT, I did not feel a strong connection with Cyprus and my Cypriot heritage. If one were to ask me what culture I was, I would say Greek-Australian as I have grown up learning Greek in school and not Cypriot. I definitely feel more connected to Cyprus since undertaking NCCT. NCCT covered many parts of Cyprus and enabled me to feel at home. After the 11 days, I no longer felt like a tourist.”

NDCP channeling Aphrodite in Cyprus. Photo: Supplied

Participants had the chance to attend the World Conference held across four days. The conference consisted of seminars workshops and discussions and briefings from Cypriot ministers on the Cyprus issue, diaspora education, Cypriot energy policy and hydrocarbons, Varosi developments and the missing person’s issue.

The participants also visited the Presidential Palace and attended a reception to celebrate the 20th anniversary of NEPOMAK. The purpose of the conference was for diaspora Cypriots to come together and find common solutions to the issues at hand.

“NCCT was so well structured, the tour guides were knowledgeable, the advisors were skilled, the World Conference was thoroughly organised, the accommodation was clean and meals were lavish. Lastly, the people were incredible and we are already planning a reunion next year,” Kerry told Neos Kosmos.

Helena Manoussios, 21, pictured in Cyprus, praised the excellent guide Katie. Photo: Supplied