It’s always a pleasure to spend a day in Leeds, a city which seems to have something hiding around every corner, making me feel like a kid in a super sized sweet shop.

It was blustery but dry when I turned up to the St George’s Centre and introduced myself to the organising team, and it wasn’t long before participants started turning up too. Whilst they were shedding layers and getting to know one another, I prepared for the Europeers UK workshop I’d be running later in the day.

I’ve been working with Momentumm World for about six months now, so I’ve experienced one or two workshops. But it was a first for me to be leading one for other people! I was eager to get things right, and thankfully had a framework provided by Olga, so that all I had to do was implement. Still, it was with the thrill of tickling butterfly wings that I wrote out my flipcharts and visualised the icebreaker.

Meanwhile, everyone had arrived and was engaged in an icebreaker of their own. There was almost sixty people in total, mingling and chatting thanks to the human bingo game. There were many young faces; almost forty were of 16-18 year olds there to explore international opportunies.

Interestingly, a quick vote revealed that the majority were focusing on educational opportunities, with comparatively few showing interest in voluntary work abroad. This is a theme which was reinforced by conversations I had throughout the day. It seems to me that our education system is very effective at stressing the value of our education system. Whilst on face value this is something to celebrate (and certainly better than the alternative!) it enforces a rigid way of thinking, and sadly does not encompass allforms of education.

In the Formal Curriculum Top Trumps, qualification beats personal experience (which is surely a contradiction of the original ideabehinda qualification!) yet more and more, we see the most exciting employers around the world looking up from the CV, wanting to know whoit is they’re employing, not just what their qualifications are on paper.

A guest speaker on the day, the owner of ethically-focused media organisation Mantra Media, echoed these sentiments.

And so it became clear that my focus at the Stand Out event would be to introduce to the young people the value of soft skills and non-formal education. They were largely very receptive; many of them already had aspirations to study or work internationally, and sought only the howto make it a reality.

Others needed inspiration. They wanted to know my story, to imagine themselves throwing caution to the wind and taking that step out into the world. Having the guts to do so, I assured them, was their biggest challenge in living internationally; not communication struggles, or food, or climate, or making friends – that came naturally.

You have to take a conscious step outside your comfort zone,” I said. “Once you do, you’ll never regret it.”

by Joseph