Updates from Tallinn

Hey EuroPeers,

I hope everyone is doing well and enjoying the last of the summer after probably the weirdest, not so wonderful summer of our lives! I have been in Tallinn for three weeks now and the transition from the UK to here has felt like a big step away from Coronavirus (fingers crossed) whilst taking a giant step towards readjustment to a new culture! The initial shock of no longer wearing masks, limited socialising and virtually no social distancing has taken a while to sink in. Sauna-ing with work colleagues, navigating different social cues, and getting lost in supermarket aisles are all part and parcel of settling in, a familiar feeling that I am sure many EuroPeers can share from when they began their European Solidarity Corps or Erasmus+ projects.

But in the EuroPeers international world, digital activities and developments soldier on. Here are just a few…the EuroPeers Steering Group has been selected! We had such a high quality of applications from extremely dedicated and passionate young people around Europe. There was even interest from Serbia and Albania which demonstrated the vast interest in the Network and space for growth. There will be EuroPeers Youth representatives from the UK, Finland, Italy, Austria, and Serbia! We’re sending out the message “participation before borders” and motivation really matters. Keep your eyes peeled for an introduction to this team on the EuroPeers International Facebook Page and Instagram!

We’re also looking for EuroPeers with a passion for photography who would want to help with our Instagram launch! It is an opportunity to have a one-to-one workshop and photoshoot with Facetime extraordinaire Tim Dunk. Check out his work here. The project will promote the strong unity and togetherness of EuroPeers in the face of Covid-19 and serve to engage newcomers to our community who might never have even heard of EU Youth projects! You’ll learn some great new photography skills that you can harness for future projects, especially in the Corona digital era. The only requirement (unfortunately) is that you have an iPhone or can borrow one from a family member/close friend for the shoots you will learn to do!

Please email the European Network Coordinator ASAP at Emily.Keal@archimedes.ee if you would like to be involved!

We hope to hold the workshops in September.

By Emily, European EuroPeers Network Coordinator

What’s next?

It is fair to say 2020 took many of us by surprise. Much has happened in a matter of months, which has toyed with our emotions like ping pong, and shaped our behaviour (through fear-mongering, hope, education, or a new law passing). If you are reading this then you have lived through some major incidents, which will be studied in years to come.

In particular, the pandemic and the consequences of a lockdown (on economics, social, political, environmental, health, etc) has affected everyone (in different degrees of severity). We have been challenged with adapting to new ways of coping in our individualised situations, including but not limited to social distancing, good hand hygiene, face masks, and working/studying from home, and for numerous households living with little means.During all of the constant changes and uncertainty of the future, it is important to take care of one’s well being. A change of scenario usually helps me. As a result, I recently agreed to drive to St Andrew’s from London to help a fellow Londoner move out of her flat. During my stay, I made a last-minute decision to meet with a fellow EuroPeer in Glasgow, whom Olga put me in touch with. Edyta and I met for the first time and we clicked straight away. The hours flew by and our conversations gained depth almost immediately. It was exactly what I needed-a talk with a fellow EuroPeer to get me excited with all the possibilities. I wonder what’s next?

2020 is far from over, and although the restrictions of lockdown have eased in many places, CoronaVirus is still taking lives. I wish you good health and many positive experiences in the coming months. We have been through an awful lot, so wrap your limbs around your body and give yourself a warm hug for all the things you’ve encountered. A really big well done to you for your resilience (and attempting the hug)! 

By Ruma

EuroPeers Youth Steering Group

Are you passionate about your EVS/ESC or youth mobility schemes? Do you have visions for what the EuroPeers network should look like? Do you have experience in project planning or would like to give it a shot within an international team? If you answered yes to any of these, then we are looking for you! EuroPeers are selecting SIX enthusiastic people aged 16-30 (just like Austrian EuroPeer Lina, pictured!) to join their EuroPeers Ideas Steering Group!

This is an opportunity to work directly with National Agencies for Erasmus+, and to help shape training opportunities and future projects. We want the team to be super representative with differing levels of ability, so we encourage EuroPeers from all over Europe to apply! EuroPeers’ future is in your hands, so seize the opportunity! 

Please send us a message on Facebook if you are interested in joining, along with a short bio, what skills you have, what ideas you have to take EuroPeers forward, and why EuroPeers is important to you. Alternatively, you can email the Network Coordinator at emily.keal@archimedes.ee for more info. We can’t wait to hear from you!

By EuroPeers International Team

Nathan’s Youth for Europe

Hi everyone!

I hope you are all keeping well and enjoying the lovely weather (while making sure to stay safe)!! As you will have seen from previous editions, some of the EuroPeers have been involved in a project called Youth4Europe.

I’ve been fortunate enough to take part in 3 of the online talks: 

The first was with Niklas Nienass, a German MEP, where we discussed the proposal I helped to create during a youth exchange in Spain last year. Then I joined as a guest for Norry Ascroft’s talk on the Truth Against Bullying, a book he has created for education providers in the UK to reduce bullying and mental health issues that young people face.

Lastly with Leigh Middleton, the CEO of the National Youth Agency, who spoke about youth work in England. 

All of the talks were extremely inspiring and gave me reassurance when thinking about my future in these uncertain times. I would highly recommend going on the Youth4Europe Facebook page and having a look at the plethora of interviews on there. At least one will inspire you!!!

Now the talks have come to a close. So the organisers of the project hosted an awards ceremony, on Zoom of course! It was a great close to this chapter of Youth4Europe; full of laughs and heartwarming comments and it made me realise how lucky I am to have been a part of it.

Now all that is left is to look forward to the final meeting in Brussels this October!!!

Best wishes,

Nathan 

 

 

Harry’s project in Finland

Hi! I’m Harry, from the UK and I’ve been volunteering in Finland since January. My project is based at a Youth Centre in Kokkola and my voluntary work here has been incredibly varied.

My day to day tasks generally include helping out with the maintenance of the grounds and buildings and also organising events. As well as this, I have had the opportunity to visit some Finnish schools and talk with the students about my country and it’s culture, which was really enjoyable as it led to some interesting discussions about the differences between our countries and hopefully encouraged them to consider travelling and volunteering abroad themselves in the future. Another part of my project has involved running a café, alongside another long term EVS volunteer, which has been hugely successful and allows us to meet many of the locals to practice our Finnish language skills whilst serving an array of food and drinks.

There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic certainly interfered with my plans, but recently I’ve had more time to reflect on some of the amazing experiences I’ve had here. I went to my first ever Ice Hockey and Floorball matches, I went ice swimming, I’ve gone on some spectacular walks in nature, spent many hours in the sauna and most importantly have met some wonderful people. I’m looking forward to the rest of the summer now that things are close to being back to normal and I’m able to travel further around the country and experience more of what this incredible country has to offer!

By Harry

Returning from EVS

What would you find most interesting about my return to the UK during the lockdown, I wonder? The empty train stations? The rolling countryside? The police waypoints and deserted airport? How about the massage I got from the eighty year old homeless man who just lived right there in the terminal? It was a rough night, sleeping there on the cold tiles, but for him it was normal (old normal).

There was also the army there at the airport, patrolling around in groups. They had automatic rifles, but thankfully spent most of their time smiling at the pretty hostesses. They did a thermal scan on me before I got on the plane.

“Parli italiano?” The man asked me.

“Er… Inglese è meglio per me,” I replied, a little begrudgingly. 

I’d hoped my Italian would be better by the time it came to leaving. I’d had ten out of the twelve months of my volunteering project in Italy, and when it came time to leave I’m lucky to say that it was by my own will, not forced by the current circumstances. 

I’d been living quite comfortably through lockdown conditions in rural Umbria in fact; getting lots of sunshine and eating great food in what is already a rather isolated part of the world. But the truth is, I’d found my volunteering placement extremely challenging at times, and the lockdown had taken away all the little social events that were going to be the stepping stones to get me through until the end of my year. It didn’t affect me much to begin with, in fact I’d even discussed with my host the possibility of staying on longer if circumstances made it difficult for me to leave. Then suddenly, one day at the beginning of April, I started looking for a flight and had the strongest urge to pack my bags, which I did, and was fully ready to leave on a moment’s notice despite the fact that I hadn’t decided I truly wanted to. By the end of the month, I was gone.

I’ve come to appreciate what a valuable thing that is nowadays, with the travel restrictions. Of course I wouldn’t encourage anyone to travel unless it’s really necessary, but I think it’s also important to know that it’s possible. If you need to go, you can go – it just takes a little extra planning and preparation.

When I arrived in the UK I came straight to Scotland, where I knew I could maintain social isolation, and where I had a new project to step right into – helping develop a meditation retreat in a remote western glen. Right away I’ve begun applying the skills I learned and developed as a volunteer. We’ve set up a tunnel so we can start growing our own produce, and this week we’ll be planting six or eight fruit trees, which will make a nice shady grove someday. It rains a lot here and when it’s cold we light a fire and put the kettle on for tea. I tried haggis for the first time the other day, and it was very tasty.

Change is the very nature of Nature. I’ve heard lots of great stories from people making positive changes in their lives, as a result of these big changes, and that’s so reassuring for me. Of course, we have to remain pro-active not only re-active but in the meantime let’s continue to adapt to what comes, shall we? 

(…and enjoy the haggis along the way.)

By Joseph

Mental Health Motorbike

Momentum World’s Creative Director Paul Oxborough has started a new not for profit organisation called the Mental Health Motorbike (www.mentalhealthmotorbike.org.uk). This aims to support bikers of all ages who deal with depression and mental health issues.

As a society, we are going through an extraordinary time where the need for support services is definitely on the increase. There is more demand in people wanting to talk since the onset of the virus. The Mental Health Motorbike is a small team of 3 staff and 15 volunteers (who support our work at events and via fundraising activities) but have high ambitions of how they want the biking community to engage with their own mental health recovery. 

Aim 1 – to get qualified mental health first aiders in a bike shop or club in every town and city across the UK. This will create a strong backbone for the network. The mental health first aid course is a Government approved scheme (https://mhfaengland.org) MHM has a team member who is an accredited trainer able to deliver these courses. 

Aim 2 – To create the Mental Health Motorbike Foundation. This will provide opportunities for people to apply for support in a project/training course/ activity that will help with their mental health recovery. 

Aim 3 – To attend a minimum of 12 events per year reaching out to the biker community directly. The branded motorbike will attend these events and be very visible and encourage people to come and talk and join the network. Many of the volunteers are people recovering from mental health issues and they will represent the Mental Health Motorbike brand at events. 

The team are also exploring how to setup MHM ride out’s and meetups which allow people from all over the country to meet up and explore how they feeling as part of an organised activity.

The MHM have realised there is nobody else providing a service like this so they are a unique organisation that is generating a great deal of interest. Since the start of this month, they have already supported 8 people in crisis and 45 people through our online support. They also have a Chesterfield bike shop/garage (www.sdmotorcycles.co.uk) sponsoring the bike, they provide all the running costs, servicing, tires and MOT to keep the motorbike on the road. 

Over the next few weeks, the MH motorbike will be branded in the 2020 designs and anybody that comes on board can have their sponsorship or company reflected on the bike, their logo ion all materials going out as well as information website/social media. 

Join them on social media to see this extended part of the Momentum World’s journey to support people with mental health issues.

By MHM Team

Time For Tea

I hope most of you have already heard about Momentum World’s Time for Tea project. It is an educational activity which uses tea to give young people a voice. It is about global learning, creative thinking, and social action. It is simple, fun and open to everyone regardless of age, background or ability. Wherever you are in the world it’s easy to get started. We have been working on updating the website over the past couple of months and it is now almost finished.

Please take a look here:- Time4Tea

We would love you to get involved with the project and, while current circumstances mean it is impossible to get a group of people together physically, it is possible for you to take part virtually via Tea TV. We are looking for short stories consisting of two film clips of you, firstly introducing yourself and making a cup of tea, and then talking about something which is important to you whilst drinking the tea.

Full instructions can be found on the homepage of the Time4Tea website.

We will gather everyone’s stories and feature them on our website and also on social media.

If you have any questions please send an email to office@momentumworld.org

By Sarah

Youth 4 Europe Summit in Italy

On the 31st of January 2020, the UK officially exited the European Union and entered the transition period. In spite of these events, I was taking part in a Youth 4 Europe Summit in Italy and felt just as European as ever. 

What is Youth 4 Europe?

Y4E is a long-term project funded by the EU Commission under the framework of the call ‘European Youth Together’ (KA3 Erasmus+). It brings together young people from the UK, Italy, Germany, Spain and Romania to discuss, debate and deliberate their own policy proposals on key topics to the EU. Over the past year, the topics covered are; non-formal education, the environment and media. In Italy, we focused on the latter and my team decided to particularly focus on the misrepresentation of minority groups in advertisement.

It’s an amazing project because it facilitates young people’s active participation in democratic processes. Y4E helped me feel that my voice was valuable, and listened to by the European community and it’s so inspiring to think that my team’s proposal actually has the chance to inform European legislation in Brussels. All this, in spite of Brexit. 

What was the setting?

If you have been to a yoga class, practiced mindfulness or guided reflection, you know that the leader of these activities will often ask you to imagine a peaceful, happy, calming place. This might sound super abstract, but bear with me…Monte Barro was that place for me. We were staying in an Eco Hostel in the Lombardy Mountains overlooking the Brianza region, not far from Lake Como. It is no exaggeration, and maybe not enough to say that the view was stunning. In 10 days, in this secluded mountain range, I never tired of this view, I never wished we had more shops or busyness surrounding us.

 

It was a perfect, stimulating environment for learning. We were also very spoilt by the hostel’s chefs Antonio and Vito, who offered us an endless supply of lasagne! Helping out in the kitchen in our cleaning teams was never boring with homemade Sicilian wine and lots of dancing! 

How did the project develop?

Y4E proposals are ultimately produced in film format, and the whole programme is super innovative. Y4E values young people’s input into policy-making in a way that I’ve never seen happen here in the UK. We spent the first couple of days doing team-building activities and getting to know each other. We practised intercultural learning and did lots of exercises using non-formal education. Gradually, the activities became more and more guided towards the general topic: media. With help from the facilitators, it soon became clear who was interested in which topic and we formed proposal teams.

My team were aptly called ‘ALLIES’ as we chose to focus on the misrepresentation of minority groups in advertising. After much deliberation, we decided that minorities are not necessarily underrepresented, but rather misrepresented. We are concerned that corporations are including marginalised groups in their advertisements, but it is on a superficial level. These corporations want to appear progressive, and politically correct. But really, they disregard whole communities, and include others just to meet a quota. Even when they do represent some, history has shown that their adverts are insensitive and unrealistic in relation to the communities they represent.

In order to try and mediate this issue we proposed a new initiative for municipalities in EU Member States;

  • Introducing consultants to advise municipalities on advertisements that meet ethical standards agreed by representatives of marginalised groups. These consultants themselves will be employed from the minority communities they act to represent.
  • Offering publicly-owned advertising space at a reduced rate for companies that take pride in meeting ethical standards in a fair way, beyond superficial representation. 
  • Launching a campaign to raise awareness of the new scheme with municipalities in EU Member States.

I learnt so much from the different group members during this creative process, everyone had a different perspective from their home country. However, we all agreed that this is such an urgent problem that is present in all our nations. It was so cool to see our paper proposal come to life in the filming of the proposal. We wrote the script, spoke to the camera, and also hand-designed the props. We faced some challenges stemming from cultural political differences and slight variations in specific translations to English. However, it was a huge learning curve for us all, and we were really pleased with the proposal in the end!

Upon my return…

I feel so grateful to Y4E for this opportunity, and to the network of Europeers for bringing it to my attention! I believe it is fundamentally important for young people to be part of democratic processes to avoid further disaffection with politicians. If our proposal is successful, we have the chance to return to Milan in May to present our ideas to MEPs and local politicians. Y4E has provided a bridge between young people and politicians that previously did not exist, they have opened up a dialogue that has helped me and 200 others feel they have a say in the legislation that impacts our everyday lives. By taking part, I feel a deep connection with Europe. I met some lovely people from three different countries and we worked together to initiate positive change. The Y4E summit has given me so much energy and motivated me to pursue more opportunities and shout about them to other young people in the UK!

Our proposal video will be published on Y4E’s website in a couple of weeks. I hope you will take a couple of minutes to check it out and vote for ALLIES! The link to the proposals can be found here;

https://youthforeurope.eu/the-policy-proposals-from-the-youth-exchanges/

By Emily

The Power of Curiosity

Have you ever wondered why the brain is able to recall negative experiences with ease but retrieving positive ones takes a conscious effort? Everything could have gone well except for one incident, and then the brain decides that particular incident belongs to the ‘high priority’ section of your memory, and that you shall never forget it. Expect now, you can’t actually remember what was said, all you remember is how you felt. 

My trip to Portugal was awesome! In November 2019, with the help of  Momentum World, I flew out for an Erasmus Plus training programme on News and Running a Social Media Campaign. I couldn’t have been more blessed with the people I met and the exposure to the Portgueese way of life. The rainy cold days didn’t bother me, not with the portugeese hospitality and delicious warm food.I enjoyed the quietness in Castelo de Vide, the daily hugs from my 9 year old roommate, morning yoga/exercise classes, walking through a castle in the dark, saying ‘yes’ to coffee, listening to the words of wisdom from others, accepting plans that didn’t go to plan, and making ‘real’ human connections, which leads to stalking on social media. It’s ok, they know. 

 

But every once in a while we meet someone, and we know almost immediately that we would be happier to spend the rest of our lives without them.  I am quite certain I’ve also been put in that category too. And that is ok. According to Peligrino Riccardi, a cross cultural expert, we should not assume our own assumptions are the same as others, and that it is all about perceptions. The way people perceive us is different from the way we perceive ourselves. The way people understand our verbal and non verbal communication is also varied.  The unfortunate thing is that sometimes we know better, we just don’t do better. Sometimes a thing could have been avoided from escalation if we had just addressed it from the beginning, instead of letting it fester, until bam! Someone is deeply hurt.  

 Although making assumptions can be damaging, our human brains are constantly making them. We are influenced by experiences, education, upbringing, culture, understanding, media and much more. It affects the way we interact with  people. Our brain is constantly making judgments, and even if we suspended our ability to make a judgement, something happens or someone comes along and reinforces our assumptions. Soon our assumptions become a belief. Our belief then affects our thoughts, which triggers certain chemicals to make us feel  a certain way, which then influences our behaviour, leading to a result, which may not always be positive.

The only way I  understand how to interrupt this progress is by having a mindset of openness and curiosity.  Sometimes that can get you into trouble too (trust me) but generally it gets you through many things, and you can ask as many questions as you want, provided it’s done through sincere interest, empathy and good verbal/non verbal communication. There is so much we can learn from the people around us, if we are curious enough. We can challenge and change assumptions, even after an unhappy experience. 

By Ruma Parvin

Youth for Europe: Youth Exchange in Burgos

In December 2019 I participated in my first ever Youth 4 Europe exchange programme around Climate Change, which was hosted in Burgos, Spain.

As an environmental activist, and someone who is both worried and concerned about the state of the climate I was really interested in being a part of this exchange, and to seeing what I would learn over the course of the 10 days that the exchange was taking place on, not only that, but I was looking forward to seeing the type of people I would also meet whilst on this exchange.

The other participants came from 3 other participating countries, so along with the UK team there were also groups from Hungary, Spain and Italy. Through the first few days and after a couple icebreakers I quickly learnt about the eclectic bunch of people I was spending the 10 days with. The whole Y4E group was made of like-minded activists, creative and change makers and together we were going to work on something really special!

The bonding within the group was immediate and started as soon as we were on the coach trip from Madrid to Burgos, and only got better as the time went by! The intercultural evening was not only a chance to learn about everyone’s diverse culture and their home country, but also a chance to share in each others culture, and bond even more! 

But away from the bonding, and all the fun that we had whilst on this trip through getting to know each other and explore our area, we were there for a much bigger purpose, and that was to create a policy proposal around the environment, trying to make the world a better place. In the beginning this task felt daunting, but as the time went by and each persons passions were realised, this did not seem like such an impossible accomplishment.

As we reached the end of our exchange, each group left with a fully realised campaign and policy proposal that we could all be proud with and continue to work on once we were at home and in our own countries, and for me, personally I can say that I left feeling inspired and proud of what I was able to accomplish, and look forward to seeing what else I can do and be a part of.

By Saffron

EuroPeers in Scotland

Three Scots went on an adventure . . . They had never met, they didn’t fully know what they had signed up to, they didn’t even know where they were headed to . . . Having just found out about a fully-funded residential training course in St Albans Academy, London offering the chance to improve confidence, learn presentation skills, media skills, learn about new cultures and make new friends, who could refuse…

This course was run by Europeers which they soon discovered was a network of young people who share and promote their Erasmus + and European Solidarity Corps experiences. These experiences being: funded training, work, volunteering and youth exchange opportunities abroad. This was all new to them and they couldn’t believe what chances were available but now that they know these programmes exist they want to share what they have learnt with the world . . . Well, the rest of Scotland at least . . . And that is what they have started to do.

Having had the most fun weekend of learning and making friends for life they headed home with an ambition to spread the word on what they had learnt. Two of them, who work in local government, thought this would be an easy task to do. It started with them targeting a small group of staff at Aberdeen City Council where they shared their St Albans experience and explained what Europeers, Erasmus Plus and ESC was and how others could get involved. Staff enjoyed this event and also the fact that young people from across Scotland had come together to organise it.

Following this success, they aimed bigger and better for an event at Stirling Council, targeting a wider audience and inviting more guest speakers to attend. It was a beneficial afternoon in Stirling. There was a great mix of people in attendance, all with different reasons for being there; high schoolers looking at what to do before starting university, younger staff seeing what opportunities they could take, staff wanting to find out more so they can share with the members of public they work with and also older staff finding out information to share with their own children. One of the guest speakers shared her own personal story which was inspirational to all and is still being talked about since the event, proving how life-changing the adventures these programmes offer are.

It has definitely got people talking about what is on offer and hopefully, the word continues to spread through Scotland, UK and beyond.

By Emma-Louise

EuroPeers IT-EuroPeers Network Meeting

“EuroPeers Network Meeting”, the Risorgimento Academy expands the youth training horizon.

 

Read the full article in Italian here.

 

 

SAN BENEDETTO DEL TRONTO-Italy – With “EuroPeers Network Meeting”, the Risorgimento Academy of San Benedetto del Tronto broadens the youth training horizon. In this regard, the intense morning organised in the Auditorium of the Accademia Risorgimento raised great curiosity and interest. During the conference, the participants listened to testimonials and guidelines by videoconference with various European countries, to better enjoy the next experiences abroad already planned. As illustrated by the speaker Alceste Aubert (Erasmus Project Manager), the EuroPeers initiative is aimed at students who do not always have access to information relating to European policies in favor of young people. The opportunity to meet other young people who have already lived abroad experiences therefore becomes also a prerequisite for new ideas aimed at the participation and development of new European Projects open to the creation of further training opportunities for young students in the area.

 

A few months ago, the Italian National Youth Agency decided to launch the national network of Europeers in Italy, a network already present in several European countries and which finally arrives also in Italy with the aim of involving young people who participated in youth exchanges, European volunteering experiences, European solidarity projects, structured dialogue at European level or other opportunities provided for in the European Youth Programs, most recently Erasmus + and the European Solidarity Corps .

 

“The initiative is therefore aimed at all young people who, returning to Italy, are available to become promoters of the opportunities that they have experienced firsthand and who, precisely for this reason, will be an incentive and example for other children who do not they always have access to information relating to European policies in favour of young people, and they do not always know what the European Union makes available to all young people” says Aubert Alceste, Erasmus project manager, with more than 40 Erasmus + experiences” The call is still in progress and therefore the Italian network has not yet been formally established.

 

 

By Aubert 

 

Taryn in Hungary

I don’t enjoy working with kids. 

I mean, before November, I hadn’t really done it, but I felt pretty strong in this conviction, horrified every time someone suggested that I consider pursuing teaching. Knowing this, you might question why I decided to apply for an EVS project that would have me spend three weeks in Hungary volunteering with school children. The reason? I wanted a challenge, a new experience, and I heard good things about the EVS, so when my application was accepted, I didn’t think too much about saying yes, prepared to have my mind changed. Spoiler: I discovered that I like children.

And so, on the 25th November, I embarked on a two-day bus journey into the depths of Hungary, preparing myself for the weeks to follow of leading creative arts workshops in schools.

In the first week, we split ourselves into groups – one for music, one for drawing, and one for dancing – and each group prepared a programme to deliver in the schools. As music is a real passion of mine, that’s where I chose to get involved. And I felt useful – I was able to use something that I love to benefit others, teaching young people to play ukulele, helping them to realise the power of their singing voices, inspiring them to feel more comfortable performing. In some places, we were the first people the children had met that came from outside their country.

 

 

On top of this, we prepared a musical performance for the village’s Christmas celebration and our set included a group performance of a song I’d written, ‘30 days’. It was my first time hearing so many people singing my lyrics, and that feeling was incredible. Music is really a form of communication that transcends language barriers, demonstrated by the audience’s reaction to our performance, the children’s eagerness to get involved in our workshops, and the joy we found in singing together in our free time.

We came to know the local people, and this was the first time I’d properly experienced trying to communicate with a language barrier; everywhere I go, it feels like almost everybody speaks English – the common language of the volunteers was my native tongue. But I found it challenging not to know the language of the country, frustrated by how limited it made me feel. However, we found ways around it, using google translate, gestures, broken Hungarian/English to have a conversation. The group’s common language was English, not everyone speaks it well.arry conversation. It was hard work, but incredibly rewarding.

 

 

Although my main purpose there was to carry out work in the community, I found a lot of value in having learned things about myself, other people, and their different cultures. There we were, a group of twelve Europeans plucked out of their normal environments and inserted into the picturesque village of Nagyvázsony. We all had our reasons for being there – some wanting to spend time giving back, some wanting to escape from their normal world, some (like me) filling time in a gap year, looking for a new adventure. But at the start, we knew nothing about each other, and without our usual context of home, friends, and native language, it was an opportunity to present ourselves in the way we wanted to be seen. For me, it was a real challenge, confronted with a question: outside the comforts of my familiar, who am I, really?

We were with each other pretty much 24/7, sleeping, cooking, and socialising together, and when you’re consistently with people for that long, you can’t help but form close, intense bonds. We shared stories of our countries, taught words from our languages, cooked dishes to share. There were hugs and cheek kisses from almost the beginning. Halfway through the programme, we had a four day holiday and spent three nights together in Budapest, which is a truly beautiful city. Although it’s not so easy to live with so many people, and finding time alone could be tricky, it felt like a real community, and I’m so proud of what we achieved.

 

 

My experience in Hungary has been really formative for me. It opened my eyes to so many different things – the Hungarian way of life, the difference in cultures across the continents, communicating across barriers – and I am leaving with a greater knowledge of myself and the way I work. I am so grateful to Fekete Sereg for hosting me, and to all the staff and volunteers for being so welcoming and supportive. I feel I have made friendships for life. If you’re thinking about applying for an EVS project, go for it. International experience is so enriching. You have absolutely everything to gain.

 

 

 by Taryn