Just one short story of presence

Author: Zuzana Reveszova

This is a story of a girl whose life since the high school times has been markedly influenced by going abroad regularly and being part of international communities. I am taking the advantage to share my experience with youth work, just because it concerns one of the best things I have witnessed (or been a creator of) in my life. I shall want to share this also for the reason of supporting every doubting youngster who still hesitates to start his/her own activity in the field of youth work and international exchange organization. My opinion and statement is clear in a way – go for it and try it at least once in your life.

I joined the youth exchange within the Youth in Action programme for the first time by accident: I was a voluntary assistant at a camp for kids recovering from cancer in Slovakia. After the event, the camp organizers offered me to participate in such camps on an international level in Belgium and from then on I jumped on a train of “internationality” and “youth activity” and went to several other exchanges. I also went to other countries to take part in the Human Rights education trainings and I did all that being under the minimum eligible age – I was 17 and inexperienced in anything.

Having passed some trainings on organizing exchanges and writing projects and with my high school forcing me to take part in something more actively (meaning not only to take advantage of being “international” and not to go to school), I decided to take the opportunity and at the age of 19, i.e. old enough, start being the one that is actually active. At that time I tried to motivate (I guess successfully) some of my friends to help me organize several meetings concerning Human Rights education, promoting European Youth in Action programme and after a while, we wrote our own project of youth exchange on a topic of tolerance.

So, we did whatever it took, such as struggles with the principal discussing my way to Finland and my duty to organize something that wouldn’t represent just me but the school as well, and then, nine girls – all of them being younger than twenty – started counting the budget, calling partners and drafting a program that would fulfil (not only) their dreams about a beautiful multicultural meeting with participants doing some kind of theater that would result in an art piece. The actual challenge was to meet the European application conditions as well. In the end, the process itself was probably the best example of informal learning process if we take into account the applicability of the skills as the most attractive commodity in the current labor market.

Of course, the exchange itself brought something unique to the life of each one of us. To me – as a leader – I experienced the actual weight of responsibility for money, people and program in its complexity as well as to my friends who took care of the realization of the program and got to know the participants better and found friends or maybe even something more. We all have learnt to get on well with each other by sharing, giving and taking in this small ideal world isolated from the outer problems.

As for the program part, we created a theater piece on tolerance which was performed in Košice, Slovakia, right in the middle of the fountain in the city center. The preparation itself was a hard nut to crack: struggles about the topic, decision-making process for the screenplay, setting the roles and casts and rehearsing, rehearsing, rehearsing. That all was followed by a learning part about intercultural issues and tolerance as well as acting workshops. The great result joined us together even more because of sharing the power of taking part in one piece of “art”. The skills we gained through such an intercultural learning were very useful for our lives either personal or professional.

At this point I would say that it is a kind of a social pressure. We see a lot of opportunities to take part in, which seem to be very attractive, so why wouldn’t we leave? Am I going to be worse then the others? On the other hand, our local community still very often wants to bond us to the local place and tighten the ropes of good education in the curriculum. This issue is, in my view, very questionable. I think that the informal education represented e.g. by this kind of international trainings can in many ways be a supplement to the curriculum, if only the conditions at schools were more loose in letting the students participate in the informal learning system more freely.

In conclusion, answering the current demand of knowledge and experience in the labor market, international informal learning experience is a necessity for a youngster in these days. You may encounter some inconveniences in a struggle with conservative authorities, though. And that is why I think it is vital that the policy makers also participate to see what informal education gives you. And till the time it’s done, it’s up to you who you decide to follow. Just remember what can be more fun and “important” for you in the future…

This is one of the winning articles of the Mladiinfo Article Writing Contest. The content of the articles does not necessarily represent the view or the position of Mladiinfo.

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