“Waves of Democracy”. At first, it might sound a bit too serious and abstract, but the fact this seminar involved young people from seven different countries who were more than eager to share their knowledge, ideas, and culture was assuring enough that this week was going to be an unforgettable one.
“Waves of Democracy” is an annual seminar organized by the International Education Center – IUC (Denmark) and GlobalCitizen in cooperation with European Movement Serbia where young people gather and work together on sharing ideas for possible future projects, policies and networks which might be implemented within Europe… But there is also another subtle purpose of this seminar which is equally important – having people from all over Europe spend one week together is a wonderful way to build bridges among cultures, defy any stereotypes, and eventually build one more coherent Europe.
There were four of us from Macedonia, three of whom were sent by Mladiinfo. Being new to this seminar and chosen by the Mladiinfo team, we didn’t know each other previously; however, the one thing we surely had in common was the zeal to learn and contribute. We left Skopje with mixed feelings, not sure what to expect…but we knew we were about to have one of the greatest weeks in our lives from the first day we got there… What happened?
The first night was intended to be an introduction night where we were supposed to meet everyone. So, at 8:00 pm we went down in the lobby expecting to see a crowd of young exuberant people chit-chatting. And we did see a crowd, a crowd whose age ranged from 30 to 60+…Actually, that was the only crowd, so we had no other option but to assume that this is it – we were about to spend a week with a more “mature” group of people. Fingers crossed, it might even be fun!!! When they started going out of the hotel, we hurried and asked one girl if this is the WoD crew, and when we got affirmative answer we knew we had to follow….After a long walk to Skadarlija, one of the many beautiful places in Belgrade,a man at the entrance of the restaurant where the group entered made us realize that this actually wasn’t our group…We burst into laughter at how silly we must have looked, and at the same time felt relieved cause we knew our exuberant group of young people was waiting for us in the hotel…
The first part of the seminar involved networking workshops where we were divided into groups and, according to our own experience and networks, had to come up with fictional networks or organizations which would work on improving the life of the European citizens…There were many beautiful ideas that emerged from these workshops: The ENJOY Network (European New Job Opportunity for Youth), Brainbook – a place where people can discuss on any topic and share knowledge, Ideapolis – an online platform for sharing skills and ideas, etc.
The second part of the seminar involved committee work where each participant was delegated to one of the five committees which dealt with different aspects of social life and social welfare. All three of us were in different committees, which was especially useful for we got to share different insights from each committee.
Elena: “Since I am a student at the Faculty of Economics in Skopje, I was more than happy to be part of the City and Social Entrepreneurship Committee…This was first time that I got to discuss the issues that concerned me with people from all over Europe. I was amazed at how much the team work with insightful and inspiring people can generate so many great ideas for starting a new small business…I was especially pleased to see that our idea for 3-Wheeled Meal actually won the first place!!”
Natasha: “I am a senior year student at the Faculty of Philology in Skopje. Nevertheless, through my studies in Macedonia and abroad I developed a strong interest about the issues of social relevance, especially the topics of human rights, minority rights, and social cohesion between different cultural groups living in one society. Therefore, being part of the Between Gentrification and Social Cohesion Committee was an invaluable experience where I got the chance to discuss the issues facing Europe, as well as to deepen my understanding of these topics and what can be done to improve the current situation.”
Daniel: “I am pursuing a Master’s degree at the Law Faculty in Skopje and I was part of the Good Governance and Politics in the City Committee. When one talks about politics it is almost impossible not to have disagreements – they are actually the essence of our work. So, as you would expect, people had many different opinions which produced many prolific discussions…The difference in opinion is what makes a conversation fruitful, and a proof that our work was fruitful were the great project ideas we came up with at the end of the seminar.”
Since the seminar started with networking, we tried to keep that spirit throughout the entire week. Other than the official workshops, we spent equal amount of time in sightseeing, bowling, dancing in the wonderful and famous boat bars on the Danube River and enjoying the view from the Kalemegdan fortress. All those moments we shared working and having fun gave us new friends whom we hope to see again on the “Waves of Democracy” seminar next year in Copenhagen. Cheers!!!