It's my last week in London. I left home a year ago to start my voluntary service in England and it's been an exciting journey. This isn't the first time that I've tried to put a finger on the changes I've gone through. There are the obvious changes, the ones which are easy to spot. Just look at my hair, blue as it is. It definitely wasn't blue when I arrived in London. And there are so many things I didn't know, so many things I wasn't able to do. I can use programmes on the computer I hadn't even heard of a few months ago. I'm a better, a more able version of myself. But is that what my year was about? Changing my hair colour and creating a flyer with the help of Microsoft publisher? I will have to have a closer look.
I'm more independent, more informed, more grown-up even one might say. I didn't know anyone in England a year ago. I came here with high expectations, dreaming of life abroad. “How new and exciting everything is“, I would think in the first few days. Quite overwhelmed I would stumble through London's busy roads, feeling like I didn't quite belong here. All the people around me seemed much more metropolitan and somewhat disaffected, always in a hurry. But I still had that idea in my head, being one of them. It was quite hard when I realised that living in a cool city doesn't mean you're cool and being on your own a lot doesn't mean you're independent. It can mean you feel insecure and lonely. It's hard to meet new people, especially when you're surrounded by them.
In the beginning life felt like it was too big. Like it wouldn't fit me, like I had to many responsibilities and I would disappoint my colleagues. I got given new tasks every single day and was confronted with problems I had never had before. Nevertheless, I was determined to make an effort. Speaking English became normal and I was comfortable working with children, elderly people and adults with learning disabilities. Now it's clear to me, that I learnt something about myself from all of them. Being tolerant and accepting that everyone has different abilities was the most important lesson. I signed up with meetup, I joined Greenpeace, I went out a lot to all sorts of events. I talked to strangers whenever I had the opportunity. And as I got to know London, I got to know Londoners. For the first time ever I met someone from Slovakia, Nigeria, Finland...! I got used to diversity. Whenever I met someone I didn't expect them to be English, or even European. Being part of this melting pot of people from every part of the world, every religion, sexual orientation and walk of life was an incredible experience.
Before you leave, your friends and family tell you that this might be the most important, character-forming year of your life. If I look at myself now, I'd agree with them. This year opened doors I didn't even know excisted. The world feels somewhat smaller. Visiting other continents and countries seems easy. The person I am now, is who I am. The changes I've gone through are permanent. This was only the starting point. There will be further changes, I will go to university now and move, do the same thing or something entirely different. I won't be content with what I had. Not now that I know that there's a whole world out there waiting for me. I did it once, I can do it again. As it doesn't feel like the ending to me, it won't be the ending. I hope to share that feeling with others and inspire them to go abroad and live Europe. Erasmus+ gives young people the chance to challenge themselves and live up to their potential. And as a trained Europeer this is exactly what I'll tell them at my first event.