The New Federalist – August 2011 (English & French)

Sarah Dejaegher, a JEF Belgium member active on different JEF levels, has written an article on the significance of myths in modern Europe. The article has been divided in two pieces, enjoy!

Sarah Myth Part I Sarah Myths part II

Both articles are also available in French: Part I  Part II

The New Federalist, which is also available in French, German and Italian, has contributors, translators and readers from all over Europe and has been awarded the 2012 European Citizen’s Prize by the European Parliament. Do you want to become a contributor to the JEF webzine, please contact one of our political secretaries for more information!

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The Erasmus adventure: “Galway is the only way”

The Emerald Island:  “Galway is the only way”

In the first semester of 2007 I had the opportunity to go on Erasmus and leave the comfy bubble of Leuven for half a year, which I thankfully did. After having examined all the “Erasmus options” at our university, I was glad to find Ireland on the list . This country has fascinated me from a young age on. And having been on vacation as a child mostly in the European South, time was there to discover something completely new. Ireland combines the southern hospitality with the beauty of  wild and genuine natural sceneries the North of Europe is known for. That was a bingo to me!

Galway, a young yet fast expanding city, located at the West Coast of Ireland was the university city that hosted me for a few months. The perfect blunt of traditional Celtic culture, economic booming progress and the vibe of young students made this place indeed a lovely area to spend half a year in as a foreign student.  The Irish economy was still in the aftermath of its core Celtic Tiger years, as you could clearly notice by the rapid development of residential areas in the suburbs of Galway and the huge infrastructure projects, funded by the EU structural funds. At that time there was indeed a euphoric and hopeful zeitgeist towards the future.

Things that will stay on my mind:

Irish people are known to be very charming whether it is in a pub, at school or on the streets . Their passage in Poznan and Gdansk on Euro 2012 for example, did not go unnoticed for the Polish people living there, who were overwhelmed by the contagious “good spirit” the Irish supporters brought with them. The hospitality of Irish people versa foreigners was also unseen for me: When finding my way in downtown Galway on my first days, I had little chance of taking my map out of my backpack. Because at that very same moment I did, there was already some passer-by, helping me finding my way around.

The memorable “climbing hill”- trips of the Mountaineering Club on Sunday mornings will definitely stay on my mind for still a long time. Perfect wake-up call after a night of tasting Irish nightlife, the Mountaineering Club conquered the  hill tops of the “hidden” Connemara, a rocky and desolated nature area with beautiful landscapes that indeed gave you the feeling this must be one of most beautiful and genuine places in Europe.

The love for music and the pub culture: Especially Galway is known for its rich lively music scene, which is kept alive in pubs and by street musicians.  Every pub has its own live music bands creating  the right atmosphere, right away when you enter a bar. As you know there are plenty of bars in Galway, and therefore there need to be plenty of musicians as well. One time, I heard a captivating tune and I was wondering where it came from. I followed the sounds and to my own surprise I found a female street musician playing a giant harp in a corner in a tiny little alley, far away from the main street with none passers-by or audience whatsoever. The acoustics over there were heavenly. I never tipped so much.

The Cathedral of Our Lady Assumed into Heaven ...
The Cathedral, Galway

There were few to no negative experiences in Ireland, apart from being it very expensive. Also the traffic was quite hectic. As I was used to the bicycle culture in Leuven, it took some time to acclimatize, because the cars were perceived here as the one and only kings of the road.  And when Belgium is said to be fickle when it comes to weather, try Galway, which is to my opinion totally unpredictable. On the other side, due to the proximity of the Gulf Stream, it never freezes, which allows palm trees to grow on the beach sides of Galway coasts. It even allowed me to spend some sunny times on the beaches in the autumn months of September and October.

 Future inspiration

As it is the case with most people who have been on Erasmus, this trip has definitely determined my future views and choices in my life. Erasmus is the single one thing that opens up young people’s mindset and shows them how much there is to discover, how easy it is to have strong ties with people from totally different cultures and background,  which are to my view essential lessons to learn from a young age in this globalized world. Erasmus people are one big family, and I hope the coming years this nearly 3 million-family can only grow faster and bigger as ever before, so Europe has a whole new young generation of true young Europeans, feeling and acting European!

Written by Sam Coomans

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Berlin Seminar May 2011

Finally, my first JEF seminar! So definitely something to look forward to, certainly with a title like “Europe, the day after tomorrow”…                                                                                                                                                                                                                  

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ex]change Youth Exchange in Kiev

The exchange in Kiev was a once in a life time experience. It was my first exchange with JEF,  so I didn’t know what to expect.
Sunday
When we arrived at the first venue I was surprised. The place looked like one where kids come camping in the summer.The accommodation and the food weren’t that good but the company was really nice. That night I already got to know many people. The next day we started the sessions, and most of us tried to enjoy them but some were demotivated by the bad condition of the venue and the so-so food.  In the afternoon we moved to another venue and the exchange was reborn! Everyone was motivated, excited and ready to start with the planned activities.

Monday
Giving an exact definition of volunteering isn’t as easy as it seems. Surprisingly, depending which country the participants were from volunteering was defined very differently. I was surprised to hear negative things. In West European countries volunteering is something positive, most of us do/did it and it is sponsored by the government. In the northern countries it isn’t appreciated at all, ‘spend your time doing volunteer work while you have the possibility to earn money?’
In the evening we had an international evening. Great night! The different cultures were presented in an original way and of course there was good food. I will never forget the dancing courses of Moldova and Azerbaijan! The Turkish guys showed us easy, but really cool dances. Everybody was immediately addicted to dance and we repeated them together the whole week. Tunak tunak tun!!!!

 

Tuesday
On our schedule: Challenges of volunteering. We were divided into different groups and made short plays. ‘It doesn’t make sense: it does’ People who were there understand this. Great idea Josephine!
In the afternoon things heated up by a discussion about how to get funds from the government. Every group was convinced of the subject they represented and we all fought for it! It’s interesting to see that once we want something, we find ways to make it seem as if it’s a basic necessity.
In the evening we had a little party (actually almost every night): intense conversation, dancing and a lot of laughing!

Wednesday
In the morning most of us were tired, but all excited to go to Kiev!
The Ukrainian participants gave us a guided tour in Kiev. But I have to admit the thing I most enjoyed that day was a meal at McDonald’s, cheap and really tasty.
In the afternoon I went to visit some monuments and places that looked interesting. I liked the Saint Michael’s Monastery, the colors were beautiful.

In the evening we had a traditional Ukrainian meal, I ate till my stomach was about to explode! Afterwards we separated, some went clubbing and some went back to the hotel to have a nice, calm evening.

Thursday
This day was kind of a lazy day for most of us. I think that was probably because of the clubbing night in Kiev the day before. We had to prepare the street action, it wasn’t easy but we came up with a slogan for the next day:  ‘without volunteering the world would freeze!’

Friday
When we arrived at Kiev, the police approached us before we could start the action. They wanted to know what we were going to do, how long it was going to take. ‘As long you are not starting a revolution you go ahead and do it’. Our freeze action didn’t last that long. The police followed us during the whole action, and to our surprise we noticed that there was a woman (who was standing with the police earlier) filming us. I still wonder why she was doing that.
Afterwards I wanted some hot chocolate milk… In Belgium, if someone orders a hot chocolate you get hot chocolate milk, but in Kiev they literally gave me melted chocolate. Be careful what you ask for!

 

That night we had another international evening. I have to admit it was one of the best parties of my life! We started with a Belgian cantus. Drinking, singing, eating, dancing, singing… and happy people. The perfect mixture for a good party!

Saturday
A lot was planned for this last day. Despite of the exhaustion I still had the energy to listen to all the information they were giving us. Youth in action, EVS, I want to do it all! I liked the fact that they went through the administration parts with us. Most of the presentations I had got in the past just presented those programs and on the internet you had no idea how to start with the administration part… now we know J

 

The last evening, well it was the last evening… Most people partied like there was no tomorrow!

 

Sunday
Leaving wasn’t that easy. The owner of the hotel demanded a ridiculous high amount of money as compensation for the damage. He called the police and they threatened to put us in prison if we didn’t pay in two hours????????? Crazy, but when the situation escalated we called the ambassadors. I think the owner got scared, he gave us the documents we needed and let us go!
I think everyone was relieved to be back in his/her home country that evening! Two members of the Belgian delegation, Sarah and Ruben, kissed the ground when they arrived.

 

I got to know a lot about other cultures, but most of all I learned about how to start a volunteering project. I hope I will be able to put that into practice. Fingers crossed! And thanks to everyone who helped to make this exchange possible.

 

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European Council – February 2011 (Nederlands)

JEF Gent organised their first simulation of the European Council in February 2011 and managed to welcome President Herman Van Rompuy himself for an introduction speech at the opening reception. Also the media team of the European Council travelled to Ghent and made a nice video report about it. You can see the video HERE.

Simulation Herman Van Rompuy

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De Standaard – December 2010 (Nederlands)

A column by Lorin Parys in De Standaard, one of the biggest quality newspapers of Belgium, written after participating in the speeddating debate of JEF Leuven. During a speeddating debate, participants get the chance to talk with an expert/politician/journalist/… on a certain topic for a short time before switching to another table.

Column Parys

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JEF Belgium Training days in Liège (November 20th – 21st )

Last week-end JEF Belgium energized its members in Liège. More than thirty JEF members from all over the country answered the call for these training days. Presentations, workshops and fun formed the ideal mix to create a challenging experience. We were all ready for an exciting JEF week-end in la Cité Ardente!

The warm-up started early Saturday morning in the station of Liège-Guillemins. The ice-breaking games were warmly welcomed in the November cold of Liège. Once arrived at the youth hostel, JEF got uncovered by presentations on the structure of JEF, from the local level all the way up to the European. Participants were provided the accurate information and so the inner working of JEF and its framework was intensively explained. The general feeling was that these presentations really made the relationship between the different levels more clear. All work and no play makes a JEFer a dull boy/girl, so we dived into the Liègeoise nightlife at Carré. We partied until dawn and spread the JEF party spirit.

After only a couple hours of sleep it was time to get back to business. Via interactive non-formal education in different workshops, participants focused on gaining practical oriented JEF skills. Sessions such as communication, campaigning, finances and motivating new members were on the agenda. Intense and with full commitment was the character of the day. Based on the learning-by-doing principle, we put our theoretical input into practice and created essential output to ensure a bright future for JEF Belgium. So far, the participants were satisfied. “I had a blast and I learnt a lot, which was what I was looking for! Thank you JEF!” Johanna said, thereby stating the general mood of all the participants. Looking forward to the next JEF-Belgium activity!

Post by Koen Colpaert

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