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No Borders Citizens, Timo: " A crazy and beautiful experience in which I learned an incredible amount of things"

To put it briefly: It's been a crazy and beautiful experience in which I learned an incredible amount of things. During these 10 months I felt like no week was like the one before. I met a lot of people, faced new challenges and gained a ton of experience. The project took place at the cultural association Entropia, which is located inside the University of Calabria in the south of Italy. The project was about the integration and inclusion of international students, asylum seekers and refugees. 

Over the course of my time at Entropia I was involved in a large variety of activities and projects. Since the restrictions at the beginning of our project due to the Covid-19 situation were quite severe, the opportunities to conduct social activities were strongly limited. However, we were still able to meet some new people for language exchanges and perform outdoor activities with refugees and asylum seekers at a local refugee center. During this time, I also recorded a podcast about the international protection system and the refugee arrival and recognition process in Germany, Italy and Spain, together with my partner in the project. Towards the summer, as the pandemic situation calmed down a bit, we could finally reopen the association for students and some social activities. From this point on, part of my work consisted of receiving and assisting students, refugees, artists or other visitors to our space. Also, we were finally able to fully start enjoying Calabria by traveling around it's beautiful little villages and beaches.

timo

Our weekly program at the association included a range of activities open for internationals as well as locals. These activities included karaoke nights, public viewings, babel tea (language exchange & socialisation), jam sessions, music and art labs, movie nights and italian courses. Apart from participating, part of my duties were to promote these activities by creating flyers, speaking to people and writing social media posts. I was also involved in the promotion of our festivals and the association in general. Furthermore, we also worked on weekly live radio broadcasts. During the first period of the live shows I assisted by taking care of the social room, which includes operating the social media page, answering comments and passing the comments on to the speakers. In the second period of the live broadcasts towards the end of the project, I worked inside the studio with the speakers as sound director, a role that I really enjoyed.

One of my personal highlights and one of the big parts of my project was the European project “No Borders Festival” in which 40 young people from different backgrounds came together to organise a festival promoting social inclusion. I was involved from the interview process of the participants through to the organisation, the final implementation of the festival and the conclusion period. It was amazing for me to see how people from all over the world came together to work towards the same goal, overcoming any differences that may exist between them.

My biggest challenge during the project was learning a new language from zero, since I didn't have any previous knowledge of Italian. Many people in my environment didn't speak much English, which made it hard to communicate sometimes, but it was also beneficial for my progress in the language. Despite the difficulties I sometimes faced, I was very lucky to have many supportive people around me willing to teach me patiently and help me out in many ways. With their support I ended up being able to communicate decently in Italian.

All in all, I gained a lot of knowledge about European projects and opportunities, refugees and asylum seekers, radio broadcasts, picture and video editing tools, youth work, festivals, social media, and most of all, about people from all over the world and their culture. I also learned a lot about the problems that exist in Calabria, especially for young people. However, I was proud to be part of an association that tries to make a positive change to this reality.

During this year I had the chance to work with some amazing people from various origins. I really loved working on this multicultural team and managed to make some great friends along the way. I feel very privileged to have been able to be part of this project and I feel very thankful towards everybody involved in having made it possible. Overall, this experience was one of the best I ever had and I feel that it impacted my life and me as a person immensely.

Timo Knoferl - European Solidarity Corps Volunteer