While the others showed kids how respects insects, I attended the “EU week of regions and cities” at the EU headquarters in Brussels. Even though Tamsweg is a lovely place, it´s always great to make a trip and this was a special one. As an IVY volunteer, I had the chance to attend this event with a group of nine other volunteers. I didn´t really know what to expect, but I was interested in experiencing such a big event and meeting volunteers from other places. And EWS also thought this could be a good opportunity for me to make my first baby steps in the field of “Networking”, a field I am wildly uncomfortable with.
The start: 27 hours on the (rail-) road in three days
But since it always takes ages to get out of Tamsweg with public transport, I decided to make a few more stops on my trip. After leaving Tamsweg on Friday afternoon and spending the night in the train (station), I arrived back home in Frankfurt at 7am, so 14 instead of 11h – as planned – later. Then I´ve only had one day at home, before joining my family to visit my grandmother in Western Germany. The trip back – again – took 2h longer than expected, so I had to rush to pack my ice skates and other winter equipment. At 5 am on Monday morning I had to carry all my heavy winter equipment meant for Tamsweg on a train to Brussels.
The middle: Experiencing the EU
Arriving in Brussels in the late morning, I could luckily drop-off my luggage in the room of other volunteers, who had already arrived the day before. So we spend the morning exploring Brussels, before we all met to attend the big opening ceremony. For the next four days, we spend most of the time at the two venues of the event, informing people about the IVY programme, listening to presentations and getting to know the other volunteers. I attended a few sessions about biodiversity, but this event is targeted towards policymakers, so not quite my field. On the one hand, it was great to see that the EU takes environment seriously. On the other hand, it showed me just how many constraints there are in politics and how slow progress can sometimes be.
One thing I know now is that not only the way to the heart goes through the stomach, but also the way to politics. Free snacks and drinks seem to be a crucial part of the inner working of the EU. No matter in which pay grade people are, free food gets everybody. So after our shifts at our stand and sessions we attended, we joined the mass of suits flowing towards the free food tasting of different regions every evening. The included free wine clearly loosened the mood, so we met several people on the dance floor, which were speakers on panels just hours before.
All in all, it was a good time. Even though I love the alpine setting of Tamsweg, I do enjoy returning to the big city from time to time. Luckily, the other volunteers were great and we had a lot of fun. During the day at the stand, in the evening at the food and wine tasting and one night in a former church. And even though I don´t think I will ever become an expert in networking, it was interesting to get an insight into the EU.
The end: 20 hours on the (rail-) road within 27 hours
On the way back, I made a few more stops. I had to visit my university in the Netherlands and spend two nights there, before starting my trip back Tamsweg via Amsterdam, Munich and Salzburg. The forced 2.5h lay over in Munich luckily flew by thanks to a friend I met up with. In Salzburg, I decided to spend a few hours there before continuing to Tamsweg. Before that I had never seen our closest “metropolis” (I just found that Salzburg only has 150 000 inhabitants…). So I walked through the beautiful old city center and up to the castle for a few hours, before I finally arrived back here on Sunday evening.