A sunny, clear day welcomed me to Valladolid on Wednesday 18th of September. As I was picking up my backpack from the bus, I found myself wondering what those five days would bring me. I wasn’t sure about what to expect. I did not yet realize how some of my thoughts and points of view about Europe would change in such a short period of time. I wasn’t aware of what amazing people I would meet…
The scenery of this magic long-weekend, as I mentioned above, was Valladolid. The aim was the “Y Vote” Program, developed by AEGEE-Europe and the YVote2014 Project Team. As you may imagine, the purpose of the event was to provide 25 students and youngsters from nine different countries with the tools to promote the voting among the youngest people for the next European Elections. In this context, the participation of people between 18 and 24 years old was less than the 25% in 2009. However, the meeting was about much more. Apart from discussing issues strictly related to the elections, we tackled different other points, focusing on youth participation and involvement in Europe. The time flew by and without noticing, I found myself diving into the ins and outs of Europe, debating things that the day before I had no idea about. I was learning, discovering not only Europe, but also myself, and even teaching, all at once in a vibrant young atmosphere. Sharing with the rest of the participants (by now my friends) our ideas and our concerns proved to be very engaging. We even debated with a Member of the European Parliament, as well as assisted to many brilliant, motivating speeches.
Despite the fact that the content was really interesting, the best part of the event was the feeling I got. You could only have felt what I did if you had been there, in those rooms: the way we got involved despite the tiredness, the way we participated in every workshop, no matter if we had slept only a couple of hours. It was actually as if we could change something, as if we really had a say, and the recommendations we wrote were the finest example. The program itself was exhausting, sometimes challenging and even exasperating, especially when you realized the limitations of what we can do in Europe, but that’s exactly how life is. That was the best part: feeling that we can take part in our future, that we have a say instead of being mere spectators.
I wouldn’t like to end this article without thanking all the participants, organizers and trainers (some of them I call friends now) for their spirit and effort. It was really inspiring to share those 5 days with you guys. You are the ones who made it life changing, not the program or the content. Without you, this wouldn’t have had any sense.
I remembering hearing this phrase during the event and it sums everything up perfectly: “We all have different opinions, and that’s OK. We are not telling you to like Europe, but if you don’t vote in the European Elections, you won’t have a say!”
Now it is your turn.
Written by Javier Uceda, AEGEE-Madrid