Becoming a Berliner

One very eventful, enriching, and memorable year in Berlin through the European Solidarity Corps programme has come to an end. It’s still difficult to comprehend how fast a year goes by. Before moving to Berlin, I was very much looking forward to stepping out of my comfort zone, getting new experiences, and discovering new skills and passions, which can help me to grow both personally and professionally. When thinking about the past year, I could say that it was beyond my expectations in many ways.

As I had already been involved in the activities of ICYE Finland for several years (e.g., as a board member) and had been an ICYE volunteer in Ghana, I was thrilled that I got the opportunity to dive even deeper into the dimensions of the ICYE network in this vibrant and inspiring city that offers so incredibly much to explore. The international office of the ICYE Federation is responsible for the overall coordination, development, and administration of the voluntary service exchange programme between the Federation’s member organisations located across the world. I was responsible for specific office operations (e.g., issuing insurances, updating the project database and website, answering information requests by e-mail and phone), producing content for social media channels, planning and publishing social media campaigns, and creating newsletters. I also assisted in preparing and organising the biennial ICYE General Assembly with the participation of 60 international visitors from 35 member organisations.

“When thinking about the past year, I could say that it was beyond my expectations in many ways.”

Through this experience, I was able to develop an understanding of a different kind of working culture, reinforce my intercultural communication competence, improve my German language skills, as well as gain insights into the strategic and operational work of an international NGO. It was very interesting for me to follow up closely how the coordination, implementation, and evaluation of EU-funded projects occur. I was also able to increase my knowledge about topics related to intercultural learning, international volunteering, global justice, anti-racism, and diversity. Moreover, I developed skills and competencies in project management, content creation, networking, and event planning. I liked the variety of my work tasks and having the opportunity to largely decide myself, based on my interests, which types of tasks to focus on. I feel like I could make a positive contribution to the growth and development of the ICYE network.

One of the highlights was the ICYE’s General Assembly where I was able to meet many people from our member organisations and connect with them on a deeper level. I would like to say a warm thank you to all my lovely work colleagues for their support, guidance, and encouragement. I’m glad to have been part of such a wonderful and inspiring team.

The excitement of moving to a new city, creating a new daily routine, and learning to be comfortable with discomfort allows you to get in touch with your inner self in a totally different way. Settling in a new environment indeed has its challenges, especially in the beginning but it belongs to the adaptation process, and overcoming all the setbacks gives you the biggest confidence boost – everything can be achievable! To me, living abroad provides a great opportunity to challenge oneself, make new social connections, and build one’s cultural sensitivity, which I believe is also a strong asset in the globalizing world. This experience has helped me to reflect deeper on my career path and strengthened my ability to adapt to different cultural settings even in a fast-paced environment. After spending this one year in Berlin I can now recognize, verbalise and present my skills and weaknesses better. I strongly believe that this experience will support my career objectives and give me the confidence to act professionally in multicultural contexts.

“One of the highlights was the ICYE’s General Assembly where I was able to meet many people from our member organisations and connect with them on a deeper level.”

Leaving Berlin behind causes quite mixed feelings, which above all proves that I truly enjoyed my stay. Saying goodbye to a place you got deeply attached to is never easy but I’m extremely grateful for all the new friendships and gained memories during the past year. This has been a valuable journey full of learning and growing. I’m excited to embrace the new opportunities ahead.

Until next time, dear Berlin!

Fabienne Zogg

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