Once upon a time (1998J), when Turkey was totally out of the European programmes, there was a young girl, raised in an average income family, who had never ever been abroad (it was only the elites who had the chance to travel in those times), dreaming of changing the world as an active citizen (at least trying to). Trying to make a change in the society where she was living, she found out about and joined Youth for Habitat Turkey. Just after becoming a member of the youth NGO, EU–Turkey membership negotiations had started and she was nominated to follow up the EU process within the NGO. Turkey joined the Euro-Med Youth Programme in Turkey (1999) and she had the chance to join the first Euro-Med Youth Project in Turkey.
It seems a long way back… when we as young people had limited access to travel, to learn a new language, and to meet our peers around the world.
I joined the team to lobby for Turkey to join the EU Education and Youth programmes – and made it! Finally, in 2002, Turkey was connected and I started to work as the Erasmus Institutional Co-ordinator in 2003 in the pilot university. Thanks to the empowerment of the youth partnership I became a youth trainer at the European level and started to touch many young people’s lives. Turkish youth also started to discover the world, thanks to the programme, and I had the pleasure to be a part of it. It was the journey of my life while travelling all around Turkey, where amazingly I started to discover my country and my culture while disseminating the EU youth programme.
Intercultural learning, informal learning methods, breaking prejudices… oh my god, what was going on? I really enjoyed and even changed my academic career from English Language Teaching to Public Administration – EU Studies. It was totally a discovery of my competences, my inner world, my skills in volunteering, teaching, sharing, communicating and my passion to discover other cultures and the world.
Let me tell you about my first stay at the European Youth Centre Strasbourg; it was my first training abroad with inspiring trainers. The day started with “The River” in front of us, hands and ankles tied to each other. We were all enjoying ourselves and I was laughing a lot with my lovely partner, but suddenly we were interrupted by our trainer’s puzzled face: “Come on! You Turk and you Greek.” We were immediately shocked and asked each other, “Are you Turkish, are you Greek?” I am sure you are familiar with the history and this was totally different from what we both had been taught in the history books so far. This was the lesson of my life which taught me not to judge the book by its cover… Each human being is a virtue, another world to discover and learn from.
With training courses like Step in and TATEM… the youth partnership made me concentrate my work in the field of the European Union Education and Youth programmes, and the next challenge was to open a new path to gather together young people from all around the world, to bring new vision and enable them to learn from each other. I appreciated the impact on me of the Council of Europe youth centres in Budapest and Strasbourg and I dreamt of opening one in Turkey. So I initiated a “Youth Centre” at the university. I started work on it and took part in the Quality Label process of the Council of Europe where I met modest, special people. I learned a lot and was nominated for the first Quality Label at the university and succeeded in gathering together youth workers, trainers, NGOs and combining informal and formal methods as well. It became a kind of school for the youth field. After that I was invited by the Abdullah Güll University (AGU) to initiate a research and implementation centre on youth work, the “AGU Youth Factory” in Kayseri, aiming to empower young people and validate volunteer activities and youth training in a university. This has been a great challenge for five years now and keeps on touching lives with young people for young people.
This invaluable experience at the EU level with various projects and trainings from my work in these fields made me who am I today: my values, my career, my strengths. The EU-CoE youth partnership not only touched the life of a young person, but changed the lives of many young people with fewer opportunities, even changed the vision of the institutions.