Discovering my Identity by Afag Nadirli

Context of Author

I am the Leading Adviser at the Strategic Planning and International Relations Department, Azerbaijan Youth Foundation. I am a person who has a strong belief in the power of interpersonal and intercultural dialogue, in culture, in arts, and in the people who create it.




After participation in youth projects a search of identity begins by the future designer who has some modest information about human rights concepts, and who will soon become a youth worker. A choice between arts and the field of education is to be made. But what about the compromise between creativity and education? Adherence to the non-formal education seems to be the way out!

Story in Full

Soon I was to be a graduate student of the Graphic Design Department of Moscow State Technical University and was keen to realize the dream of my entire life, I was going to become a designer. Just before this I had the chance to take part in several youth projects. Particularly, I should mention the Youth Peace Camp of the Council of Europe, Youth Department. However at the last moment before sending my application, I changed my mind preferring another project on Intercultural Dialogue organized within the Youth in Action Programme (now Erasmus+).

In 2012 I entered the university in Moscow to get my second degree, I was approaching a lifelong desire to be engaged in Arts ad Design. I was working, studying, enjoying the workshops, exploring the city. Was I thinking about human rights while making my next drawing in the Coloristics and Composition workshop? I don’t think so, and then…

…on one of the April evenings on my way back home after a long day of studies and work, I was scrolling the Facebook newsfeed on my phone when I came across an announcement on the Council of Europe page. It made my heart beat a little faster. A call for applications for the Youth Peace Camp 2012 was open for 3 more days.

2 months later, I was enjoying the Welcome Evening of the Youth Peace Camp 2012. 5 days later on, I was thinking about applying for this project again as a facilitator. 10 months after that, I was attending the preparatory meeting of the Youth Peace Camp 2013 for facilitators and trainers and then working at the Youth Peace Camp 2013 as a facilitator. 12 more months after that I was facilitating at the Youth Peace Camp 2014.

The brilliant organization of the whole project, the professional conduct of the training course itself, the atmosphere of respect, the spirit of exchange among young people, the intercultural communication… all these things and more made it a very special experience, an experience that in fact made me turn my back on design. This was not an overnight decision, but a 2-years-long way from a dreamer to a young woman who was determined to contribute to the development of the youth sector in her country. Inspiration by my fellow facilitators’ work, their ability to hold the sessions in simple unsophisticated ways making them absolutely clear and intelligible, to build strong group involvement, to raise topical issues and to speak about vulnerable topics in a delicate way – all that was strong enough to reinforce my new aim to be involved in youth work.

Soon after the Youth Peace Camp experiences I began to work for the National Youth Foundation. My worldview and even my long-term plans were impacted. Civic engagement became a priority in further activities. The intercultural learning and dialogue, the link between identity and stereotypes became the subjects of my interest and research. The Youth Peace Camp taught me that there is no little work, every little step can become a large-scale movement. People-to-people communication and the non-formal education methods became my new Coloristics and Composition workshops.

Design still has a special place in my heart and my long-term plans, but my identity tells me there is still more space for youth work in my life.