From theory to practice – engaging in dialogue in London
I decided to apply for the Leonardo da Vinci programme because I had felt the need for some time to find a practical application for my Bachelor’s degree in history and geography, which is by nature predominantly theoretical. I also wanted to gain some valuable early work experience in another country to improve my English skills while at the same time expanding my horizons.
With this in mind, I contacted the Canton of Ticino office for foreign language and work placements (Lingue e stage all’estero) in summer 2012. Susanna Memoli worked with the LAF agency in the UK to turn my dream into something concrete in just a few months. I opted for a five-month internship in London from January to May 2013 with a focus on multicultural dialogue.
Before my trip, Duncan Cameron from LAF asked me to describe my perfect placement. He then took my response on board and organised a placement with the Dialogue Society, an NGO that aims to advance social cohesion by empowering people to engage in seminars, conferences, courses and publications on the theory and practice of dialogue in order to connect people and communities in different fields.
My role and experience at the Dialogue Society can be summed up in one word: variety. The range of tasks and responsibilities assigned to me was very broad. I wrote e-mails, answered the phone, managed the organisation’s contact database, authored articles for the website and assisted with events in London, Oxford and Southampton. I was even lucky enough to have some input in planning and interview people who have enjoyed success in a vast spectrum of different projects. One such person was Dee Caffari, who sailed around the world single-handed. In addition to working, I also underwent training. The Dialogue School, a ten-week course organised by the Dialogue Society, helped me to improve my spoken language skills and taught me how to manage projects and contacts. It also got me reading some great thinkers’ theories on dialogue and experimenting with techniques to put these theories into practice.
This experience was both intense and rewarding and enabled me to test my own limits and appreciate my talents. At the same time, I learned how to find constructive, creative solutions to problems in both my work and my private life. Most of all, I gained a better understanding of who I am and which direction I want my life to take.