Your Mission as a Eurodesk Contact person
I have been working as one of the Eurodesk Contact Persons in Turkey and I must admit it is not as easy as you guess ; however, it is a very prestigious position. Yes, I can readily say that it is not easy because having some responsibility for the Youth have certain rules and regulations.
Let me tell you what kind of experiences you can come across as a contact person in Eurodesk! First of all, you need to have enough information about the EU projects and always stay up to date. When I was accepted as a contact person, I began giving information to at least five youngsters everyday and to tell you the truth you sometimes you find yourself repeating the same things over and over again. At that point, I realized that working as a contact person is not as easy as I thought it would be. I must take care of updated information everyday! Yes it is everyday because a small change in a project can change everything. It was the first month in my position (July) in Eurodesk and with my Association, we were puslishing a web radio broadcast! The topic was European Voluntary Service (EVS) and we had a question from our listeners “Can we go wherever we want?” I am sure it is one of the most common and (sometimes boring ) question Eurodesk contact persons are directed. Anyway, I was just so sure about myself and my answer was “No!” !!! Wow! It was a real disaster because I knew our President was also listening to us and He said “HEY! What do you mean NO? Are you really so sure? As long as you are supported in your project, yes you CAN!” OF course, I did not know it because before coming to this position, I had read about some other countries but not everywhere! But it was a lack of experience. How could I know that there were volunteers even from Cuba ???
Secondly, you need to be patient every second. If you are working in an Association, if it is based on voluntariness and if you are really enthusiastic, It means you are not only a contact person but you are jack of all trades! And of course it brings more responsibility for you. Then, I kindly request you to think about a moment you are working like an ant and somebody visits you to get information about Erasmus + projects! Until now, everything seems okey but I ADVISE you to become patient about two points: Number one: Be ready to repeat what you said thousands of times and number two : watch out for slow-learners! Now, you can understand what I really mean. Ever since I took over this position, I have noticed that most of the foreigners coming from Europe already know the ways of going abroad or for some it may be like a piece of cake , but there is a huge gap between the Turkish and the European ones! It may be a “DREAM” to reach, or a “TARGET” to leave, maybe an “ESCAPE” or something “IMPOSSIBLE” for Turkish youngsters. They may be really desperate and don’t know how to go abroad or it is posible that what you explain may not be clear to them since they are not very familiar with going abroad. It is like talking about snow to an African boy who has never seen snow in his life time before and do not forget that this is one of the aims of Erasmus + projects to break the huge gaps among youngsters and supply the equal projects and opportunuties for them. Just be Patient guys! If you are a contact person, you already know what I really mean!!!!!
Thirdly, you need to know how to convince young people. You need to be aware of the mission and vision of Erasmus + projects so that you can convince youngsters to join the projects they want . Of course, naturally, young people coming from rich families do have better chances to go abroad anytime. However, Erasmus + projects do not make separation among the youth . It is for everyone whether you are rich or not, whether you are educated or not. One of the main concerns is to open a new door for disadvantaged groups such as financially, physically, culturally or personally disadvantaged people or people with fewer opportunities. To tell you the truth, when you explain those details to them sometimes they can’t believe that participating into those projects are totally free of charge.
Fourthly, You are learning to learn in this process. The Association I am working for has been carrying out Youth Projects and there are some foreign volunteers participating in our activities. If this is the case for you as well, then be ready to knit up to these guys and learn about unknown, invisible details of cultures. Let me tell you what I observed years ago when we were welcoming Spanish, Italian and Romanian volunteers. The first thing I noticed is that the Romanian guy whose English skills in the tests were not so high was able to communicate better than the upper-level English Speaking Turkish! Hah, guys, please do not get offended, but this is the reality I have learned that I can never forget. It was not our education system , but it was the foreign movies and TV series broadcasted on TV with ORIGINAL LANGUAGE! If youget used to hearing English starting from early ages, of course you can improve your auditory intelligence. And there is another thing I experienced myself. Most Turkish people think that people coming from Meditereannean areas are closer to Turkish than the others! No guys, this is not always the reality. I remember one game! We were nearly 30 guys in a Youth in Action project and playing a game. In the game, there was a guy in the middle and he was trying to make people laugh. Who ever laughs, comes to the middle. I just remember our dear Italian friend coming from North and forget about laughing, he even did not smile just ONCE! Never! And for my Spanish friend! She was more punctual than the others but please, do not forget to let her/him know what time s(he must come tomorrow but ah we TURKISH! We usually forget it, right? J . In short, what I mean is that there are stereotypes or each culture has certain preconceptions on each culture. However, when you experience it with your own eyes, you come to realize that things you hear are not true. And my dear friends, the other thing I would like to advise you is that please be aware of the different body languages. If you go to Italy and come across an Italian friend, do not get offended by their gestures and mimics. They can show you a big zero with their hand, which means PERFECT! Please, if you like an Italian food, do not close all your fingertips to express “OH MY GOD! SO DELICIOUS! DELIGHTFUL!” no no no no! It means what do you meanin Italian. If you have some volunteers, you can ask them to teach their own cultural stuff on posters. These are what we have learned from them and we are still learning. By the way, you can also learn the differences between the languages. “How difficult and complex grammar Turkish does HAVE!” and be sure you will learn it on the time you are just TRYING to teach Turkish! An additionally, another thing you will learn is the manners of nationalities and languages. One day an Italian volunteer asked me what I said at the end of my phone call “Annene selam söyle (Say regards to your mother!” and she thought I knew her mother but no I didn’t and she was surprısed. The first question she asked was “Then why do you send your greetings and regard to someone you do not know?” The answer was to keep my silence!
So my dear friends, new contact persons , these are some of my thoughts that I wanted to share with you over my five months of experience in the field. There is of course more to say, talk too much and add some more but enough is enough for now. Make sure that you KNOW that you do carry out a lot of responsibilities as a Eurodesk Contact Person. Feel the importance of your task from heart and be careful about the one sitting in front of you. Find disadvantaged groups and join them into your community for social inclusion!!