27 December 2016

On EU and Denmark

For 10 months, GEYC sent Ionut for a long term EVS in Denmark hosted by our partners from Crossing Borders. Learn more about his life changing experience. 

I believe in the European Union. I wish to start this assumption by thinking of me as a possible example. Forget the basics! Forget that I am a Romanian citizen, the age and status! Think of a normal human being with a decent average of knowledge, or education, possible dreams, solid expectations and an acute thirst for travelling together with an unceasing desire directed towards curiosity. Which institution or set of political constructs can fulfill this description but the European Union? If you think big, imagine immensities and wish to act upon them, the EU might be the right platform to provide you with the deliverance of all your expectations. It certainly worked on me. I did indeed have a decent knowledge about Europe in general; I did indeed know about our sometimes horrific past, but also learned about the fruits of our common values and principles for which we had stood and passed on from generation to generation. The most important thing though is to be able to make this transition/transfer from a theoretic background to a practical one and this is where the EU stands for. As an institution, it helps you to achieve this reality. It supports you to be better yourself at school, at university or at work. It encourages you to travel and learn about different cultures. And this is where the EU makes a difference. 

In the past, we were told not to copy or transfer from our neighbours their version of success. Nowadays, however, it is precisely this difference that shapes our daily lives. Nowadays, we are actively and freely encouraged to travel around Europe and learn whenever necessarily not only about the ideas that worked well and proved to be a success story in the end, but also from some of the possible unsuccessful stories and make clear that they won’t be repeated in our own lands or sphere of influence. I believe we have the confidence and the ability to search for and attempt to expand our common values, institutions and practices. I myself was the beneficiary of some of the projects, workshops and seminaries provided by the European Union. I myself learned that my reality does not end at the beginning of a finished book, but it goes well beyond that.

The EU offered me not only the solid education I dreamed of, but also the many friends and adventures I could not possibly think of had it not been for my country to be a member of this construct. Sure, it has its flows and sometimes might look incoherent and less pragmatic than it imagined itself to be. However, which institution can claim to be the perfect one? Such as de Tocqueville’s dictum on democracy, I also believe that the European Union is not something we can acquire permanently, but something that needs to be renewed daily; it is a continual apprenticeship. 
Its cause should be indeed our own cause, the cause of liberty, human dignity and above all freedom of all kinds. In the end, I wish to align my thoughts with a view on Denmark, a country in which I had the chance to live on for a year, study it and approach it to the level of close friendship and cooperation. 
I consider the chance of living in Denmark a unique and blissful experience. I started it with a period of learning (approaching and adopting the newly living conditions in matters of custom, people and culture) and then went on to actually practising them to the process of fully incorporating them. I find your ability to respect, promote and above all uphold human values particularly dignifying. As a nation linked between the European Continent and the Scandinavian Peninsula, you have splendidly distinguished yourself in a diverse array of fields: from literature (Soren Kierkegaard, H.C, Andersen and particularly Grundtvig with his famous aphorism: “Human first, then Christian”) to economics (your large brewing brands stand apart in this respect) and then on to a way of life that made you famous worldwide “hygge”. I certainly believe you have the right skills and confidence to continue this common project (the EU) and your input together with your principles are there to stay and make a difference whenever expected and indeed needed. I felt proud when one year ago I had the chance to move to Denmark and live there. I knew I would be exposed to a reality that clearly suited my own. And I was not disappointed. The people I met, the places I visited, the organization I worked for stand today as I write to you as deeply entrenched as they could ever be in my memory. I immediately responded and reacted to this new reality by trying at best to adjust and adapt myself to it. It certainly proved hard at the beginning, but not impossible. Denmark has a way of approaching people that is unique. In order to make friends or acquaintances you ought to find yourself in an organized (planned) environment. If you come here and hope you might get along with a stranger on a train, bus, cafeteria or even supermarket queue then think again. However, as strangely difficult you may find it in such informal ways, it may strike you as surprisingly easier in whatever appointed meetings or events. They say they are rather shy. They say they have got to know at least a tiny bet of yourself before approaching you. Others say it is because of hygge (the Danish expression that epitomizes something close to pleasant, cosy atmosphere). Surprise statement: my English level increased during my tenure in Denmark! They are amazingly brilliant at it. Everybody speaks it regardless of age, status or education. At first, I reckoned there must have been something with the Queen Mother (Margrethe II) being a cousin of HM Elizabeth II of GB but I was wrong. They all indulge in English out of pure curiosity, pleasure and excitement. And it is all so exquisite, so natural. In the end, I can only encourage you to apply for Denmark in whatever form, structure or chance it may come (youth exchange, training, EVS) and be ready to get yourself surprised by an abundance of wonders related to this fascinating Nordic country.  
Ionut-Andrei Manea 

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