My name’s Stuart, I’m 24, I’m from Scotland and since October of 2021 I’ve been volunteering at a youth center in Jenbach called Point. After only 3 months, I’m unmistakably sure that this is one of the most important moments in my life. Being in Austria has changed my perspective on life, work, language, and friendship. I don’t think I could be here at a better time in my life. There are one or two things I’d like to explore in this blog, such as the relationships that can develop between people from different cultures and the purpose behind these ESC projects.
I’ve met more incredible people in the short time that I’ve lived here than I did in 24 years living in Britain. In Austria I’ve made friends with some of the most astonishingly genuine, excruciatingly generous, sweet, unpretentious, and supremely interesting people that I’ve ever had the fortune of getting to know. I’ve shared experiences with these people that I’ll remember fondly for the rest of my life. Whether it’s coworkers within the project, other volunteers, or loosely connected friends of friends that you meet at a party, it seems like everyone here is implausibly smart, funny, talented and above all, friendly. I’ve been surprised at just how fast friendships can develop, some people just click in a way that I’ve rarely experienced before, with concepts like language barriers and different cultural upbringings being forgotten as the conversations develop. Don’t get me wrong, I feel incredibly blessed to be speaking English, and to have nearly everyone I meet able to understand and communicate in my native language, but again I think this speaks to just how fantastically smart and cultured everyone is. It’s indescribably lovely to hear imperfect English spoken with a Turkish accent, or near perfect English spoken with a Spanish accent, or an Italian accent speaking it better than I do. I feel like there’s so much more to connecting with people than just saying the right words in the correct order, it’s something much deeper than that. The human element of this project will, I believe, remain the defining component of the experience for me in years to come. The friendships and connections that I’ve made here are absolutely unparalleled, and that really amazes me.
In November we went to Vienna and met with other volunteers from projects across Austria. I don’t think I’ve ever met a group of such engaging and unique people, and ones with which I felt I had so much in common. I really believe that after meeting the others, there’s a certain reason that we’re all here in Austria, doing these projects together, connecting, sharing our cultures, and exploring new ones. I think there’s a lot of justification for ESC projects that can be listed on a website or a PowerPoint slide, such as fostering relationships between different European countries and cultures etc. but there’s also an intangible energy that surrounds the concept as a whole. Maybe the projects are just a catalyst for this connection, but I think they play two distinct roles: On one hand they bring you here, give you a reason and a means to live in Austria for a year or so, and thus provide a platform to make these connections, and friendships with others, to meet new people. On the other hand, they can create intrinsic motivation to work, to help others and to experience a lifestyle that isn’t primarily focused on just making money for yourself, but rather on creating an environment in which you can make a difference. I believe that the incentive stemming from living your life – albeit temporarily – with the goal of helping others, is an incredibly powerful and interesting source of motivation, and one that seems increasingly illusive in modern life.
There’s really been too many truly exceptional moments for me to talk about in one blog, perhaps I can write another one after I leave and talk about all the great times I’ve had working with the kids at Point and exploring Tirol. At the end of the day, everyone volunteering here decided to apply for a number of reasons, but I think there’s something more to being here than just how we felt when we sent in the applications, it’s a process that creates its own value as you participate in it. In essence, it’s a privilege to be a part of this project, to be in Tirol right now, and to spend my time with my friends and colleagues here. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing at this moment. Thanks for reading. Peace.