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From a mouse to a lion - Benefits on volunteering in YPARD

‘Being the second man’ was my response to the question: ‘which role will you play in a team?

This amongst others was one question my professor asked in order to understand my personality. Certainly, it was not the answer she was expecting and I had a feeling this was not the type of response she was used to. She continued by asking ‘why not a leader?’ I replied without hesitation saying ’because I am not the best at it’ she was not satisfied with my answer and wasn’t planning let me off the hook, I understood that she saw me as a confident person and eagerly tried to encourage the young lady standing in front of her by trying to motivate me to be whatever I want to be.

Finally, I said ‘to me, it is more important to know yourself and your abilities, and to do what you are best at. If you are a good at leading be a leader but if you are best at being the second man to help the leader and your team then be the second man, everyone does not need to be a leader’.

She stopped for a minute and penned some notes on her notebook then she replied ‘I got your point and indeed it is a nice point of view, however, it is always good to open yourself to new challenges and use every opportunity to improve yourself’. All I can say is that she was right, and I learned my lesson after I started to take an active role in the YPARD platform.

Deciding to be the YPARD Kosovo country representative was and is my challenge and an opportunity that helps me to improve myself in different ways. In this blogpost I am going to share with you what I experienced in the first workshop I attended as a YPARD member organized in Prague- Czech Republic and what I experienced on the last workshop ‘28th International Leadership Workshop for Rural Youth organized in Herrsching, Germany which I attended as a YPARD country representative.

My first YPARD Europe workshop

I went there without realizing what was going on. While everyone was exchanging smiles and thoughts, I had no clue how to include myself. It was not that I had never been in a multinational environment as all my studies had been conducted abroad and I was always surrounded by foreigners. However, I was in this uncomfortable mood and I had a pain in my stomach from an unknown source.

I was being childish; I didn’t know how to start a conversation or what to talk about. While on a coffee break in the cafeteria I was thinking: should I start a conversation about agriculture, since most people there had a thing to do with agriculture; or should we talk about our countries and culture? After all, we were 20 people from different countries. My participation to the workshop and other activities was also not very bright; I had a constant hesitation and hardly took part in anything.

During the seminar, I experienced only this huge battle between my brain and other parts of the body. My brain was screaming and giving the order to speak up, but my muscles were on strike by constricting themselves and not letting any words slip out of my mouth. I was making those stupid meaningless dialogues between my brain and body. Body: hey brain, stop giving orders this time you will not be the boss of us - while my brain replied ‘you little coward, you are missing a lot’. I guess it is needless to say, as always brain was right; I was missing out on quite a lot.

28th international leadership workshop for rural youth

I was called ‘Baie praat’ this phrase in English means ‘talking a lot’ and that’s how South African girls were teasing me in their language. How did I change from not participating at all to becoming a person who always has an opinion, always takes an active role in group works and discussions? A girl who is interested to start a conversation with everyone, how can a person make a 180° change? Oh yes! it can be done.

If someone from the workshop in Prague met someone from the Herrsching workshop and had a conversation where they realized that both of them know a YPARD member from Kosovo called Hana, the person who knows me from Harrsching will describe me as ‘the girl full of energy’. I bet the other person most probably will respond’ Noooo, I do not think we are talking about the same Hana’. All I can say is yes they were talking about the same person but thanks to YPARD I am a different Hana – a leader who also understands how to work with a second man and interact with a team.

What did I gain with YPARD?

YPARD helped me to promote my personal growth and self-esteem by facilitating the opportunities for me to take an active role. On the YPARD platform, I was never obliged to do anything while at the same time, when I start to take my first steps, I was always encouraged to do more.

In YPARD I have a large number of people who are there to support and advise me on my ideas. This helps me to be more self-confident. I will never forget how easily YPARD community welcomed me, and how kind they were, in particular, YPARD Serbia representative Ivana.

YPARD brings people together, people from different cultures and gives you the chance to meet with them. Networking with those people opened lots of new windows in my brain and helped me to gain another point of view.

By volunteering in YPARD I am learning a lot. Now I want to give back to my community by trying to make young professionals in my country be more active, and this makes a difference for me.

I guess my professor was right I could be a leader because YPARD is kind of making me so.

Picture credit: pictures 1 & 2 Marina Cherbonnier, picture 3 Jonathan Cook