“Last September, I was worried about what will happen in my life next year, what will I do, where will I be. This kind of thoughts come on mind when you are 30 and you still have plenty of wishes to be fulfilled. I had a proposal for a job in Lisbon, but I chose to refuse. I wanted to make European Solidarity Corps (ESC) a priority, as you can only do it once in your life until the age of 30. So, being myself 30 was the last chance to do it. The only thing I already knew was that I want to leave my country, Greece. I couldn’t find anything being attractive to me anymore there, so in the end I had just been procrastinating, but I still had a lot of ideas. One night, it came to my attention that open call from Ljubljana Pride, inviting people to volunteer in their organization for a long-term time frame (12 months). It was that moment that I closed my eyes and I dreamed myself being in Ljubljana, volunteering for Pride, developing myself and becoming a little bit happier.
I remember that it was one of my best moments in this life, when they had announced to me via Skype that I was selected. I couldn’t believe that some people outside Greece found something on me and wanted to cooperate with me. That was the beginning of the most amazing, unexpected and inspiring journey of my life.
At Ljubljana Pride Association, I found the best working environment I could ever imagine. It is matched with what I had in mind, but I think it exceeded my expectations. I feel safe, I like being there and I have a great cooperation with my colleagues. They gave me time to listen to my ideas, space to be more creative and productive, they taught me new tools and practices so I could give life to my own ideas and last but not least, they trusted me. I am currently in charge of the open event we organize which takes place every Tuesday in Pride office and I deal with different tasks they give me on a daily basis. It was a big surprise for me when I discovered that I can do my ESC in an LGBTQIA+ environment. I didn’t even know that this could happen and, as an openly gay person, that was a balm. This shows how important it is to have more inclusive spaces for this kind of programs. Young people want to feel comfortable and free, especially when moving to another country.
I always wanted to live abroad and ESC has given me this opportunity. For the first time in my life, I feel completely independent; I don’t need to ask for money from my parents, I take care of myself, I take a lot of initiatives, I travel alone and I hang out with people that I have just met. So far, many experiences have been given to me here in Slovenia and my life has changed radically. Back in Greece, it is not easy at all to find someone to help you get started with something new; at least, that’s my experience. Through this program and during all these months I have spent in Ljubljana since I moved, I have been able to do so many things that I could never have imagined before. The organization I volunteer for and especially its president opened their doors and let me shine.
Ljubljana Pride has already managed to fulfill two of my biggest wishes: the first is that they have chosen me to be part of their team and now I live abroad, and the second one is that I have performed on Pride stage which is my biggest achievement so far. I love to dance, since I was a little child my biggest dream was to be a dancer, but then I had to face all those reactions like “you don’t have the perfect body for dancing”, “lose some weight first”, “watching you dancing doesn’t fit my aesthetic” and that oppression made me to postpone it even more. It was the first time that I found the courage to talk about it, so I proposed to dance on stage and the President of Ljubljana Pride said “go for it, the stage is yours!”. During next week, I have already found a choreographer and I immediately started to think how I want my performance to look like, because I also wanted to make a body-positive statement. Trying to achieve this, I invited on stage one Spanish guy -who was doing his short-term ESC in the same organization-, that he has this kind of socially acceptable body considered as the ideal one. The audience had the chance to read first ‘No Fats’ which was written on his back and then they could read on his front ‘Love Every Body’. You may can’t get the feeling, but that moment was the most powerful in my life.
I have been volunteering since 2012 and this is the first time I am doing this out of Greece. At first I have faced some difficulties and the truth is that I was thinking about quitting the program, but deep inside I knew that this would be the biggest defeat for me. It took me two months to realize that, even if I wanted so badly to live abroad, it was too challenging to adapt to life in a different country. But I made it! And since then, I can’t stop enjoying my stay in Slovenia. Currently, this is the eighth month I have been staying in Ljubljana and I already think that I do not want this experience to come to an end. I will try to stay longer here. I love the country, I like the city, although it is small, a lot of events happen, it is calm and peaceful, everything goes smoothly, there is no stress, pressure nor irritation and you can always chill by the river. Also, if you ever feel bored of Ljubljana, you can easily travel around Slovenia or even to another country, because there are so many destinations that are really close to the capital. At last, the experience of traveling doesn’t seem to me an endless dream anymore, since I found the cheapest ways to travel.
This country is clearly a source of inspiration and energy for me. That’s the first time I feel useful, that I deserve a lot and I have so many things to offer. In Slovenia I found myself and I feel like I want to keep breathing so I will be able to create, to be inspired, to inspire others, to help and to be evolved as a person. Ι wish I could extend the program, but unfortunately this is impossible. Therefore, there are some other opportunities given, like writing my own project, which is already in my planning. Four months left until the program will end, in which I will try to create my own YouTube channel, learn the Slovene language, learn how to prepare a workshop, continue to perform and find a job here for the future, so I will not have to leave the country.
For those who are 18 to 30 and who read me, please treat yourself and search for this program called ‘European Solidarity Corps’. Don’t let such an opportunity slip away. My life has completely changed and I am so sure it will keep changing from now on. Grab this opportunity to change your own life and make new experiences. And if you are an LGBTQIA+ person, Ljubljana Pride is highly recommended”.
Article published on: mlad.si