It is the end of August; the summer vacation is about to come to an end and a new semester is about to start. I only recently returned to Nijmegen after having spent almost a month in Greece, and I can undoubtedly say that it has been one of the most incredible and exhilarating summers of my life. This summer I was so privileged to be selected as one of a few fellows to attend an extraordinary summer school in Greece, sailing around the Greek islands while discussing current European topics. The focal point of the summer school was to exchange ideas and thoughts on European matters with other young Europeans while simultaneously being part of a sailing crew where companionship in a small space was being tested. I had been selected alongside four other fellows (three Germans and one Austrian), and we were all responsible for giving a keynote speech of a chosen European topic and starting an accompanying discussion panel.
View from our beautiful boat, Marleen
All our discussions were very enlightening and it was very interesting to share one’s own thoughts with others who were interested in European matters as much as I am. My own keynote speech focused on the current refugee crisis in Europe and how we can ease the crisis within EU. The following day after my speech, we were met by the sight of arriving refugees at a police station on one of the islands, which just highlighted the importance and relevance of this topic.
The other participants’ keynote speeches focused on economic safe bonds, the European educational system, a European narrative and European integration. It was very enlightening to hear their point of views on these topics, and throughput this whole experience I felt my interest in Europe growing even stronger.
Us, the five fellows, reflecting upon our experiences while watching a beautiful sunset in Rhodes
The majority of the days we sailed across the Mediterranean to reach other islands (when the wind was strong enough and our engine was working) while learning a bit about sailing from our captain and his wife. Besides being lovely people, they both have a vast amount of knowledge about sailing. It was truly an experience to watch them work, learn a bit about sailing (e.g. doing knots, folding sails and carrying out docking maneuvers). Every time we reached a new island, our coordinator served as an incredible culture guide and she showed us the best sights of every island and assisted our discussion panels. Combining learning with cultural insights was to me a perfect combination, and I learned so much from being on this trip. I can’t remember the last time I had so much time to think about my life. When you sit there on a boat in the Mediterranean Sea for hours, while having Turkey on one side and Greek islands on another, you just feel so small. It gives you so much room to think.
The beautiful island Symi
Every day when I woke up on the boat, I felt so privileged to have been granted this opportunity; not just to sail around Greek islands on an amazing yacht but to be with such amazing people, to exchange ideas on European matters with them, to learn about their topics and to simultaneously learn about sailing and having so much fun. This trip gave me so much and I have learned so much about myself, others and a future prospect for Europe. After leaving the summer school I went to other islands for vacation with my boyfriend, where I was trying to process this whole experience. To this day I am still trying to process it and I cannot possibly put all of it into words in this blog. But I can tell you one thing; It has been one of the best experiences of my life which I will remember for the rest of my life and always be eternally grateful for.
Reflecting on a future Europe