Before I moved to Spain in October, I had never taken part in weekly youth work activities – nor known what a youth center really was. But this was about to change, as I do a part of my volunteering in Espai Jove Silla. I often felt uncomfortable at first, but I came to realize that, with my perfectionist mindset, it was a needed part of the learning process – and something that helped me break out of the bubble I had lived in.
I did not really know what to expect from this experience. Due to COVID regulations, we could only attend a few activities in person – a music group for children or teens and a playful programming club for interested youngsters. And honestly, back then I did not appreciate these opportunities at all. Not only did the language barrier make me uncomfortable (even though both teachers and even some participants spoke English), but I also felt useless while attending these programs as I could not really contribute to the sessions, and it sometimes made me feel awkward just to be there. But thankfully, my perspective soon started to shift.
It is not easy to put yourself out there, especially if you are not even confident about how to express yourself in the country’s language. But sooner or later, you must take a leap of faith – just like my gaming career has taught me – in order to grow. I was provided an understanding and motivating atmosphere; the rest was only up to me. And slowly but surely, I did feel more comfortable. Of a weekly commitment I would have rather skipped, attending the youth center became a place of fun and solidarity. And not only did I start to enjoy these activities as I felt more and more included, but I also learned soft skills I desperately needed.
Working with kids or younger teenagers is a unique experience. It teaches you a lot about people as well as yourself. And as I had a deeper insight into how youth work looks like, I have become more and more patient and less judgmental, as working with the youth provides us with a whole different perspective – and in my case, also some inner peace as it helps me feel like (and hopefully be) a better person overall.
There is always room for self-growth, one just has to find a light source that can support the progress. And in ESC, I have found exactly that – for which I will always be grateful.