After a few years travelling Joseph was not looking forward to returning to his old life. A chance meeting changed this. Erasmus+ changed this further.
Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Joseph. I recently commemorated one year since returning to the UK after spending four years overseas, just me and my backpack. My experiences exposed me not only to a very different way of living, but also to a different mindset. It all came to a rather abrupt end though in November 2017 when I found myself on a flight back to London. I had no money, and nowhere to go but home. Perhaps most significantly I had no idea what the heck I was going to do with my life.
Long-term travel is not simply a prolonged holiday, it is a lifestyle alteration of tectonic proportions. I had grown, and so I knew I could not return to my old life, just as a hermit crab cannot return to an old shell.
Whilst overseas I had gravitated towards social action groups and environmental campaigning, so it was a natural progression for me to start working within my community once I returned to the UK. Quickly I came into contact with my local Parish Council. One of the members just so happened to be co-Director of a UK organisation which facilitates Erasmus+ projects, and upon hearing my story offered me the opportunity to get involved.
Before I knew it I was on my first Erasmus+ project; one of fifty young people from across Europe working together to host a conference at Europe House in the centre of London, focused on the future of Europe from a youth perspective. It was an amazing, eye-opening experience, providing me with the international connection I had long grown so accustomed to, surrounded by enthusiastic young people from all corners of Europe.
On the road again
Afterwards I was invited to develop my relationship with the organisation by representing them on further projects in Italy, Hungary and Greece, each project quite different from the last; new challenges and new opportunities to grow.
Six months down the line, I now work as a Team Leader and Project Manager, utilising my previous experiences overseas not only to guide others in the practicalities of an international life, but also to assist them in their personal development towards leading passionate, productive and satisfying lives.
Aside from my own personal development it has been a truly empowering experience to witness growth in others. Always, boundaries are stretched. I have seen closed-minded people begin to question, shy people begin to express. Each time I have watched a group of strangers become a community within themselves; a family. I have observed networks forming, of engaged, passionate and empathetic young people from across the continent. For myself, these programmes have provided a change in direction at an essential time; not one which feels at all prescribed, but rather personalised, tailored to fit; one which taps into my affinity for internationalism certainly, but also steadily nourishes me with professional experience. And for everyone else? Well, there will be a generation of young Britons, and Europeans for that matter, echoing this sentiment, I am sure, each with their own stories of intercultural learning and adventure.
‘All that exists is in a manner the seed of that which will be.’ - Marcus Aurelius
Erasmus+ projects are changing the world one group at a time.
We are creating an ideal environment for inclusion, understanding and unity to flourish within the mindset of our young people, the true value of which may not be known until we are long gone. With all the pressures of contemporary life so prone to do us harm, this is surely a force for good. We are opening young people's minds in the purest and most effective way possible - by bringing them together and encouraging them to create. And no matter the parameters of the project, what it is they create is one of nature's most wondrous phenomena: Community.
This would not have been possible without Erasmus+.
And it will not be possible without our continued efforts through this critical time.
Joseph Ashmore – Team Leader and Project Manager at Momentum World, Eurodesk UK Partner.