By Cédric Schad
I am a 19-year-old law student at the University of St. Gallen in Switzerland. Through the Rotary Club of Bad Bederkesa, Germany, I had the chance to take part in a Dutch-German Rotary Youth Leadership Awards (RYLA) seminar in Nordhorn this year. It was an amazing experience. When I arrived on that Friday for the “Proud to be European” seminar, I didn’t know what to expect. But luckily, I wasn’t the only one.
None of the other 23 participants (ages 18-28), knew each other either. They came from different regions of the Netherlands and northwest regions of Germany. From the first get together, though, there was a great spirit of openness and friendliness.
The first part of the program was designed to stimulate discussions about the European Union. We had the chance to exchange our thoughts about personal and general benefits of the European Union. What I remembered the most was that we all felt proud to represent European values such as democracy, equality, and peace. In addition, we got an idea of how important cooperation between European countries is to solve common problems.
For example, Professor Stefan Kuks, Chairman of the Dutch Waterboard Vechtromen, told us about the collaboration between Dutch and German offices necessary to control overflowing waters in the area of the river Vecht and prepare the nearby area for any possible consequences.
The second part of the seminar was dedicated to teaching us to work together. The challenge was to quickly assemble a team and build trust. Groups of four to five people had to develop strategies for a business game, which involved coming up with ways to make the people living in a fictitious country in Europe the happiest on the continent, and then present those ideas. We were given no limits to our creativity.
Especially in this second part, we faced the challenges of making decisions under pressure while sharing responsibility. But we figured it out quite quickly, and soon gained each other’s trust, which I guess was the case for all the teams. We developed an incredible team spirit and were able to use our different strengths for optimal results. To help our collaboration, one or two coaches observed each team’s interactions and offered constructive feedback.
An added attraction was entertainer Richard de Hoop, who used music to visualize Belbin Team Roles to help us support each other and build on each of our strengths as a team. But most importantly, what will last are the friendships that we built in such a short time through our collaboration and through relaxed conversations during social time at the bar in the evenings.
It is an amazing feeling to get to know so many interesting personalities and to spend some unique moments with them. I hope to stay in contact with them, despite the geographical distance between us. So far, we keep in touch through social media groups and exchange news daily.