Italian voice from the heart

The past autumn I was in Italy, waiting for the results of my exams and for the beginning of the courses. It was a feeling I had since a long time, but it had always remained latent, behind a mountain of other worthless commitments. Suddenly, I felt with an extreme urgency the need to leave, to discover something new in the world, to meet different people. I had the desire to put some obstacles in front of me and to test my strengths and my limits as well. I don't know how to better describe this feeling and this need, but I think it's basically something about knowing ourselves better.

Caption for the photo: People climbing the bars of a closed centre for asylum seekers. Steenrock Festival, Belgium (May 2016)

Thanks to the possibility to spend some months abroad with the Erasmus+ project, I started searching for any kind of organization who could need an intern. I was ready to accept everything that could have helped me to leave from my comfort zone; I didn't mind if it was a repetitive work in a company's office or if it was a hard physical work in the fields. It was exactly when I was lost in this stressed research that I found SCI or, more probably, that SCI came towards me.

I took my plane in a foggy morning at the end of February. And immediately, I clashed with the first difficulties: I didn’t know French and (ehm…) not even Dutch, and my scholastic English wasn't sufficient to well express myself. How could I communicate my feelings and fears? How could I do a good job and build strong relations? I started thinking that I had been too optimistic about my strengths, I realized that I wasn't absolutely ready. Well, while travelling in a foreign country, I was also travelling inside myself. But I would have realised this only a few months later...

I've had the pleasure to be welcomed by the SCI-Belgium team in Brussels. It's the french-speaking branch and they're a group of smiling people plenty of energy. They are that kind of people who are ready to say that's their fault for a glass that you broke, if you know what I mean. Only a week later, I've been welcomed also by the only permanent member of the VIA office, the flemish dutch-speaking branch. An incredibly strong girl, soon re-named "the viking". My train trips between Brussels and Antwerp were like passages to parallel worlds: I had to deal with two offices, working teams, languages, cultures. It was amazing, but it was also frustrating. I wasn't really part of anyone of these realities: I was stranger twice.

But I've had the chance to find an environment where sharing reciprocal worries is like a duty, and I couldn't have found a better way to start feeling at home. We soon exchanged our experiences and not-experiences, that’s to say regrets and fears. In my case, they were fears about not being sufficiently active or helpful, about showing that I had to start from the zero point.

But this is exactly the point: you can think you’re travelling alone, and maybe you had effectively planned your trip alone and you are only with yourself for the most of the time. But, in reality, everyone is looking for something, everyone is doing his personal trip. And in this personal research you can cross the others’ ways; for some months, some hours, maybe only just a few seconds. But it will be sufficient to understand that you're maybe not strength enough alone, but that you have the possibility to build something even higher with a lot of other people. Call it a shared dream or a family, it's part of you as you're part of it.

They told me it would have been an office job; I participated in music festivals and campaigns in lost flemish fields. I expected to find employees behind mountains of documents; I met people full of dreams and fears behind mountains of cookies and avocados. They told me I would have worked in english; now I can say something of a certain sense in french and I'm used to listen to Spotify advertisements in dutch.

Three months are barely sufficient to feel at ease abroad, but they're enough to grow fond with a lot of people: volunteers, workers, activists (borders are rarely clear). They're sufficient to leave a little piece of heart behind you, and to let seeds being planted in you. I’ll bring them wherever I will go, and I promise that I will let them grow and that I will share their fruits. Because this is how it works when you get in touch with the SCI world: you can think you’re leaving it, but in reality you are an ambassador.

Thank you. For your time and your energies; for your patience and your comprehension; for your warmth and your openness.

See you soon...