Hanna Kalichava is a 3rd year student of International Relations of the Belarusian State University. She is 19 and spent a semester as an exchange student in Pécs last year. In addition to her studies, Hanna is also a Young European Ambassador, an intern at the International Organization for Migration (IOM), and an active participant of international projects, most of which are funded by Erasmus+. In this interview, Hanna shares her valuable experience and motivation with us.
What does Young European Ambassador entail?
Hannah Kalichava: Young European Ambassador is an initiative, which exists in the framework of EU neighbours East program and the European Commission. The program is designed to connect the youth of the eastern countries and the youth of the EU.
The main idea is that young people are the ones to make changes and rule in the future,
so they must be provided with an opportunity to speak up and develop their diplomatic skills.
Where did you learn about EU Neighbours East and how did you become a part of it?
H. K.: I learn about most opportunities on Facebook. That is where I stumbled upon “EU Neighbours East” many times, so when I saw the application process for the Young European Ambassador program, I applied right away.
What kind of responsibilities do you have as a Young Ambassador, and has it brought you any interesting opportunities?
H. K.: We promote European values and help to build up better relationship between the EU and its eastern neighbours: talk about the EU and the opportunities it provides, launch information campaigns, raise awareness. It is also an opportunity to travel. In the recent past I was at an event celebrating the 10th anniversary of the Eastern Partnership program in Brussels.
Nationals of which countries can participate in the program?
H. K.: Anyone from 18 to 25 years old from Belarus, Ukraine, Moldova, Georgia, Armenia or Azerbaijan.
Did an exchange program in Pécs play any role in getting the position?
H. K.: I can’t be sure if it affected my application, but I believe it was an advantage of mine. I know that most of the European ambassadors from all the participating countries that I met in Brussels have exchange, workshop and training experience they got through Erasmus and other programs.
You are an intern at the IOM Belarus. Is it a valuable experience? Why?
H. K.: I am an intern in counter-trafficking unit. This experience is super valuable. The IOM office in Minsk is not too big, so everyone here is dealing with everything. I translate a lot, review booklets and videos for information campaigns. But what I value most is the people here, who are really experienced and from whom I can learn a lot.
What is the most interesting or special about working in a community like this?
H. K.: I always wanted to do something meaningful. IOM really helps people. Big organizations are often criticized for bureaucracy and ineffectiveness. But I believe that a world with an IOM is much better than a world without it. I feel involved in helping the victims. A few days ago we got a letter from a victim, whom IOM helped recently. She was very thankful. This gratitude means a lot, it brings understanding that your work is not useless.
Do you feel more aware and cautious about traveling/migration now or do you keep your own life and the internship separate?
I get to learn many stories of people from different backgrounds and professional fields getting close to being in slavery,
about sophisticated networks of traffickers. These stories are hard to read, but I definitely become more cautious about my travels and talk about this problem with my friends and relatives.
Do you have any advice for students who would like to get similar experience?
H. K.: I think that all young people should be active: engage in all possible activities, travel, meet new people. When you see a project you're interested in - apply. Do not think much, do not doubt, do not be afraid. I usually don't take it too seriously, I just try. That’s how I went to Hungary and spent half a year there, the very same way I went to the projects in Georgia and Armenia, because of this approach today I have a cool internship. If I had thought too much, allowed myself to doubt my skills, I would have been a very different person with far less experience now.
Written by Anastasiya Manko