From South to North: The Intellectual, The Fat, The Red and Patrick

I am a one-year ESC globetrotter from Armenia, travelling EU universe to gain wisdom. Being one of the eastern neighbours of Europe, it is always a huge cultural experience for me to meet young people with western background. I am doing my ESC volunteering in the south of Italy (Tramonti) in the local association called ACARBIO. Together with the association we are trying to keep, develop and protect the cultural heritage of the Amalfi Coast via bringing people, tradition, and nature back together. In ACARBIO we all love to inspire and be inspired by different cultures.

From June 19-25 I had the chance to visit the the intellectual, the fat and the red, which are the three nicknames for Bologna. “The Intellectual” (la dotta) refers to its oldest and prestigious university founded in 1088; “the red” (la rossa) is a reference to the red rooftops of the historic centre; and “the fat” (la grassa) is the well-known nickname of Bologna due to its hospitality and of course its delicious food.

The event was celebrating active citizenship and European solidarity. A lot of young people from EU countries came to brainstorm on the future of Europe, to show passion and solidarity towards each other and learn practices to organize their own events. We were two from non-EU country participating in the event and I felt so responsible and excited at the same time to share the ‘eastern’ practice and point of view.

What I liked about the event was combining the “centre-countryside” format. We were able to see both the green and away part of the city and the very centre, the historical part. Using bus to go to the centre was another way of going more local and sustainable. For me travelling to Bologna was like travelling from one planet to another. While being there I found myself how much southern I have become, while living in Tramonti. People, food, language, landscape were so different, which once again reconfirmed the cultural contrast that exits between south and north of Italy. 

Another associate of Bologna for me has become Patrick Zaky. His mysterious presence could be felt in all over Bologna. The pictures with the demand of setting him free were everywhere. Patrick is a graduate student from the University of Bologna, who was arrested at Cairo airport during a visit to see family, being accused of spreading fake news and calling for unauthorised protest. Patrick’s case was a true example of a youth demand and resistance for me.

I am really grateful for the provided opportunity and the dose of motivation I got from the event. Everything was organized for us, I have listed to speakers who believed in us so much, I talked to people who trusted in us so much and all this made me feel obliged, sometimes scary but mostly motivated to continue on with my volunteering and bringing change around me!

* Author: Mariam, ESC volunteer, Armenia

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