Today is not an ordinary day since I'm turning 22. To be honest, birthdays are actually nothing special for me anymore. It was just more exciting when one was a kid. However, I'm still happy to get older and to feel extra special one day of the year. But I actually don't mind if people forget it or whether I get any presents or not, like in "the good old days", when it was the most important issue without a doubt.
Well, there's one big difference this birthday compared to previous ones. As a twin, I'm used to share more or less everything together with my twin brother. Above all, birthdays. Today, it's getting a little bit complicated because we are in different countries. As a matter of fact, I am living in Vienna for the moment since I'm an exchange student there for one semester. My brother, on the other hand, is fully busy with his education in Örebro, Sweden. Basically, this means that there are no chances to share this day together, which is a strange feeling for both of us. But I'm not complaining about this fact. Although I'm without my family this extraordinary day, I don't feel bad about it. Firstly because my birthday doesn't have the same meaning for me anymore, secondly because it's a new experience and a barrier to breake for me which I like since I always strive for new experiences in my life. I mean, how would it be if everything was exactly the same, year after year? It might be nice to a certain extent maybe, but I always advocate changes and variation. In the long-term, it will enrich your life.
My current life in Vienna is amazing. It was a big challenge from the start. Especially since it was the very first time I moved abroad and settled down in a new, unknown country. I went here alone, on purpose, to make it "even worse" just because I wanted. It was an excitement for me to put myself outside my comfort zone and go somewehere else to study, meet new friends, travel and create memories. Memories that I will save for the rest of my life. I knew that this exchange would encompass a lot of challenges. Nevertheless, today I've been here for four months and there are less than three weeks remaining, which is unbelievable. I have to admit that the decision of moving abroad is one of the best choices I've ever made. This mobility period have been an incredible experience which had given me so much new insights about other countries and cultures. In addition, I have also improved my language skills in both English and German, which was one of my main aspirations before I got here.
Wow, I am in the middle of my second month at New York Film Academy. People are asking me what it is like here and I am always struggling trying to find words powerful enough to describe how cool, great, fun, crazy and educative it is. I am surrounded by people who have the same interests, surrounded by artists, by film makers, dancers and singers. I am surrounded by experienced teachers who are out in the film industry on a daily basis. Who have been in awesome movies, know all about the business and are ready to share their knowledge and experiences................
The european migration crisis is worse then ever and with a lot of countries closing borders, many running for their lives get a door shut in their face. Sweden has recently introduced border controls starting a huge debate on the increasingly frostier subject. For the survivors managing to get a foot in, a new struggle begins, adapting and getting accepted in a new country. Enter, Therese Karlberg, a passionate woman standing up for the refugees and helping them doing just that.
She has been involved in amnesty for years, studied International Social Science and recieved an internship in Washington DC. Therese smiles as we set up the skype settings and tells me about her day. The small talk does not last long as we both know what subject most deservs our time.
Working directly with people is something Therese values "In school studying, the students would wamp up each other with visions" she says with a smile and explains that some talked about becoming dimplomats and world leaders and that it was hard not to get carried away.
However Therese stayed close to home "Working at a local level was a blessing in disguise since I realized that working in an office turing papers was not for me. I prefeer seeing the difference I´m making first hand." The connection to the refugees she helps is strong and the main reward is all the love she gets in return. "Those I have helped are incredibly thankful and I get a lot of hugs whenever we meet." What seems to exite her the most is seeing progress and sharing the joy of their journeys.
She has always been very engaged and is responsible of arranging a yearly event where politicians and imigrant youth meet. One participant described it this way:
" We started with a fun speed dating session in which we had the opportunity to talk about our favorite food, our dream trip or the most important person for us. After that, we started different activities: dance, painting, sports and of course fika. It was so funny to see how youngsters and politicians danced together to the rhythm of ”Because I’m happy”, and to see how they discussed and came to an agreement before painting their ideal cities on canvases. The activities were designed in order for all the participants, youngsters and politicians alike, to take an active part in them under the same rules and conditions."
"Politicians are also people and they can be fun. "
Therese explains how refugees often associate politicians with danger and therefore debating in a cold conference hall would feel stiff and akward. A gathering with playful activities turned out to be the perfect way for both parties to really get to know each other. It also helped lessen the language barriers, which could have been more of a difficulty as some of the participants had only been in Sweden for three months.
At events she has attended regarding the issue she has found a missing component, the refugees.
Instead of having white male Torgny, 45, there talking about the needs of the refugees Therese wonder why the individuals who have fled are not invited into the discussion. It is after all a discussion trying to solve a crisis for those fleeing.
Helping does not have to be hard and it all starts with understanding the need. "Everyone has a lot to say about imgirants but almost no one talks to them" Therese says, firmly stating that daring to approach refugees and actually listen is an important first step. As we talk futher I can feel her frustration "Many tell me that it is horrible what is happending but still so many do nothing to help make these people feel welcome." She explains how just looking them in the eyes makes a world of diffrence and continues that "we as humans have a responsibility to see each other."
As the world is slowly catching onto her way of thinking about the issue, exciting things are on the horizon for Therese. She has recieved a scholarship to coach young entrepreneurs wanting to make a change, something she describes as her dream job. So if you live in Sweden and want to get involved with/ start a humanitarian project do not miss this opportunity of valuable guidence. Go visit SIP and play an active part in the improvement of the quality of life for people who have been forced to leave everything behind for a new and strange world. We here at InspirNation are looking forward to seeing all your wonderfully creative ways of doing just that.