Whether you work for an MEP, an NGO or a non-profit here in Brussels, there is always the chance that you may be able to travel for your job. Although it is not guaranteed, us lucky few get to see more of Europe, see our work in action and connect with professionals in the field.
I was not expecting to accompany my office to Timisoara, Romania for our Travelling Academy conference. I was shocked when I came in to work and my coworker began purchasing my plane ticket. Not only would I get to go see a new country but I would get to actually participate in this huge event for my organization.
Timisoara is a small city in the west of Romania, famous for being the first city in the world with street lights (this is referenced in a lot of the mottos and logos for the city and its projects). To get there from Brussels, we had to fly through Munich first. Didn’t get a chance to see the city, but I can tell you that the Munich airport is highly impressive. This made the tiny one in Timisoara a bit jarring. This was my first trip outside of the Schengen Zone, so we had to make a quick trip through customs, but shortly afterwards, we were let out into the cold, Romanian evening.
The next day was the first day of the conference. The entire event was hosted by the lovely AMBASADA, who provided an amazing, modern space and also catered the event with delicious food and drinks.
We held talks with cultural leaders in Romania, who advised attendees on how local cultural centers have been adapting to their role as an ECOC (European Center of Culture). With the slogan, “Be the light, light up your city,” in reference to their history with street lights, Timisoara had been chosen by the European Commision for this prestigious title. Cultural workers from across Europe discussed the impact of this initiative on cultural participation in the city and ways that it can be improved.
Now I must admit that the next part was truly my favorite part of the conference: lunch time! That college student love of free food doesn’t go away, even when studying abroad. We were treated to a delicious spread and this was a great networking opportunity, as everyone got to know each other and bond over a hot meal. Best of all, some friends showed up to join in on our fun!
(For those wondering, there were four little strays in total and I’ve been told by my boss that they were all recently adopted!)
The following day was the last day of the conference and it was spent entirely doing “study visits.” These were visits paid to local cultural centers where participants learned about the organizations while also hearing about struggles and tips that they’ve picked up navigating the field. This was also a chance for people to identify potential collaborators based on each others needs. We visited everything from community centers, to hotels to art museums.
We were given tours and heard about the intricacies of their projects, how it relates to the ECOC and how they impact the community at large. This was also a chance to see more of Timisoara, which is quite the charming city.
It was pretty amazing to see all of the work we do in action. There are always those days where you wonder if what you’re doing is really having an impact for people and the conference in Timisoara truly showed me how we’re helping those in the arts and culture field. So glad I got the opportunity to go!