Brussels 

Brussels is a very pretty city. Well, what I saw of the city in the 24 hours I spent there. I can very much attest to the inside of the Charleroi airport being decent, though not the best. 

 

Though it was an incredibly fast trip, it was a great trip. I went to Brussels to attend the TRACE Conference held at the Ministry of Justice.  In the past year as TR:ust Project Leader, I’ve been so lucky to travel as well as attend a number of talks. TRACE was an amazing way to end the year, and my time as Project Leader. 

   
 
The city was beautiful, and definitely one to go back to, if only for some waffles. For now, I’ll just eat the excessive amount of chocolate I brought home. 
Alex 

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MARCH

**You’re kind of supposed to start ‘monthly’ things at the beginning of the year, but that would require me to have planned ahead, and know what I wanted to do with this blog. But since I’m not going to do weekly updates, I thing a monthly wrap up would be a good solution, and a nice way to look back. These will hopefully include the highlights, the hard parts, and an ~emotional~ look back at the month**
It’s a few days past the end of the month (aka my birthday) and I’m writing this on a train to London for Enactus Nationals. I’ve also been back in the country less than 24 hours and am lacking in sleep and feeling a bit ill. I’m trying to take some time to look back at what as honestly an incredible month, with some big highs, some really hard days, and what really feels like personal growth.
This month began with the end of my trip to Romania, and ended with the start of a week in Lisbon with my family. I don’t know what else I could want in a month. March is always one of my favourite months. It’s Women’s History Month, it includes International Women’s Day, a whole bunch of birthdays including my own, and honestly it’s kind of just at a good place in the year. It’s the start of spring (also spring break, which would make any month better) and the countdown to the end of the school year begins.
These were highs: the Romania trip, the success of our International Women’s Day events, the Human Trafficking Conference we held on campus, and of course the trip to Edinburgh and Portugal. Things were successful, projects and ideas grew. Things were incredibly fun, I hosted panels and traveled to great cities. March was a blast.


March was also incredibly busy, busier than I really wanted in a lot of places. There were too many 12+ hour days, and not nearly enough days off. I feel like I never saw friends, and am a little surprised at the amount of school work that was actually done. I love being busy and involved, but things were incredibly hard this month. I spent a lot of time being frustrated about having to do things that I (technically) volunteer to do. Things that overall, I love. I can see that it’s because I have a tendency to over commit, and am very bad at delegating. I also know I have very high standards for myself, and applying those to everyone else isn’t always fair.
I’m trying to use all that frustration as a ‘learning experience’ for the next few months, and in the new roles I am taking on. I have to enjoy what I volunteer to do, I need to work on delegating, and most importantly when I delegate, I need to be clear about what I expect. And I probably need to be a little less hard on everyone in my life, including myself. I mentioned at the beginning of this post that I felt like there was ‘personal growth’ in March, and I guess most of that comes from the big decision I made (explained in Being Selfish) about the role I would take on in Enactus next year. I had a lot of amazing support in making that decision, and I am ultimately so happy with it. The days around it were not so happy, and are a big part of why March was hard. It’s not all over, and there are a lot of questions about how things will go with the exec for next year. I can’t say I don’t sometimes, much less won’t in the future, regret the decision, but I know it’s important that I choose to spend my time doing things I love. And admin/business stuff? Not for me.

So March was good. I’d sum it up as a good month, partially from the distance from the hard parts I have now. I’m trying to learn how to only do as much I SHOULD, not how much I CAN do, and while March was not an example of that, I’ve got some good plans going into Summer term. Thanks March for the adventures, the fun, and the chances to grow. Thank you for an amazing 19th birthday. I’ve got one last year as a ‘teenager’ and I’m pretty excited to see where I am this time next year.

Until April,
Alex

Being Selfish

I would not say I’m a selfless person. I wouldn’t even often say I’m a particularly nice or caring person. I’m often mean, standoffish, and rude. I am however, incredibly bad at telling people no. My inability to refuse to do things for people is the reason behind my over-involvement in every society I have ever joined, and lots of extra stress. I can’t say I always agree to do things because I am such a kind hearted and caring person either, I just seem to be unable to say no, though I will complain about it.

I say yes to doing the entire group project, planning the event that is not my job, and fixing problems I didn’t cause. I say yes to rewriting an entire 17 minute script because someone asked even when I have essentially no time and don’t actually care to begin with. I say yes all to often because I feel I have to, that if I don’t it won’t happen, and I seem to be incapable of letting that happen. It doesn’t have to be my job to fix the problem, but I will make it.

I said no this time. I was asked to give up the position I wanted the position that would make me happy, in order to do something that while it is technically ‘better’ has no interest to me. Writing the words “I turned down being president of a society” sounds presumptuous and rude. I really almost didn’t write this because it doesn’t feel like the kind of thing you can say. But I was asked to be president of a society, which would mean leaving behind all the parts of the society I love in order to do what is basically admin work. And while that part of a society is good and important, its not what I love. I wouldn’t say its what I’m incredibly good at, though I know I am capable of it.

However, being me, and for all the reasons I explained, I was going to say yes. I was going to say yes because I was asked and I told myself that me being unhappy with my position was one of those ‘greater good’ sacrifices. That maybe I had to be unhappy about what I was doing, but it would mean all the good things would get to happen. Luckily, I have some incredible people in my life who spent weeks telling me otherwise. That I didn’t have to do all the things I hate just because someone asked. That I am allowed to choose what I want to do, and that its not my responsibility to fix the rest of the problem. Who calmed me down, and didn’t make me do it alone.

So I said no, that I wouldn’t do it. I caused trouble, upset a lot of plans, and made some people not too happy with me. I don’t regret any of that, I don’t particularly care about people being happy with me. I only that it hurt people I care about, because at the end of the day I did make a selfish decision, and it did affect others. So I’ll be sorry about that for the rest of time. But I am so incredibly happy I said no.

And lets be honest, I would have been a disaster of a president. Corporate offices make me want to vomit, I have no patience for the self-congratulatory rhetoric so often used, and I wear ripped jeans to far too many important meetings. So that is what I will continue to do, resume building and prestige aside.

Alex

TR:ust

The project I run in Enactus  is called TR:ust. It took months to name it, and sometimes I still find things labeled “Eastern European Project”. The name stands for Transform Romania: Uniting Survivors of Trafficking, which may be the single most ridiculous name I have ever given anything. Its cheesy and presumptuous, fitting the Enactus strategy of naming projects quite well. It is however, adorable, and looks great on business cards. Unfortunately, it also autocorrects to “TR:just” every single time and makes me want to tear my hair out. But returning to the point of this post, I run a project called TR:ust.

trust

TR:ust is an Enactus Lancaster  project that aims to empower survivors of human trafficking in Arad Romania through entrepreneurial action.

We are a group of university students with a passion for using sustainable business to address systematic issues in our community and around the world.

We are applying these ideas and values to human trafficking by running awareness campaigns on our campus, and working with NGO’s in Arad, Romania to develop long term enterprises that will create education opportunities and employment for trafficking survivors.

This is the ‘about’ page of our website, and though it is the fluffiest explanation I could give, its all true. If you had told me at the beginning of the year that I would be running what is, at its core, an international NGO, I would have laughed. Through in its a social enterprise, and I would have called you crazy. I don’t do business, I don’t understand it, and I never would have said I wanted to. I can’t say I understand it now, I am 100% pretending I know what I’m doing every day of the week. But somewhere along the way I learned how to write a business plan, or at least delegate the actual business parts to some of my amazing project members who study business and are far more qualified than me to figure this out.

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Its 6 months later, and TR:ust is my baby, the project that was ‘hey lets do a project with human trafficking survivors in eastern Europe’  and is now an actual plan and a conference and a trip to Romania. I spend an incredible amount of my time on this project, and consistently get asked if this is my job. The fact that I a full time student who does this as a side project shocks people, including me sometimes. But this project has been worth the sleepless nights and skyrocketing stress levels.

Alex

 

That Business Thing I do

Somewhere in the chaos that was 2015, along with moving countries and chopping off my hair, I somehow joined a business organization. And considering the amount of righteous anger I have expressed over capitalism and the exploitation of trans-national corporations in the past 4 years, it was shocking. To me, and everyone I know. So here is the long overdue explanation of how it happened, and why exactly I’m still doing it.

I’m not good at directions, or reading maps. Particularly not campus maps, though I would like to state that I have give 2 different people directions to the room that caused this mess in the past few days. Its a very difficult room to find, and shares the first part of its name with the room just down the stairs from it. So when I meant to go to an Amnesty International meeting (normal, no surprise terse) I somehow found myself in an Enactus meeting. Of course, it took me a few minutes of the president speaking to figure out what in the world was going on, and by then I was much too uncomfortable to leave. I’d like to blame the English rubbing off on me there. But somehow I sat through that meeting, and at the urging of the lovely girl I sat next to and chatted with, mindlessly agreed to go to the application night as well. This is what I get for attempting to make friends.

So a week later, I found myself applying to this business organization. I didn’t take it seriously, I was unconvinced by their claims of ‘social enterprise’ and ‘business for good’ but it was the first few weeks in a new country and I needed something to do. I never thought I would get in, I don’t (and never plan to) study anything remotely business related. But for some odd reason, the exec member observing my group and reading my interview, Zoe, seemed to think I would be a good fit. Oh where that decision has taken me.

So long story short, Enactus is a international organization that connects student with businesses to help them create social enterprises to help local or international beneficiaries. The website explains this as:

A COMMUNITY OF STUDENT, ACADEMIC AND BUSINESS LEADERS COMMITTED TO USING THE POWER OF ENTREPRENEURIAL ACTION TO TRANSFORM LIVES AND SHAPE A BETTER MORE SUSTAINABLE WORLD

Please excuse me while I roll my eyes into the back of my skull over that statement, but behind all the corporate cheese, there is a lot of good Enactus teams across the world do.

Now because we all know I’m incapable of doing anything only part-way, I somehow became even more involved in this society. The project I joined was, at the start, just ‘the eastern european project’ an idea for a project that worked with victims of human trafficking in Eastern Europe. The initial research had been done by Zoe, though she was our Project Director, not Project Leader. So as we began research, we also had to sort out who that would be. And anyone who knows me can see where this went. A few weeks in and I found myself in charge of setting up an international project. Its 6 months later and I still have no idea what I’m doing, but the project has grown and developed into something amazing.

I have a lot of feelings about Enactus. And as I’m writing this, I’m pretty furious. I have days where I want to completely quit the society, and days where I would’t trade it for anything. For me, its a balance of all the things I hate versus all the good I can see these projects do. Its a difficult balance, especially on days when I’m tired and dealing with all the drama that inevitable comes with a society. But I’m still here, so it must be worth something.

Alex

Romania

When we set off on this trip, there was so much we didn’t know.I can’t say we know it all now, not even close, but this trip has closed some of the gap between the research, fact based knowledge we had before, and the practical knowledge one gets from being on the ground. No matter how many times you read the academic journal articles about trafficking, and study the facts about poverty rates, seeing the issues in front of you makes it all the more real

When we got on the plane, there was a fair amount of stress, at least for me. We didn’t know the country we were going to, we don’t speak the language, we’ve never met the people we were going to before. One Skype call and dozens of emails only makes one so comfortable when your flying 1,500 miles and they’re your only contact in the country. But we were greeted at the airport by a very excited Puiu, and whisked away to a comfortable hotel and a wonderful dinner with our main project partner. From the moment we landed the project began moving too fast for us to sit and worry about the issues that had made me so stressed in the days leading up to our departure.

We did so many things, and had so many conversations. The trip was an emotional rollercoaster on both the project planning side, and the emotional aspect of working with such a traumatic issue. The night after our first full day, there was a panicked phone call back home because, as with all international projects, there were changes and unknowns that we just didn’t know how to handle. Luckily, we happen to have an amazing Project Director and some incredibly helpful alumni to give us advice, calm us down, and sort out problems. However, after that night, things settled down. We were more focused on our vision, we had a clearer plan because we were able to incorporate the things we were learning on the ground with the ideas and plans we had made back in Lancaster.

Everyone asked if I was excited to leave. I guess Romania, and what we were doing, may not sounds like everyone’s favourite thing to be doing. But I wasn’t ready to leave. Its hard to leave a place where there is so much need. And while I know the majority of the work I can do is here, its hard to get on a plane and fly back to my pretty campus in the north of England when leaving behind so much hurt.

 

I will try to post more specific updates of the project as it grows, but well, the project keeps me a little busy.

Alex