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

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