Are you interested in implementing unique projects with like-minded people to show the results of the EU’s cooperation with Eastern partner countries? It is only a tiny part of what Young European Ambassadors do. The Young European Ambassadors initiative is a voluntary, non-political communication project focused on connecting young people from Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belarus, Georgia, the Republic of Moldova, Ukraine, and the EU Member States and the United Kingdom. The project aims to raise awareness about the EU’s values, its cooperation with the Eastern partner countries and contribute to increasing civic activism. The European Union established the YEAs initiative in 2016 to involve young people from many countries to work together towards a better future. Currently, there are 500+ YEAs from 34 different countries. Today, we will meet 3 Young European Ambassadors from Ukraine – Victoria Kulyniak, Tetiana Shelest, and Liliia Hudziuk. These Ukrainian YEAs will introduce themselves, will explain why they joined the initiative, will reveal the favorite project they worked on and how it helped others to learn more about the EU, will share their main inputs into the working team that they are part of, will indicate skills that were improved after they became a YEAs, and lastly, will provide practical and helpful advice for future YEAs candidates.
Each Young European Ambassador, whom we will meet, currently, studies at a certain higher education institution, has wonderful hobbies, and has an active lifestyle! Victoria Kulyniak is 18 years old Political Science student at Ukrainian Catholic University. She has been a Young European Ambassador since 2019. Victoria is actively involved in project management, youth diplomacy, and social activism. Tetiana Shelest is 18 years old International Relations student at the National University of Ostroh Academy. She has been a YEA since 2020. Tetiana has volunteered in European Solidarity Corps in the program called “INTERCULTURE 5S”. Finally, Liliia Hudziuk is 21 years old Political Science student majoring in German & European Studies at Kyiv National Mohyla University. She has been a part of the initiative since May 2021. Lillia is interested in history, politics, journalism, international affairs, and human rights.
While applying to become a Young European Ambassador, it is possible to have different motivations and reasons for joining the initiative. “For me, it is important to contribute my potential to the development of society. I truly believe that is the thing I implement my capacities the most efficiently in. Becoming a YEA was one of the opportunities to manifest my values and virtues through action, which I could not miss”, said Victoria. Tetiana got inspired by the opportunities for self-development, travels to different countries and new connections: “I decided to join the initiative because I am in love with international relations, the EU policies, and public activism. At the time of applying, I already had experience in organizing events. I had some knowledge of the relations between the EU and Ukraine, but I wanted to be part of the initiative, where I will have more experience for my future”. For Liliia, an active Ukrainian with a pronounced European identity, it was an obligation to raise awareness about the EU and its’ values. “Additionally, I wanted to support Ukraine in its endeavor to become more democratic and European. I envisage myself as an international journalist who bridges boundaries between the EU and Ukraine by bringing their citizens up to date. Thus, I thought that being a YEA would enable me to get a more profound glimpse of the EU and its institutions. In the future, I want to act as a communicator who brings the EU and Ukraine closer together. At the same time, being a YEA means being able to partake in miscellaneous workshops in the framework of the YEAs which I wanted to join and also be able to organize myself”, added Liliia.
One of the main advantages of being a Young European Ambassador is that you have an opportunity to create events that provide more information about the European Union and its cooperation with other countries to the public. One of the events that Victoria organized was the “Europe Day Model of the European Parliament”.“It was my first experience of a quite huge online event. I used to work and implement offline projects, so adapting all the ideas to the requirements of modern virtual life was a bit of a tricky challenge. Fortunately, my great team and I have handled it with a great result: nearly 200 students from different regions of Ukraine applied for participation in the model, and 42 of them were selected as participants”, she explained. Victoria’s event lasted two days: during the first day, all the participants had a chance to learn more about the work of the European Parliament, and during the second day, they were involved more practically by taking part in discussions, preparing their positions, and presentations (this activity was the most favorite one among the participants). “It was also a big honor to have Michael Gahler, a prominent German diplomat, a Member of the European Parliament, opening the ceremony of the model. In the end, all participants of the “Europe Day Model of the European Parliament” activity got present sets from the Young European Ambassadors initiative and a certificate of participation. This event was truly inspiring for me”, concluded Victoria. Tetiana has implemented many projects while being in the initiative, and they are all unique to her. Through the implementation of the projects, she had a chance to gain more knowledge in various spheres related to the European Union. “But the project that first comes to my mind when it comes to gaining new knowledge and consolidating it is “Fact Checkers: Don’t Be Fooled”.This project was implemented together with Dmytro Tomenko, another Ukrainian Young European Ambassador, and was dedicated to the topic of misinformation and how people can prevent manipulation on the Internet. During the preparation of the event, I learned more about Ukrainian and European initiatives that prevent the spread of fakes and misinformation: Voxcheck and the EUvsDisinfo program”, stated Tetiana. She also underlined that with a modern information flow, it could be complicated to understand the difference between factual information and a manipulated one. “It is also worth noting the Model of the European Parliament, where I was also one of the organizers. In this project, I gained a lot of knowledge about how the European Parliament works and had my first experience in HR”, told Tetiana. Additionally, she has pointed out that making offline events is bringing her joy: “Recently, at the National University of Ostroh Academy, together with Anna Lavreniuk, Ukrainian Young European Ambassador as well, we implemented an event related to opportunities: Erasmus and ESC. The offline format allowed us to interact with participants and communicate more with them”. Liliia has joined the initiative only in May 2021, but already had a chance to participate in an organization of an event – “Euro Quest: Kyiv Edition” that happened in June 2021. “It was not only extremely enlightening and informative but also very entertaining. I had the fortune to join the team that stood behind this project. While thinking up different spots in Kyiv with a link to the European Union, I managed to find out a lot of interesting things about Kyiv, discover new corners of this city and find out more about the European Union”, she continued. Liliia believes that the Euro Quest was an amazing chance for all the participants to get to know each other better, explore Kyiv and its’ European identity.
Besides event-organizing, YEAs contribute to the working in-country YEAs groups by completing assignments and tasks that correspond to the team’s goals. The main working in-country YEAs groups in Ukraine are the Mentorship team, Social Media and Design team, School Outreach team, University Outreach team, and Networks team. Victoria has been a part of the Mentorship and Social Media and Design teams. “Within the SMM team, I was working on graphic design and promotion. I also initiated the online Mental Health Week marathon on the Instagram page of “EU NEIGHBOURS east”, which helped to unite the YEAs internationally, and took part in numerous campaigns, created by my colleagues from the EU and Eastern Europe”, she elaborated. Being a mentor for new YEAs was an incredible highlight for Victoria too: “Talking about the experience with Mentoring team, I can say just one thing: these 9 months were full not only of a diligent work on projects but also of a tremendously valuable connection between my mentees and me”. Tetiana is currently a member of two teams, just like Victoria was – SMM and Mentorship teams. “The contribution to the SMM group is probably that the recognizability of the initiative in general depends on the quality of dissemination of information about the events that its members implement. Every time I share information on Facebook (because I am responsible for this area), I feel a huge responsibility. But what I like most about the work of the SMM is that we use the information to help people expand their knowledge during events and talk about European values,” she shared. Tetiana mentioned that mentoring part is ultimately her favorite: “It is difficult for people to adapt to new environments, teams, to understand sometimes completely incomprehensible structures, so mentors play the role of friends who can answer all the questions that interest you at any time. Our role is to ensure that everyone can find their place in the initiative and engage in the creation of projects that interest them and provide self-development”. At the same time, Liliia has only recently joined some of the in-country YEAs teams, so she is on her way to getting the touch of the work with them, and we are looking forward to hearing from her soon!
Besides, many skills can be improved as a result of being in the initiative. “No doubt, I’ve become more confident in my capacities and mastered the skills of leadership”, said Victoria. Tetiana noted that the YEAs initiative provides a great opportunity for self-development for youth: “The initiative provides an opportunity for personal development among young leaders. In just over a year, I have seen improvements in many areas: leadership, project management, public speaking, time management, post writing, teamwork, SMM, and languages”. Being a Young European Ambassador helped Liliia to boost her confidence and become more active. “At the same time, I have gathered some valuable experience in event-organizing and public speaking. Apart from that, I managed to improve my communication skills while organizing and participating in different activities with other Young European Ambassadors”, she responded.
As the YEAs from Ukraine have shared the details about their experience, they also gave some advice to YEAs candidates. “Don’t hesitate about the things which can significantly push you forward. Apply for becoming a YEA!”, urged Victoria. Tetiana advised you to take part in the projects that you are interested in and not to worry about the interview. “And probably the most important advice – is not to stop at what has been achieved or not been achieved, if you like to do it, then try again and again, and you will succeed”, she added. Liliia’s advice is to read more about the European Union, life, and culture in different European countries. “It will help you to display your enthusiasm about the EU and its member states. Also, it will help you, later on, to establish rapport with other Young European Ambassadors. It is always pleasing to hear that someone is interested in your culture and history. I am convinced that profound knowledge in European culture and history can serve as a common ground that will help YEAs to communicate more efficiently”, she remarked. Liliia also suggested gaining experience in civic activism and volunteering: “It will help you to find your niche, learn more about yourself, and to understand core values of the initiative”.
Becoming a Young European Ambassador is truly a unique adventure. You gain experience in event-organizing by creating incredible events like “Model of the European Parliament” or “Fact Checkers: Don’t Be Fooled” or “Euro Quest”. In addition, you get a chance to make an input into the working in-country teams – become a mentor or a social media expert. Throughout this journey, you boost your confidence, gain experience in civic activism, improve your leadership and language skills. Are you ready to become a part of the initiative and a new Young European Ambassador? Apply here!
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