Riga 2014 – The Beauty of It

By Matti Lötjönen • huhtikuu 3, 2014

Teresa Artjoki attended the 75th International Session of the European Youth Parliament as a delegate and part of the Finnish delegation. 

A week has now passed from the 75th International Session of the European Youth Parliament, held in the beautiful city of Riga. Honestly speaking, I thought I knew what to expect. Cultural clashes, unison in diversity, stereotypical conversations; this was all familiar stuff for me. But as the week arrived with all of it’s wonderful surprises, I realised that I never could’ve even imagined anything like this.

Our chair had created a Facebook group, so as for us to get to know each other prior to the Session. In our technological era we think we’re able to decode a person over a pair of keyboards, but meeting somebody face to face will always be just as surprising. “The Portuguese guy is much more handsome live than what he was in his profile picture”, I thought. “The Romanian girl is even funnier than what she was in the chatbox”, I thought. “These people became so much more important to me than what I expected”, I think now.

As the session kicked off, one of the very first activities we did was a massive gathering with over 200 different faces looking at each other in one big circle. I felt excited of the fact that there were so many I didn’t know, and that for the entirety of the Session I would get to constantly spend my time with different people. Having grown up in an international and quickly changing environment, I find myself the most comfortable around people I do not really know all that well; the novelty of fresh friendships seems less stressful than having to invest in only a handful of all-or-nothing ones. Later on that day I found an American (Spanish-in-spirit) girl and a Spanish guy with whom I instantly fell in love with; “Our goal is to meet EVERYBODY.”

Then Teambuilding started, my Committee of ECON II being lead by our oh-so-German and oh-so-flawless chair. It was one of those magical groups of people where the singular input of one out of the 16 might not have been all that significant, but whenever there was somebody missing from the crowd you could sense it in less than a heartbeat. It just instantly felt like we had known each other for years, to the extent where I only really noticed how diverse we actually were when we did an exercise, in which we could only communicate by mother tongues. I looked around the room and realised that every single one of us had been raised in a different language, and nevertheless we were all so similar. I got my way through the task by learning a couple of foreign words, from which “вперед” stuck with me. Forward a word one should know in Ukrainian.

Committee Work couldn’t be described as anything but loud. Something which you tend to forget at an International Session is that the Delegates aren’t just a random selection of European youngsters; they are the selected ones from every single National Session, those who were loudly agreeing and loudly disagreeing to all statements just to get their point across. Truthfully speaking one of the most important skills that EYP has taught me so far is that my way of looking at things isn’t often near to the best possible option. Contrary to how adults praise all outspoken and opinionated kids throughout their childhood, sometimes stepping back and observing the conversation objectively is more beneficial.

Luckily it seemed that many of us realised this during the Session, myself included, and we gradually started to communicate better both inside and outside of the Committee Rooms. It felt refreshing to be reminded how every single one of us can always find ways to progress as individuals, ultimately becoming better members of a group and more importantly, better friends to one another.

Later on the session I opened my laptop to catch up with the people back home. But not only did it feel surreal to burst that bubble which I so strongly became in love with, I also realised that I felt indifferent to everything which was being told to me. Nothing quite compares to the person who once bought a two month hotel stay to a homeless family, to the person whose closest ones are fighting for their freedom in Ukraine, to the person who’s in for a science competition that could potentially change his life, or to the person who might get expelled from school by her Euro-sceptical headmaster for participating to the event.

In EYP you meet some of the most interesting, ambitious, passionate, real people that you get to surround yourself and have the most eloquent conversations with, simply over a cup of coffee or while walking on the streets of Riga. After the Session I was only left wondering why isn’t my everyday life filled with these types of discussions, why isn’t reality more like EYP. Trying to explain my love for it isn’t any easier after an International Session, and it is quite a common joke for us to get the weird looks and all the wrong answers whenever we talk about it to anyone who isn’t acquainted with the concept.

Because EYP isn’t merely about the fact that we all come from different backgrounds, nor is it so great because the forum attracts some of the future leaders of Europe. It’s great because it allows you to meet those “once in a lifetime” people by the hundreds, and by getting to know them you also get to know yourself better. EYP combines what we are, what we want to be, and what we can be, all by going trough the most thrilling experiences and memorable conversations with people you barely even know. For at the end of the day, what makes an EYPer is not internationality, a social nature or political ambitions; it’s having a brain to listen and a heart to talk, and that’s what made this Session as beautiful as the city it was held in.

Photos: Ieva Pastare, Gatis Berzins, Oscar Stenbom, Ieva Viksne
Text & video: Teresa Artjoki