A Day in Glasgow With Xchange Scotland

DSCF0579The beauty of EVS is that it can really give you what it promises – youth mobility.

And it isn’t just about traveling out and about the country. You get the chance to see a massive amount of people about your age taking a similar step in their lives. You get a chance to ask them about their reasons, ups and downs, and, of course, expectations for the future.
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This time nomadic spirit brought us to Glasgow, the post-industrial heart of Scotland and an official capital of the most indistinguishable of all Scottish accents.

This place is also a home to a youth NGO Xchange Scotland – a perfect example of volunteer spirit legacy. In 2007 two boys from here traveled all the way to Cardiff, Wales, to volunteer with UNA Exchange (where I’m currently an EVS). They loved the idea of making modern nomads out of formerly decent and untraveled British students. Therefore returning to Glasgow the two set up Xchange Scotland, tied contacts with Erasmus, Alliance and other international initiatives and that’s how it all started here.

When we come to visit in March, 2017, the office is predominantly run by long-term volunteers, both new and former.

Kinning Park community center where organization is housed has more common with Continental Europe than strict and official UNA’s Temple of Peace. Glasgow’s center reminds of Rome and Berlin. It’s a truly communal space with lot’s of events from local garden to supermarket donating expiring food to book swaps and language courses. In short, a ready base for volunteers’ activities.

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Office of Xchange is informal and well-suited to the whole building. We meet two EVS volunteers, Cecile and Chiara as well as Marj, an ex-volunteer who now runs a program of promoting Erasmus+ around Scotland. Apparently in the light of upcoming Brexit and exit referendums, Scotland takes a course to stay close to EU.

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Marj: I started to volunteer for Xchange in 2013, eventually went on to work on various local projects and now my work is to unlock Erasmus potential by promoting it to local communities. So I’ll be traveling in the next year across Scotland and telling youth organizations about Erasmus+ or contacting heritage organizations with offers to host international youth volunteers.

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Like EVS or Youth exchange participants. Later I will be setting up workshops on how to write funding applications. These programs are not as common here as in mainland Europe, and young people especially in disadvantaged communities don’t have much access to it now. Which we are trying to change.

Cecile (EVS): I got a degree in digital marketing in 2015. Then I had a job contract in Paris, which ended last July. So I needed to find another contract and I really wanted to have an experience abroad. For me EVS sounded great, because you are working for a non-profit organization, which is better for me, to do something good. Xchange Scotland’s ad was like a surprise – it was perfect. One day I replied and the next day was approved.

First impressions of Glasgow – it’s a big city and… grey. At first we lived in the countryside in a big-big house, and it was great but took 3 hours to get to work and back, tiring. Now I moved to West End, which is a really hip district in Glasgow and it’s good. Lot’s of places to see around. So far my favorite travel’s been Isle of Seil at sunset.  I don’t know what will be next. After EVS I guess I will return back to France and try to find a job.

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Chiara: I graduated from the University in Turin and after that applied for EVS. At home there aren’t many job opportunities at the moment. So I applied for EVS about a year ago. Here I’m working with short-term and long-term volunteering. One of the projects is called Nomad. It’s Erasmus+ Key action 3. Project’s motto is “Sport for All”, aimed at disadvantaged youth, and it’ll take place in 6 countries.

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When I first came to Glasgow, like Cecile, I lived in the countryside, and now switched to a shared flat with another Italian girl not far from the center. What to do in the city? Well, we go to Couchsurfing meetings, board games, etc. And the plans are to travel to highlands, of course. So far my favorite place’s been Edinburgh. As for prospects after EVS, I will also look for a job, either here or in Italy.

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Work and other serious stuff apart, for a two-day travelers who admittedly haven’t seen Edinburgh just yet, Glasgow looks beautiful. City center is organized like New York – in straight and easy to navigate squares. Buildings of art campuses and libraries flourish with modern art. City council’s main hall painted by local celebrities –  Glasgow Boys. Artistic atmosphere is heavily influenced by Charles Mackintosh and his Art Nouveua style. Which is why Modern Art Museum is situated in the center, whereas to see traditional art you’ll have to get to West End’s student district. In particular, to the University, whose arches served as an inspiration for Joan Rowling’s Horwarts halls.

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My main advice would be to visit Lighthouse and go all the way up. If you’re lucky enough, you’ll not only see the heart of Glasgow, but will meet a funny old man playing funny old Scottish and Irish songs on a frivolously painted piano.

 

in the next issue – two-day car trip into Highlands, with tips for poor EVS:-)

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