This is a long one. But it’s also a good one, I promise.
Do you know how many high-profile and heavily financed events for youth across the globe are being organized each year? A lot. And do you know how many of them are actually worth attending? The number starts shrinking. On the flipside, do you know how many others fall below the line of prominence due to insufficient funding or reliance on self-promotion? My hand is up, and so is yours, because we all know what I’m talking about – ISWiB, the International Student Week in Belgrade, organized each year by the hardest working group of volunteers from Serbia’s Svetski Omladinski Talas (World Youth Wave). I have been actively promoting the event even before I actually started wearing the proverbial red T-Shirt for the first time about a year and a half ago, in the Summer of 2017. I didn’t necessarily need that T-Shirt to properly manifest my emotional attachment to the festival, after all 2017 had been my fifth year as a participant, which is a year more than a standard presidential term. While I may have not helped resolve global warming or the economic crisis, I can say that for those 5 years I managed to hit some personal milestones, which to my opinion, is quite an achievement. Let’s see how many of those you can also relate to: A. I found incredible friends that I still actively keep in touch with (oh hi, Poli, Rosa, Milos, Bojan, Pedja, Agatka, Sonjuska, Perko, Ania, all of the Jelenas, Alex……. and the list goes on and on and on) B. I fell in love – with people and the city that I keep coming back to every year C. I discovered what summer heat means and that you can hit the boiling point pretty much at 40 degrees when in Belgrade D. I got to see the many applications of a bench in Kalemegdan E. I sang my heart out on the night public transportation in Belgrade F. I got to wave my national flag across the streets of the Serbian capital alongside people from all continents G. I laughed and cried, while still feeling happy on the inside H. I proved to myself that I can go a full week on a cumulative total of 8 hours of sleep I. I danced on a boat If you have ever attended ISWiB, my strong guess is you circled all of the above. If not, then go ahead and turn in your application right now, because you only have until Feb 28 to join the most amazing journey of your summer. A fun fact for me is that my first involvement in the festival was all due to the lovely forces of serendipity. During my first year at the university, I got an e-mail from our in-house Career Center with a message that first brought ISWiB to my knowledge. Given the geographical proximity to my home country of Bulgaria, I decided to give it a go. Alas, I was put on the waiting list. No drama there, but only because I had no idea what I was applying to, and what I might have almost missed. A couple of months from April, I got my official invitation to the festival, and I was now a fully-accepted participant. I was at least having some idea of about where I was going to spend one week in mid-July. And so, the time came. I was hopping on a bus and off to what would later become a defining summer for me. I was kindly assisted by two yellow t-shirts from the bus station, two, who would later become more than just acquaintances (hi, Dusanka and Uros).
“I think you’ll like it,” said Uros. And boy, did I like it. The student dorm we were sleeping in ain’t a 5-star hotel, but offers a 7-stellar experience – I mean, who needs extra towels, when you have all those friends to help you when you need a hand? Who needs a pool, when you have a playground in the front yard? Who needs a minibar, when you are drunk on laughter? All the volunteers and organizers in the black t-shirts are there for you, waking you up every morning so you are not late for your workshop, and waiting for you after it’s over to escort you to your lunch. I mean, that’s literally what your mom did when you were a child. And they do it because they genuinely want you to go eat your lunch. If you cannot, they’ll pack it for you, and even leave early with you if you don’t feel well. Shout out to them! The organizers are this other species of incredibles, who gather almost a month after the conference is over so they can start planning the next one. Did I mention they are also a bunch of excited, hard-working volunteers? And they’d always greet you with a smile. Tirelessly smiling while testing the limits of sleep deprivation in order to make sure the next day goes smoothly. So far, I have not spoken about what it means to spend a night in Belgrade while on ISWiB. And you know what, I won’t. Because the experience cannot fit into a paragraph, a page, or some paper that can be scrolled back and forth. It’s something that words can do no justice to, and while my eloquence can go a lot further than that, I will spare you the unnecessary word count and would simply suggest you apply for a summer that can really change your life. Or at least those parts of it that are much less exciting. If you’ve come here to learn, don’t bring a pen and a notebook. Just free your mind off of all the negative energy, and get ready to inhale the miraculous redeeming air of Belgrade. Oh, but make sure you use your pen and paper to type this down – A P P L I C A T I O N S A R E OPEN U N T I L FEB 28 TH . As Feb 14 th is a day to celebrate love, here is my love to you, ISWiB, and to those who make it happen, for you have helped me discover the meaning of euphoria
Yours truly, The openly disclosed admirer, Connie