As the second semester approaches in the Euroculture master programme, there is another important decision to be made; namely, which track to choose for the third semester: professional or research?
Blessed with fairly good research skills, I would have been ready, willing and able to take a semester in Mexico City and improve my Spanish skills, or discover a whole new world in Pune, India while diving into one of the countless possible research topics the Euroculture programme offers. But for me the real challenge was to see how I would perform in a non-academic environment and solve problems not only in theory, but in practice as well. After all, this is what the Euroculture programme is about: stepping out of our comfort zones over and over again. Hence, I eventually had to let go of the more convenient research track. Half a year and a lot of paperwork later, I found myself working for a Hungarian NGO: Foundation for Africa.
Foundation for Africa (FFA) is a small organisation for development, aid and a tolerant society. The key area around which FFA is centred is education. The organisation believes that only through providing the necessary theoretical and practical knowledge can sustainable development be achieved. As a consequence, FFA maintains educational institutions for disadvantaged children in Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and has partnerships with other organisations in Tanzania and Ethiopia. At the same time, FFA aims at raising awareness in Hungary and bringing authentic African culture closer to the people through participating in cultural events and holding informative presentations all over Hungary.
In my first semester, I remember having heated discussions in class about the concept of development and whether it does more harm than good, but believing in the power of education myself, I could easily identify with the goals and principles of the organisation.
I have been interning for FFA for a month now and what I like about it already is that every day is a little bit different. I had heard former Euroculture students saying that it is better to realize an internship at a smaller organisation since it usually goes with greater involvement in its programmes, with more responsibility and with diverse tasks. So far I can only confirm this theory: some of my tasks covered writing project descriptions and memos, organising meetings with representatives of other organisations and attending them as well on the side of the president, or helping with setting up the new website. I will also be responsible for coordinating the process of obtaining a certification for becoming a sending organisation within the European Union Aid Volunteers initiative. (Remark: zero coffee made so far.)
I cannot hide though that what I have enjoyed the most hitherto was participating in the very first club event of the newly launched project of the organisation called AfroMag. Its aim is to support the integration of African immigrants into the Hungarian labour market. Funded 75% by the EU’s Asylum, Migration and Integration Fund and 25% by national resources, the project is built on four thematic pillars: providing useful information for participants, developing their skills and competencies, providing work experience, and drafting policy proposals at the end of the programme. The club event – besides being fun and interesting – embodied many elements that a Euroculture intern needs: gaining specified knowledge of an area of interest (immigration law and integration), putting theoretical knowledge into practice (identifying residence permit documents admissible for the project and witnessing closely a day of workshops and activities related to labour market integration), networking (meeting co-workers, experts, coaches, interpreters and African immigrants themselves), and doing all this in an international environment.
Internationality is not only a key feature of the AfroMag club event – it is also present in the everyday life of the organisation. The president and founder of FFA, France Mutombo, is from the DR Congo himself, and through the Global Talent programme, which supports participants’ higher education, other African citizens also visit the organisation.
Overall, what is really fulfilling in this internship is to spend every day in an environment where everyone is committed to the betterment of society. This has particular importance given the recent developments in Hungary. Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has openly declared the pursuit of an illiberal democracy, where civil organisations – especially those receiving foreign funds – are considered paid political activists and where anti-immigration sentiments are fuelled by blue billboards all over the country under the name of national consultation. Fortunately, our president’s ceaseless enthusiasm and the ever-growing community of the organisation keeps me an optimist.