Reflections at the Finish Line: ELP Fellows Conclude Their Journey

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As long summer days return to Brussels, the five-month-long programme draws to an end for our ELP fellows. What have these five months meant to us? What will they mean in the future? Embarking upon the ELP journey, the fellows immersed themselves into personal development, possibility of true friendship, career enhancement, mentoring, and spiritual insights.

Personally, the present feels like the end of a school semester. With our designated classmates, we have built up routines by seeing our mentors, welcoming speakers on a weekly basis, having common dinners and sharing volunteering experience. Strangers have grown into friends. After a long and doubting spring, we finally may enjoy the sun in the backyard or during a walk in a park. However, instead of a summer break, the future is far from clear for many of us. Courage, will, and determination led us to pursuing international opportunities in Brussels. Some of us may continue on that path, while others choose other dreams.

Regardless, we have been entrusted with advice, insights, and a joint spirit during the time of the European Leadership Programme. Thinking ahead and planning forward, it is of equal importance to reflect and digest the last couple of months. For many of us, the ELP might feel like an additional layer to the Brussels experience. Living in an individualistic, somewhat shallow, although exciting and stimulating environment, the ELP has provided us with an accessible opportunity to forge friendship, learn about ourselves, and develop our capabilities in a different, more profound way.

Around the corner, something else awaits. Perhaps another traineeship, an opportunity in the European institutions, a PhD offer in another country, a position back home, or maybe summer vacations. Maybe one of the pieces of advice we all received is to be patient. Living far away from many near and dear ones, it is arguably hard to muster such a mindset. Hopefully, living together and discovering our leadership drive might aid us somewhat on that path.

Soon, the fellows will part ways. As there is a new beginning to every end, it is something magical about the time just before that simultaneously occurs, as we will never be again these versions of ourselves in this constellation.

– Caroline Halfvarson

If someone would’ve told me that I will spend my Easter holiday in the middle of the Belgian countryside, waiting for a grey Range Rover to accelerate, and push its wheels through the muddy ground, with a bunch of people who were strangers to me a couple of weeks back, I would’ve probably called that person a madman.
But this is exactly what happened, and while we were childishly joyful, screaming from excitement, I could not help but wonder “ I am in a cool place”.

Travelling the world these previous 6 years, I was walking without direction, rarely taking the time to reflect on some of the fundamental questions of my life, like: where am I actually going? What for? With whom? etc. So when they first asked us at Quartier Gallet to spend some time alone and actually “reflect” on these paramount questions, I found that extremely hard. Am I really not used to put away my phone; far away from the sounds of the city, and just reflect in quietness?

Those were actually some of the most peaceful moments I’ve ever felt in my life. And once we came back to our normal lives, I will keep still recalling all the memories, including the nationalistic food battles in the kitchen; our countless movie nights, BBQs, laughs, and parties, I can’t help but feel grateful for this experience.

I may not have become a believer in the classical sense of the word (although that was never the point of this program), but I was given the chance to refocus my attention on the actually important things in life. “Raising leaders” in a place like Brussels may sound easy, but it is actually a very difficult task, next to the constant rush and frenzy. However, if I learned anything at the ELP, is that it is absolutely essential to stop and reflect at certain points, and just appreciate the journey.

Now, that this 5 months program is coming to an end, I would like to believe that each and every one of us takes something home. Some the memories, some the knowledge, some maybe an entirely different thing. But they will all feel satisfied in their own way, and in the end, that’s what truly matters.

– Dani Lakatos