My experience in Germany, or how ICYE changed my life.

By: Luis Alberto Lamprea. ICYE Colombia 2007-2008

As a 23 year old industrial designer, who lived his whole life in a 7 million inhabitants city, in Latinamerica, the options seemed to be very clear: to find a job in the industry, to make a career on it, to live 8-12 hours a day online, try to ascend in the social scale, to buy a car, a flat and maybe start a new middle class family who will fight for survive in an overcrowded city which suffers from the class struggle, where every day the rich are getting richer and the poor
are getting poorer.

As a middle class young boy, who hadn’t have many chances to travel before, and the only contact with the world was through the internet and the media (where/as Latinamerica is totally influenced by USA American media), my idea of Germany was of a “developed” country full of huge highways, skyscrapers, high tech electronics and luxury cars, which is the western ideal for “development”.

Thanks God, I was assigned to live in a small countryside village, located in the former East Germany, where there was no tv, no internet, and the radio and mobile phone signal were weak. It was a shock in the beginning, but after a while I started understanding that life was not exactly the way I thought. I realized that my mind and lifestyle before was focused on unimportant matters and false values. It was hard to get unplugged from the world, but then I saw it as a good opportunity to start spending less time looking outside, and start looking inside myself what I actually needed.

My volunteer work took place in a Waldorf (anthroposophic) primary school, and part time in an Art School for kids. Both allowed me to get to know the German society from inside, reconsidering, appreciating or criticizing my own habits and social background. They allowed me also to apply my skills as designer and artist, in a non-industrial nor profit-focused industry.

I learned that if we want to do something for the world, we have to invest in the children first.

Besides working, experiencing a whole different family life, struggling to learn a totally new language, surviving the cold Weather and trying to get a place on the society, I had many opportunities to travel around Germany and other European countries. This enabled me to find similarities and differences between each other country getting to understand the essence of the European culture, which fed my urge to know how the world really is.

After this long year, now seen in retrospective it seems it happened too fast, I came back home with a new point of view for everything. I thought up different ideas in my mind that allowed me to have a fresh new start, to appreciate more what my country has to offer (and I missed when I was abroad), to appreciate more the people around me, to enjoy every single minute, and with the clear understanding that beyond nationalities, races, social levels or traditions,
we are just one world and what we do as individuals affects (for good or bad) the rest of us.

**I got involved with ICYE in my country as a co-worker, attended seminars, carrying out activities for the incoming volunteers, supporting those who wanted to volunteer, and specially sharing with others my experiences and knowledge as well as learning more from people every day.

Now I’m taking part in a 1 year Exchange program for Staff Office, as the Outgoing volunteers Coordinator for ICYE Mexico. **

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