It’s 3 a.m., the sun has already risen up and I’m walking home with a bunch of other students, drunk, shouting, singing, dancing on our way. Tired but glad that this night was amazing, I can’t wait to be in my bed. The sound of basses and a high pitch are still in my years and I feel satisfied at the idea that I was a part of Dans Dakar 2012.
One of the things that took an important part in of my exchange year in Stockholm was volunteering.
It all began in October, when I discovered that I could work as a volunteer at the Stockholm International Film Festival (SIFF) that is held every November. Being a big fan of movies, I applied right away and after an interview I got a job as a Guest Host. The news was spreading and a lot of my Erasmus friends applied as well and we ended up in 30 working for the festival at different departments, Tickets, Production, Events, Guest department… As I speak French, I was appointed as a personal assistant for two Belgian film directors, Dominique Abel and Fiona Gordon (actually she’s Australian-Canadian, but lives in Brussels). Basically my task was to escort them and to show them around, bring them to the different events (interviews, photo sessions, premieres, dinners…)
I was a little stressed in the beginning, but everything went absolutely great. They had already been in Stockholm so didn’t need that much help. We got along very well and on the last day they invited me for lunch to the fancy Östermalm market. We talked a lot about movies, theatre, Stockholm and I was really sad when it was time to say goodbye. Working at the festival was an amazing experience, first of all because it’s about movies, premieres, stars and all this world that a lot of people dream about. It was also a great way to somehow integrate to the Swedish society and to discover how a Swedish enterprise works.
The atmosphere in which we worked was great, everyone was running around, calling drivers, changing plans because a film director or an actor couldn’t come, and it was great to be a real part of it, to built the festival, to know that your work matters. All the volunteers were invited to two volunteer parties, one before and one after the festival, but the most important, we could see all the festival movies for free, including the big movies of 2011 as A dangerous method, Shame, Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and many others.
That’s why when I saw the add about volunteering at Dans Dakar, a two-day electro music festival that is held at the Stockholm University campus, I applied immediately (also the idea of partying at the place where I was supposed to study was kind off of attractive in a rebel way). What is the thing about volunteering? Well, first of all you really are a part of the event. Not just a spectator, a customer, but you really contribute to the happening of the event. In other words, if you weren’t there, the event wouldn’t take place (self-reassuring and makes you feel better about yourself). Then, you are assisting at the event, and completely for free (which is benefiting for your student budget). So that means that this year all the volunteers saw Paul Kalkbrenner, The Bloody Beetroots, Eric Prydz, Digitalism, Kavinsky and many others completely for free.
Also, volunteering always happens in a very cheerful atmosphere, everyone is here because they want it, everyone is excited about seeing their favorite artist/band/stars. As a worker you have privileges and you can get closer to the stage. Let imagine you’re working at the artist catering. Well, serving a sandwich to Kalkbrenner doesn’t seem so bad (“Ssup Paul? Tuna or chicken? Sure, dude!” – OK that’s a little too much…) Generally volunteering does not have too much responsibilities and therefore is not under too much pressure. The atmosphere is businesslike, of course, but also more relaxed in a way. Generally all the volunteers are between 18 and 30, so it’s very nice to meet other people and… Swedes, yeah, you can finally talk to Swedes!..
But there’s also another type of volunteering. Some of my friends and I took part in Stockholm Soppkök. The “Soup kitchens” is an initiative to help homeless people in Sweden by distributing goods and by contributing to their social integration, talking not only to them, but also to the authorities. Every month, people volunteering for Soppkök collect clothes, food, basic hygiene products and distribute them to the homeless on one special day. As a volunteer, I was helping at the food section, distributing sandwiches, cereals, rice, beans, etc. A lot of young people also came to give us sandwiches that they made at home so we could transmit them to the destitute ones.
I wondered at the shyness of the homeless people. A lot of them simply didn’t dare to come closer to us, to take the food. We were literally forcing them to take it, putting altogether biscuits, bread, muesli in a big bag and giving it to them, so they couldn’t say no. Some of them pretended to be a volunteer or denied that they needed help. I had the feeling they were ashamed of their situation and somehow scared to admit it to themselves.
But the volunteers were not only distributing stuff, they were also trying to get in contact and to talk to these people, trying to understand their situation and help them. It wasn’t that easy either, firstly because they were reserved, not really willing to talk about it, and secondly because the majority of them didn’t speak Swedish or English. This event left a big impression of my stay in Sweden.
As I have already written, studying at a Swedish university do not keep you fully occupied, so why not spend part of your free this time on volunteering? Try it and you’ll get addicted to it. Just like I did.