What does an enlarged European Union mean to you?

This article is the winning article of the age category 19-25 in the European Writing Competition entitled: “What does an enlarged EU mean to you?” organized by the European Commission and DG Enlargement in 2014.

Another kind of family
I’m sitting at the back seat of a minibus, listening to music and watching the emerald-green trees passing me by as the car reaches the borders. I’m thinking to myself that this is how it must feel to be part of something bigger, something greater. We crossed the borders. I smiled.
But it’s not only about crossing the physical borders of a country when you travel. It’s about crossing the imaginative borders of your mind as well, taking a step forward and getting out of your comfort zone. You see, a truly magical thing happens once you travel abroad. You enter a new country, and then there is this excitement about discovering a new, unfamiliar culture, the eagerness to taste new flavours and the growing anticipation to grasp as much as you can. But at the same time, you gradually become aware of the fact that you actually belong with those people you call ‘foreigners’. You are able to communicate with them, either by using a lingua franca or through gestures and body language. No matter how different you consider them to be, they are indeed part of a larger community, a community to which you also belong.

But let’s go back to my entering the borders. I reach the country. My excitement reaches its climax when I receive a call from my Erasmus buddy who happens to live in the city where the youth exchange is going to be held. It has been a year since I last saw her and this youth exchange trip has given me the opportunity to reunite with her again. My unfathomable exhilaration cannot possibly be described in words. It is truly amazing how much you can learn from other people once you sail away from ‘the safe harbour’ and take a step forward into the unknown, yet fascinating world that spreads right in front of you and awaits to be discovered. Indeed, when I come to think about it, an enlarged EU for me is nothing more than the family I have built outside my country’s borders. It’s my crazy bilingual German roommate from Erasmus back in Krakow, or the Turkish fellow participant I met in the training course who was passionate about half-serious, half-playful conversations like me, or even the intriguingly weird yet astoundingly clever Portuguese friend I made during a youth exchange program. All these people, and many more, coming from different corners of Europe, have contributed to my self-development and have, indeed, given me a glimpse of all that is out there and waits to be grasped. They have taught me to look beyond what I see, to view people regardless of their cultural background, sex, or colour. And, most importantly, they have helped me realize that my own concerns, thoughts and experiences, even if they are articulated in a different language than theirs, are in fact common and shared by them as well. It’s funny how we are put into categories (sex, nationality, religion), separating ourselves from others according to certain ideologies, when deep within, we are all united by a single, intrinsic essence: that we are human beings, along with everything that comes with it. By eliminating any physical and imaginative borders, we move beyond the alleged limits we are confined to and construct a larger, greater community, a community whose family-like bonds are the foundations upon which a better world is unfolding.

And this is precisely what an enlarged European Union means to me.

 

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This guest post was written by Anastasia Liopetriti. She loves literature, wine, chocolate and adventures and wrote this article as part of a writing competition about the subject of an enlarged European Union.

 

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