Odunola Oladeji, Nigeria: European Interdisciplinary Master African Studies (EIMAS)
I was in Kenya for my research when I saw the application for the 2022 General Assembly (GA). The deadline for application was on that same day, which meant I had less than six hours to apply. Tickets to the GA are assured as long as one has proof of active volunteering engagements with EMA. And since I have my bucket filled with volunteering engagements, I could not jinx this opportunity.
Mind you, I was in the previous GA in 2021. But no thanks to COVID, the blockbuster experience was all virtual. And now that we have the opportunity to ditch virtual and go physical, I did not want to miss it. So, I got home, picked up my computer, filled out the application, and finally clicked submit. When I finally got a response from the organizing committee, the email read, ‘Congratulations…’. Honestly, I stopped at that. Left the remaining lines for the paparazzi and started preparing for the experience.
After a series of exchanges, mails, and preparations, the much-anticipated day was upon us. My journey to Copenhagen (Denmark), started in the early hours of the 20th of May. For seven hours, I shuffled between train stations and the airport but the heart-warming reception at the General Assembly was enough consolation. The 2-day GA was packed with interesting sessions and invigorating group discussions but not without a relaxing atmosphere of some coffee breaks, networking, an international dinner night, and the adventurous cityscape challenge. For me, the latter remains one of my best memories of the GA.
For the city escape challenge, all the GA attendees were divided into internationally diverse teams. All the groups were tasked with the challenge to save the world from a deadly virus. Countries represented in my group include India, Indonesia, Brazil, Colombia, and myself (Nigeria). The fascinating highlight is that we started poorly, and others were way ahead of us, but with teamwork, understanding, individual expertise, and spontaneous acumen, we emerged to finish the task. The guiding rule was to trust no one, but our winning strategy was built on trusting our team members. Manasseh (India) was the computational geek, Guilia (Brazil) – the lawyer turned lens handler and our technical backbone. I could not beat Juan (Brazil) in the geographical navigation, so we trusted him with that. At some point, I dusted off my chemistry hat after eight years and started mixing chemicals. Other times, my hypothetical guessing saved us some more time. Diana (Colombia) was phenomenal, her energy was unbeatable. She was the vibe and the life wire of the team. Beyond the conjecture, she actually figured out the cable connection that gave us access to the radar. Finally, in the group, we had the indomitable Virza (Indonesia), who seems to be the coolest in the group but was a performer and silent achiever. These individual attributes and skills were instrumental to completing the task.
Lastly, one unique experience about this year’s GA is that the journey to and from the venue was an adventure on its own. I woke up on the morning of my departure and had a conflicting thought between my instinct to leave early and my adulation of the European Union’s efficient transport system. Left to me, I probably would have left the hotel an hour before my flight’s departure, considering my previous experience traveling within Europe. On this day, my instinct dialed, and I picked up. This meant leaving earlier and getting to the airport and its frightening security check-in queue. I got stuck in the long queue till 8.40 am (my flight was at 8.50 am!). Seeing I might not make it, I reached out to an official, who allowed me into the express entry. In the end, I made my flight albeit on whiskers. I couldn’t be more grateful because once I missed that, all other connections would have been missed.
In the midst of this, the positive vibes from the weekend were all I was feeling.
I finally reached my destination (Bayreuth) around 4 pm after several strange events. Long and short, I missed the final connecting train and waited to link up with another. In the midst of this, the positive vibes from the weekend were all I was feeling. Thank you all for the wonderful post-Covid experience. It's nice volunteering with you all.