Motivation and Commitment – German-Tunisian Exchange in Vlotho

by Julia Appel

How can you actively live and shape democracy in your country? How can you get involved in the complex political decision-making processes as a young person while you only feel as a tiny individual that can hardly make a change? These were only some of the questions that have been addressed during the first part of the German-Tunisian Exchange Program 2018 in Vlotho and in Berlin.

It is important to point out that the exchange was not only about discussing possible political futures and connecting our present to the past, but mostly about changing our perspectives, getting to know interesting people with their stories and learning from each other. The program included a diverse set of different workshops, group discussions, exchanges with different politicians as well as sightseeing and historical site visits in Berlin. One workshop was focused on cultural identities and the challenges when people of different culture meet and interact with many practical exercises.

Our day-trip to Bielefeld invited us to debate different perceptions of “development” in the NGO World House, but also left us with free time to explore the city. We also had presentations dedicated to Germany’s history, going back to the dictatorships of the past with especially new insights on the GDR regime, completed by the impressive and shocking visit of Berlin-Hohenschönhausen Memorial.

The discussions allowed us to compare the situations in Germany and in Tunisia and to learn more about the Tunisian uprising of 2011. Luckily enough, this was only the first part of our common journey as the second half of the seminar will take place in Tunisia in the first week of December. The German participants are now really looking forward to visiting Tunisia and to gaining new insights in the country’s realities.

When we made our final evaluation round, everybody of us thought of the things that we would take home with us, of the things we would like to throw away because we changed our opinion about it, but also of the gifts we made to the other participants with our different personalities. In the end, many of us felt more motivated to commit themselves to their society, convinced of the importance that young people can indeed make an impact and that they even have the responsibility to do so. Most of all, of course, we also had lots of fun together, happy shared moments – a night walk to the ruins of Vlotho castle, Döner experiences in Berlin – and many other memories that we took home with us.

Julia Appel is a German participant of the program „Living and Shaping Democracy“ at GESW. She currently studies in the M.A. program Études Francophones at the University of Bayreuth.