Get to know our ESC Volunteers - Nastja

The European Solidarity Corps (often shortened to ESC) supports young people aged 18-30 to be full-time volunteers in many foreign countries. Thanks to Erasmus+ funding, Galway Community Circus has been hosting ESC volunteers since 2013. Learn about the ESC experience with GCC and get to know one of this year's ESC volunteers in this interview with Nastja from Slovenia.

The ESC programme is much more than an internship: it is a life-changing experience requiring participants to open their minds by experiencing other cultures. It also enables volunteers to become socially involved in a new culture and committed to a professional organisation.

We interviewed one of this year's ESC volunteers, Nastja Fekonja, to get the scoop on her European Solidarity Corps experience with Galway Community Circus. Read on to get to know Nastja!

What is your training or background in circus or the arts?

The first time I was introduced to circus was at an Erasmus training called “Circus Pedagogy as a Tool for Youth Workers” in Finland. We learned some basic tricks with diablo, poi, juggling, and more. I really enjoyed the poi spinning so I continued learning it through YouTube videos. I also took part in different Erasmus projects that other circus artists attended so I used my free time to learn more about circus from them. After that I joined Cirkus Fuskabo in Maribor, Slovenia, where I taught basic circus skills.

What made you want to volunteer at Galway Community Circus?

I was already in Kraków as a CEEPUS student, and later in Tarragona as an Erasmus student, so I wanted to try the European Solidarity Corps. I knew that I wanted to be in a circus organisation, but I didn’t know which one. I spoke to Zef, the leader of Cirkus Fuskabo, and he suggested Galway Community Circus because we have similar programmes and GCC has good reputation in circus circles. So, all the information convinced me that GCC was the option best for me.

What do you love about working with Galway Community Circus?

First, I would say I love working with the GCC team because it is incredible. Since day one, I have felt welcomed. I can see every day that the team breathes for circus and has a big desire to gain new knowledge and pass it on to other people. The GCC team is made up of people from many different countries, so I’m always listening closely when we talk about the differences in our cultures because for me it is interesting to compare cultures and traditions. I always say that this team is my Irish circus family. Second, I love working with the Galway Community Circus members because they really make my day with their big smiles, their eagerness to try new skills and their proud circus moments.

What project(s) are you working on at the Circus and what results (of those projects) do you hope to achieve?

One of my big projects was to organise the books in the circus library. We have a lot of books, but they were not in order. I organised the books into different sections (circus teaching resources, disciplines, other resources) so other tutors would know where to find what type of book they want. One of the tasks, which I am very proud, was making Galway Community Circus stickers and GIFs for Instagram. I didn’t know anything about GIFs, but I learned everything through the process and occasionally I add new ones. (To find GCC’s GIFs on Instagram, type galwaycommunitycircus or galwaycircus in the GIF search bar). I really like to be creative on Instagram, and stickers and GIFs are a simple way to promote GCC there.

I am also the Volunteer Environmental Officer so I try to make GCC more environmentally friendly, especially because we have only one Earth. I include an environmental awareness section in our internal/company newsletter with different with suggestions and advice. I also edit the internal newsletter every month and then send it to the team to inform them about any important events for that month. The next big project for me is to organise the prop library, where members will be able to borrow circus props to practice their circus skills over the summer.

What do you love about Ireland?

I know it might sound strange, but I really like weather! Especially on days when it is both sunny and rainy because I get to see amazing rainbows. I like the green colour of Ireland’s nature, which I can find everywhere, because it calms me. The people here are friendly and happy to help you, and the Irish traditions and culture are interesting for me. But sometimes the Irish accent is challenging to understand.

What are a few important things you have learned (or are learning) while volunteering with GCC?

-I never had any experience with toddler circus before, but since I am an assistant tutor in the toddler classes, I can see the differences in toddlers’ abilities. In a recent workshop I learned that 90% of a child’s brain is developed before age 5, so I realized that a toddler circus class is a great investment for a child’s development.

-It’s very important to have a good team because together you can overcome every challenge.

-Stay open-minded and have an eagerness for new things. Thinking outside the box can evolve simple ideas, which can become something amazing and breath-taking.

What is one thing you love about circus in general?

In circus you can find something for everyone. You can work together, like building pyramids, or work alone, like poi spinning. Circus evolves so you can always find new disciplines and you can always upgrade your knowledge.

Why do you think a programme like European Solidarity Corps is important?

Without the European Solidarity Corps, I wouldn’t have had an opportunity to work so deeply with a circus organisation like Galway Community Circus. In Galway, I have access to special circus knowledge and also circus equipment like a tightwire, which is not common in Slovenia. I have been able to learn about Irish traditions and culture and have become more aware of the differences between Ireland and Slovenia. Because of the European Solidarity Corps, I have met so many wonderful people, who are now an important part of my social network.

Would you recommend that other people apply to volunteer at organisations through the ESC programme? Why?

Yes, yes, yes. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for anyone who would like to expand their knowledge, meet new people, and immerse themselves in a new culture. It’s also a chance to gain specific knowledge that you might not have access to in your home country. If you decide to join the European Solidarity Corps, you will be proud of yourself and will not regret it.

You can learn more about the European Solidarity Corps here or visit the European Solidarity Corps page on our website for more information.