This blog was written by Jessica Mencia, who is currently undertaking a placement at UK Youth. For more information about UK Youth voice, please go here.
After living in the London and volunteering for UK Youth for a little over a month, I was excited to spend a weekend with UK Youth Voice members in February.
Currently, I am studying abroad from the United States with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The structure of my programme allows me to take three courses and a placement, which is how I became connected with UK Youth. While in London, I have been studying theatre, world art, and journalism. The courses are all focused on British culture and current events, which has made living in London all the more enriching. At UK Youth, I am supporting in the Policy and Youth Engagement team. So far, I have written policy bulletins and done research on policies that impact young people in the United Kingdom.
While I am enjoying my program, all of my courses are with fellow Americans, which makes it challenging to meet locals. Coming to my first UK Youth Voice meeting, I was especially excited to interact young people from the United Kingdom.
The meeting was held at the WWF Living Planet Centre in Woking, England. The centre was a great venue that allowed us all to learn about the importance of an environmentally friendly workspace. The tour given by Amy was a great overview of the space and the work that WWF does to protect the environment. As a student in public policy, the tour reminded me to be more involved in educating myself in environmental policy. At the end of the tour, we were asked to pledge an individual action to help the environment. I decided to pledge to start composting again. I composted last summer, but stopped once the term began again. Composting is an easy way to reduce food reduction and is something I look forward to doing once I am back in the United States.
“Something that I am eager to take back home”
Over the course of the meeting, we discussed LGBTQ rights, mentoring, and ways that young people can help the environment. I also got a behind the scenes look at the process for selecting new UK Youth Voice members. This process involved UK Youth Voice members reviewing applications and calling applicants for an interview. UK Youth Voice stands out in involving young people in as many ways as possible, out of all the organisations I am involved with. Consequently, this is something that I am eager to bring back to the youth charities I work with back home.
In between the activities, I talked to members about the differences and similarities between our lives as young people from different countries. I got a lot of questions about American universities, food, and sports. I am really thankful for the way UK Youth Voice welcomed me, being around Americans most of the time. Discussing different laws and policies between our countries was interesting. But it was also nice to have a laugh or recommend my favourite American television shows.
Unfortunately, my programme ends in late April and I am not looking forward to leaving. I miss friends and family, but I have grown attached to living and studying in London. However, I think that participating in a UK Youth Voice meeting has benefited my experience abroad. Most of all, I know this experience will be one that I can bring back to my own community involvement.