First 3 months as a volunteer at IPC… What’s it all about?

Fair warning, this post is kinda long, but how can you summarise 3 intense months into a single post? Well, I tried 😅

In this article, I will cover: my journey to IPC, the first weeks, the activities at the Human Rights Café, my personal project, what a normal day looks like, how I keep a work-life balance, and the recent on-arrival training. Enjoy and I hope this post is useful to you to learn about the work and my experiences at IPC!

Arriving at IPC

I came here to Denmark from France three months ago to start my European Solidarity Corps volunteering. The trip by train was long… 26 hours, in fact. I left my comfortable French apartment as the sun rose and I boarded the train to Brussels. In Brussels, I met up with a friend for a relaxed lunch on the terrace of a traditional restaurant before continuing on by train through Germany. Passing through Germany, I felt lost. The announcements on the tannoy were suddenly again unfamiliar, reminding me of my first days in France. The train chugged slowly, not daring to go faster for the storm that battered the windows and the floodwaters causing damage nearby. It was my first time sleeping on a night train, and really not too bad given I only had a seat and not a bed. Eventually, I arrived, exhausted, in Helsingor, took that long walk up the hill, and was greeted by my boss Bogna, her husband Angelo, their kids and a delicious breakfast outside.

First weeks

The first few weeks were time to become adjusted to life at International People’s College. IPC is an international folk highschool, meaning a school for those 17 and above who want to have an international experience, learn about the world, its problems and solutions, be creative, discover themselves and their passions, in a learning environment without the pressure of exams. My domain of work is within the Human Rights Café, a space for students to come, relax, eat cake and take part in alternative learning and bonding activities. For the first few weeks, cleaning and redecorating was in order, as due to covid there had not been volunteers the previous term, so the room was very neglected. Along with the other volunteer, Thélia, who came from Paris, we chose new furniture and planned out our first activities. Now, the HRC is a cosy place of sofas, rugs, pillows, blankets, string lights and art in the colours of pink, beige and brown. 

Our activities

The activities we have been running in the Human Rights Café include a language café, poetry club, relaxation/meditation sessions, fun bonding activities such as murder mystery, speed dating and games nights, movie and discussion nights, and conversations around important topics such as peace and internationalism – all featuring a lot of cake 🙂 the purposes of our activities are to enable students to connect to each other in a different context than their classes, to express themselves in new ways and to learn and think deeply about the pressing issues facing our global society.

My personal project

On that topic, I have also been working on a personal project, which is a board game about climate justice. It is a game where the players must work together to discover and implement solutions to avert a climate catastrophe. It brings up questions of how different solutions impact people differently, their different needs, and enables conversations to be had about the solutions to the climate crisis around the world. Many students have been helping me play-test this game, and soon it is going to be printed professionally. The school will keep a copy so that future generations of students can benefit from the opportunity to share a fun moment together while thinking and learning about climate justice.

A normal day

My days at IPC begin with breakfast and Morning Fellowship, a moment of assembly for the students and staff, to sing and share announcements. Then I have my daily French lesson – I am continuing to study French every day and have improved significantly since I left France. The mornings are also time for planning activities and administrative tasks. Sometimes we have activities in the afternoons, if not they are normally spent baking, cleaning the HRC etc. Then finally, we normally do activities in the evenings such as those mentioned above. 

Work-life balance?

At first, it was hard to find a work-life balance. Eating all meals together means it’s hard to leave the school as we have to be back every few hours for a meal. Finishing our activities frequently at 9:30pm or 10:30pm means going to bed immediately, not having any time to relax or work towards our personal goals. But I learned to take the first few hours of the morning to relax, sleep sometimes (hehe) and work on my French.

I try to also keep my life balanced through volunteering in the wider community outside of IPC. I volunteered at some events for a jazz festival in Helsingor and also did some administrative tasks for a humanitarian NGO in Copenhagen. I often think that IPC doesn’t feel like Denmark, as it is such an international place, so those moments engaging with the wider community were really valuable for me to see Denmark from another perspective.

On-arrival Training

Another important moment in my time here at IPC was the on-arrival training (named as such despite taking place half way through my project). Saying that, it was well timed, as it came in a moment where both us volunteers were feeling pretty low, as happens. We travelled to Odense and met with several other volunteers who, like us, came from around Europe to volunteer in Denmark. It was great to connect with other people going through similar experiences to us, and be inspired by them. We ate a lot, shared a lot, and quickly became friends – I then spent the weekend in Aarhus with two of the volunteers I met on that training. 

New friends from the on-arrival training

And now?

Since the on-arrival training several weeks ago, with a new burst of motivation from Thélia and I, we have been creating some amazing and meaningful events, such as Thélia created a beautiful video presentation of the first half of the term. We showed it to the students in the Big Hall with mattresses, string lights, free cookies and a moment to reflect, using some question prompts, on all that’s happened in the first half of the term. We have a lot of energy going forward, and despite not having too much time left, I think I speak for both Thélia and I when I say we are planning to make the most of it.