Lockdown chat #3
Welcome back to Lockdown Chat, a series where we interview our team about life and work in the time of corona. For the European Youth Forum staff, this month marks a year of working remotely, so we wanted to sit down with our colleagues for a chat near the coffee machine, just as we used to. For the third edition, we spoke to Monika Skadborg, who was recently elected a Board Member of the European Youth Forum – how is she finding life at the Youth Forum?
Can you tell us what you do at the European Youth Forum?
I'm a newly appointed board member of the European Youth Forum. The board is responsible for determining the direction of the organisation within the framework of strategies set up by all our member organisations. We try to transform the vision of our members into concrete actions.
Congratulations on being elected! Could you describe what your day-to-day job as a board member entails?
Board members have to oversee the overall organisational operation, so we perform a number of tasks: On some days, it's filling out forms and surveys, and on others, it's reading long documents to prepare for a board meeting. We try to ensure that we take good care of the organisation. We also do some external representation, for example, we go to conferences and try to convince the audience and policymakers that we need more youth involvement in policymaking.
Cool! What's the most exciting thing you are working on right now?
We want to expand our work on sustainability and develop really interesting projects focusing on the role of young people in making the future more sustainable. That's really close to my heart. It’s nice to know that you are helping a little when the whole world is on fire.
Do you support the climate youth marches?
Yeah, it's a really interesting movement. We are actively trying to bring the organised youth closer to the grassroots movement to create more synergy and influence policy in a different way.
Were you active as a volunteer before becoming a board member of the European Youth Forum?
Yes, I was active in one of our member organisations, the European Students’ Union, for quite some time as an executive committee member. It was kind of similar to being on the board here.
Are you a student yourself?
Yes, but just before that I did so much volunteering that I had to quit being a student for some time. Now, I'm completing my masters to become an environmental engineer.
Can you tell us something important that you learned during your time in youth organisations?
I love my degree, I do, and I learn a lot during my studies, but I almost think I learned more things from volunteering in youth organisations. I learned time management skills and how to work with other people. I held some staff and financial responsibilities as well. I'm not scared of challenges anymore.
So, you learned all those skills on the ground?
Yes, and it's very different from what they teach in universities, where you have to learn first and then start doing something. In youth organisations, it’s the opposite; you start working on something and that's how you learn. It has been super hard for students during the pandemic.
What do you think European leaders could do to make things better for them?
It's been very isolating. I can really feel the difference between having all my classes online compared to classes you could actually show up and study with your classmates for. The pandemic has been really hard on young people's mental health. You also have to think about the financial side of this problem. Mental healthcare can be expensive. To make things worse, young people are losing their jobs because of the pandemic, so they can’t afford mental health support. European leaders need to invest in making healthcare affordable and creating green jobs for young people.
Where are you spending time during the pandemic?
I'm in Denmark. It's cold and snowy today, and it’s quite nice actually. I don't live alone, so I can't really complain.
Can you tell us something that is totally normal in Denmark that would be perceived as weird by other Europeans?
We have Fastelavn, which is a carnival held in February. During the carnival, we have a tradition called slå katten af tønden, (Hit the cat out of the barrel), which is really similar to breaking a pinata. We say that there is a cat inside the barrel, and we hit it until it breaks. Of course, there is no cat inside, but candies. I guarantee that no animals are harmed during this crazy Danish tradition.
Do you have any hobbies?
I have a little bit of extra time because I don't have to catch any planes, trains or buses to go all around Europe anymore. I actually started cooking, which is not something that I did much before. Initially, I literally had to Google how long an egg has to be boiled. I've been baking bread, making soup and actually spending time in the kitchen.
When the pandemic is over, what's the first thing you want to do?
Oh, so many things. Hugging people! It's so strange that we stopped doing that. We found that we had to stop hugging people. I want to see people again; it has been way too long.
Connect with Monika on Linkedin