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So many things happened in the first week that this post will need to be split!

After some participants’ experiences, here comes finally the week manager’s voice.
In a few words: AWESOME participants, lovely weather (are we really in the UK?), truly beautiful places – my job could not be much more pleasant than that!
The tour is so intense that finding time to blog is maybe the hardest part…
Together we had a dive into British history, culture and society, visiting places, talking to people and reading newspapers, to then put all this information into practice in the right way when approaching – not only – students and encouraging them to take their stand on the upcoming elections.
Below some highlights and considerations from my perspective.

LONDON – the bright departure
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Participants got introduced to the project under the spring sun of a London meadow. Decoration of the bus and short London tour followed.
Czarek cheered our first moments with Y-Vote Cheburashka bungee jumping.

PORTSMOUTH – English non plus ultra
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The most English day of all!
As you already read before, the presence of the Queen of England marked our presence there. The Queen votes, so why wouldn’t you?
We also had typically English food (i.e. fish&chips), typically English culture (i.e. we visited Charles Dickens birthplace) and typically English weather (i.e. it was raining like hell).
However, the best part of the day was a young English participant we acquired and lost in the same day. We met Dominik in the hostel, where we were having our morning workshop session to get ready and kick the streets. I had a chat with him during my cigarette break (who said smoke brings always damage?) and he got very interested in what we were doing. His life looks quite different from ours: only 18 years old, he left the Lake district – where unemployment rate is very high – to search for a job in the richer south. In few hours he really became one of us, teaching us English slang, excited and surprised by us being all from different countries, astonished by our astonishment for seeing the English breakfast for the first time (we would see it many many other times the following days…). Then, the bad news: he couldn’t leave Portsmouth because he needs to make an interview every week in the same place, otherwise no unemployment subsidies. He just could not afford it.
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Passing through Southampton, we headed towards the heart of the Oxbridge.

OXFORD – guitars and balloons
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The Oxford stay has been particularly interesting and full with intense and different emotions.
We were enjoying a cosy bar in Cowley road, but unfortunately without the company of local students – our target group. My guitar, though, proved to be a real magnet for locals. Which brings us to a simple conclusion: English guys are definitely more interested in guitars then in girls. That’s how we ended up animating the whole bar, with people fighting who would take the guitar in their hands first. Such a musical nation!
With Oxford I have a special connection. Because it was my first time in England there, working as a babysitter, because my beloved professor sent me here, because my best friend studies there – because there’s something in the air. Bright minds have been growing here since centuries, within beautiful tradition and constant growth. Technologies are used but not abused.
There was a very special occasion during our stay there: the May Day celebration. The crowd gathers under Magdalene College Tower, where the choir sings at 6 o’ clock in the morning, in perfect silence. Traditional breakfast follows. Our valiant participants of course did not miss this gluttonous chance to perform massive street actions! Y Vote balloons were flying, Y Vote bands quickly becoming early morning trendsetters.
Oh, we got even interviewed by the local TV!
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We had furthermore a meeting with the Oxford hub representatives. Their openness towards Europe surprised us in a very positive way. Jake explained in this way the unpopularity of the EU: A vision is needed, something that will mobilize people, give them a reason why to pay attention to it. Until then popularity of the EU will stay low.
See below the balloon fight in the pub ‘the Turf’ (one of my absolute favourites), which completed our stay in the most marry way!

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Having said goodbye to the Y Vote bus three days ago, finally I’m in a prosaic mood to write about my impressions of the UK.
Let’s start with the weather; immediately one of the foremost positive things of my stay in the UK. I would definitively argue for MORE beach holiday in the UK advertisement in the rest of the EU. It would help mutual understanding.
At first I was worried when I noticed I forgot my umbrella from Y Vote Groningen. But it was all nice and shiny weather in London, Portsmouth, Southampton, and Oxford. While in my home country the weather was shit.

What caught my eye was the EXCEPTIONALLY clean streets (even in London, one of the biggest cities in Europe, apparently not one of the most dirty), and in those streets: young mothers with young kids hand in hand in the busily trafficked streets of Soho, King’s Cross, Chelsea…
London is a MULTICULTURAL melting pot, filled with students and working citizens coming from all over the world. The ambience of all those people from different backgrounds and with puritan working spirit does not make the city less attractive for the sporty Brits, as you can see them jogging along the river Thames, sometimes with their dog on a leash.

I experienced a large part of the Y Vote conferences. During our campaign, for example at the Vienna Launching Conference, we talked about multicultural, globalized, societies in Europe, and the necessity of commonly shared VALUES in it. Well, now I have witnessed daily life in London, I got a better understanding of British Euroskepticism. I can well imagine that the British think of the so-called ‘European values’ that Sarkozy and Merkel talk about, as words with an empty shell. Why? I think because in London they ALREADY live in a (largely) multicultural society with exactly those values that belong in the 21st century.

And London is a city that was atrocited by the bombs of Al Qaeda terrorists in 2005! Back then, several bombs caused a bloody massacre. They hit innocent citizens who used public transport daily. In fact; our hostel was nearest to that metro station where one of the bombs exploded; King’s Cross St. Pancras. We took metros from that station at twice a day. Anyway, it is a remarkable city. It is like a metropole that undistracted goes ITS OWN WAY, regardless of terrorist attacks, or some wacky Europhiles on the continent that criticize the city for not being ‘European’.

The last days I spent in Oxford, the world-famous university city. And there, living is equally remarkable. Everything in Oxford seems BETTER arranged than in my hometown (and I live in the Netherlands, generally not regarded as a backward country in these respects). People you see on the British streets are more fashionable, the seats in the bus are softer, the grass in the gardens is kept tidier, the mailboxes are more charming, the men in suits chose their ties with more care… In short, it’s amazing! Ah, and the English girls – they look fabulously. Not at all what I expected.

A shame that the people here are so ignorant of European affairs. Because they greatly benefit from European integration, only they don’t seem to realize it. It is up to us to make them realize.

The Y Vote Wolf

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oxford-collage1After one and a half hour train journey, we managed to come to Nanford Guest House in Oxford. At the same time, when we were passing through the Oxford, it was so obvious that it was going to be a good experience. From the first moment, Oxford’s atmosphere and people spread a very nice energy which takes you in it and you automatically start to feel a part of it. Then, when we came to the guest house, we met with the rest of the group from Slovenia, Italy, Spain and Cyprus with us. Until now, we would have say that we had amazing times together, and in our opinions, if we were selected by a training, our group wouldn’t be better. After seeing everything, it was more than our expectations. We had a great dinner and went to one of the pubs suggested by one of the Aegee Oxford member …Oh yeah almost forgot that, before the pub on the way, we have practiced the “tell me y” song and had a good laugh while doing it. What we were talking about? Yeah the fantastic pub!.. There were Irish people playing and dancing nonstop all the night. As we were a quite big group, we could able to find a place at the back next to the piano, We played several nice games and Tena has started to play the guitar! It was great and amazing at the same time where, the songs were connecting all the people under the same roof. Then the people that were at surroundings has started to join and play the guitar and piano which was unbelievable. It was so natural and great times where, we felt and we could get the attention and talked them about Y vote as well. By the way, even we were so tired we thought, we couldn’t miss the May Day Celebrations in Oxford which is the biggest spring celebration in UK. It was a great opportunity to take an action. It has started around 6 am on top of the tower/bridge. After a few hours sleep, we gathered together for a workshop and brainstorming before we met with the student organisation. Tena and Thijs gave us all the relative and important information about Y Vote and it was really useful presentation as well.
After brainstorming we went to meet with students. We have explained our aims and goals where, they were interested, agreed and tried to arrange something in order to help us. This showed us once more we were taking action!! After a pub dinner we walked down to the perfect pub of Oxford and again had a great time in there with putting up the balloons and taking the attention of the youths and people in there even starting to make a balloon fight and telling them about y vote and making them aware of it. And here we are again on the way to Bristol. With the historical buildings, pub meetings, good foods, atmosphere, cycling people, our amazing group and nice hostel even the nice weather while hearing the birds chirping were totally great!.. Last but not least is – Tell me Y that I wanna hear you say, I vote on that day.. 🙂

– Bedii , Tagmach

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