My name is Aine and I’m the 2019 JCI Mayo Deputy President. I was fortunate enough to recently travel to Sweden for the JCI European Academy which has become a massive highlight of my JCI career since rejoining the organisation this year.
JCI European Academy is more than just an intense leadership training weekend. It is a unique weekend of developing trust, friendship and team building, but also a journey of personal development and self exploration.
I've walked away not only with so many leanings about me, and tools to become a better leader and team player. But even better! I now have so many friends all across Europe.
Completely out of my comfort zone and really not knowing what to expect, Thursday evening I landed at HQ, 30 minutes or so from Gothenburg Landvetter airport. I met one or two other delegates who had also arrived early and I quickly began to realise that they too were feeling the same as me, but we were all excited for what was to come the following morning.
Day One began with lunch where there was welcoming speeches from Executive Vice President, Viktor Omarsson & Academy Director Jenni Ahlstedt. They introduced the trainers and the full Conference Organising Committee team and we then quickly found ourselves immersed in the first round of training modules, where we got to get to know other JCI members from all across Europe.
Up bright and early for Day 2, we started off with a short training before heading out for the day on our outdoor adventures, that included loads of interesting team building activities. It was a day we’ll never forget and lifelong friendships began to form. The views around where we were staying were just breathtaking. They’d even give the green island of Ireland a run for its money.
After dinner we continued with some further training modules and got to learn all about our Insights profiles. Before going to Sweden, we had answered a series of questions and from that we received a detailed account of our different personalities, strengths and weaknesses. This gave us a better understanding of ourselves and how we fit into a team to be able to work more efficiently.
Day 3 was the complete opposite of what had come before, mainly consisting of educational trainings and workshops. The Tuckman Development stages, Types of Leadership, and the OFNR model were just some of the areas covered. In the evening, we got to enjoy a trip to the nearby Bohus Fortress, enjoying an outdoor dinner and party with new friends. We got to discover some history and culture from the region as well as once again getting to enjoy some incredible views. It was a great way to unwind and get to socialize with everyone before we returned to headquarters to prepare our final assignments.
An inspirational beginning for Day 4 with an empowering speech from JCI World President, Alex Tio before we began presenting our final group assignments in front of the other delegates. While watching this, it really showed how teams with completely different personalities came together, supported and encouraged each other and delivered, while having plenty of laughs along the way. This made it an overall fun experience and built people’s confidence for future presentations. While teamwork can at times have it’s challenges, it has so many more benefits. Sometimes teamwork can lead to confrontation, but if it does, it’s an even better lesson for the future.
Day 4 finished up with the graduation ceremony and gala dinner. It was incredible to watch other delegates go up to receive their graduation pin. Only days before they were strangers, and now they had become close friends. While I didn’t get to see much of the other Irish delegates over the 4 days, only a quick hello here and there, we had great fun dancing away on the final night with everyone else from all over Europe. Paddy, Sharka & I even tried a little Riverdance to get people prepared for EC2020 in Dublin.
The final day was filled with departures, pictures, swapping information and instead of goodbyes, it was all “see you soon.” Those that were not flying until late that evening departed for Gothenburg for some lunch, drinks and sightseeing, to continue the experience until the end. Even in the airport, as people boarderd their planes, we were dancing, waving at each other and shouting “See you in Estonia for Pure Magic.”
We may have gone home exhausted but overall, people were thrilled to have been a part of the experience and excited about the future of JCI. Since then we have been in touch with each other, sharing what's going on in our local chapters and sending each other throwback messages to what was an unforgettable adventure.
While the details of European Academy are kept relatively hush hush, there is a reason for this. And it all makes sense as the weekend progresses. If you were to know what’s in store before you made your way to Sweden, it wouldn’t be such a life-changing experience. While feeling completely out of my comfort zone when I arrived, I would go back in the morning and do it all again as it really was one of the most incredible experiences one could ever have.
So what is JCI European Academy? It’s a well designed and thought out weekend, designed to help you become a better leader for tomorrow. In one word, it was transformational!
Thanks to JCI Ireland, as well as Senate Chair Catherine Laffey and her husband Past President Jeremy Doyle for the opportunity to go on this trip, and JCI Mayo for the encouragement. Massive thanks also to all the trainers and COC team for giving up so much to make this a wonderful experience for all the 2019 JCI EA graduates.