Evgeniya Koptyug, M.A. student, Hamburg University, Journalism & Communication Science

I have wanted to write since I was little. During my first years of school we had a class where we “wrote books” as projects. You had to come up with a story, put it together, illustrate it, then the “book” was bound with your own byline on the cover. The excitement and fascination with the process has stayed with me over the years.

My first iEARN project, back in 1998, was “Kindred”, coordinated by Judy Barr from Warragul of iEARN-Australia. Thanks to the George Soros Foundation our school had just gotten a new computer classroom with Internet access. It was a completely new experience for me and by lucky coincidence that’s when I started learning to write essays for international youth projects. The seed from those early childhood writing endeavors was still there, but now that I was older and we were working with partners from abroad, a new seriousness and thrill was attached to creating a story. “Kindred” was about exploring your family history and sharing it with others. You learned about the responsibility of letting your words out into the world.

We took part in Kindred several times over the next few years. At the end of each project an essay collection was produced by Judy Barr and her students. Holding the finished effort in my hands, knowing that I had contributed to it and seeing the essays of other students I had exchanged opinions with, convinced me further that I wanted to stay on this path. Judy Barr’s attentive mentoring was also invaluable.

Another pivotal iEARN experience was taking part in the Laws of Life project, coordinated by Sarah Lucas of iEARN-USA.  I had written a poem about my views on the laws of life and spontaneously made an illustration. The poem was published in the Millennium, year 2000 edition of the book and my drawing was on the cover. In July, I was invited to the annual iEARN conference, which took place in Beijing that year. I came back home knowing not only that I still wanted to write, but that I wanted international exchange and languages to be a part of that writing. I also got to meet many wonderful people at the conference.

Two years and a handful of other iEARN projects later I graduated from high school. That fall I entered the Novosibirsk State University to study journalism. The decision was made based on knowing that I wanted to express what interested me through learning to write professionally in different languages. Journalism also seemed a good way of learning how to organize all the information I came across. I was always interested in people and I was such a bookworm that all those impressions had to get out somehow. I also fell in love with the German language. After receiving a scholarship for a language course in Heidelberg a few years ago I fell in love with the country.

I graduated from Novosibirsk University with a diploma in journalism and German. This led to doing a Masters course in journalism and communication science at Hamburg University in Germany. While studying these two years, I did a great internship at the Fund for German-Russian Youth Exchange, where the experience with iEARN definitely came in handy. An interest for youth work, also strengthened through iEARN, seems to be there for life. The other wonderful thing about this internship was that I got to work on the German-Russian online youth magazine the Fund was producing, To4ka-Treff. Writing and editing in German and Russian was a terrific challenge, as well as a big responsibility.

My other internship in the fall of 2010 was at the press department of the Hamburg Ballet. One of the best parts was getting to write for the blog on their website and receiving feedback on my articles. I got to work on subjects that interested not only me, but others as well, and I put to use what I had learned during all the previous years on a new level. Writing this time in German and English was a joy.

So it all comes together somehow, and I feel excited about the future. I was very lucky to take part in the iEARN projects at school, because they gave me an early understanding about what I wanted to do professionally.