Dear Aarhus,

I'm about to embark on an adventure in which you are the protagonist. Now everything is ready: a list of the hundreds of voluntary organizations based in your area, a busy schedule, a camera ... What am I talking about?

Perhaps it is better to start from the beginning. I must admit that until a few months ago I did not know much about you. Ok, let’s say the truth: I did not even know that you existed. You must excuse my geographical ignorance but Denmark in general was for me just a distant land, a sort of paradise where everything works perfectly and where, just like in paradise, clouds are always around.

I never could have imagined that eventually I would have started calling you "home" but that is exactly what happened. After having received the stunning news that the organization Studerendes Frivillige Netværk based at VIA University College had selected me for a European Volunteering Service, I did not have to do anything else but take a plane and say goodbye to the mild Italian temperatures.

However, as in any self-respecting love story, the first impact was not very encouraging. Let's face it, your name is not very inviting for a foreigner. I must admit that you were wise enough to change your spelling from Århus to Aarhus in 2011. However, it is not that difficult to see your name still spelled with the initial Å. When I saw it for the first time, I thought that you were trying to warn any non-Danish mothertongue who was daring to move to Scandinavia about the difficulties that they will face with Danish language. But I had no intention to get scared, no matter how difficult Danish was and I started interpret that circle above your "a" as a symbol of inclusion, a circle within which I wanted to be included. Moreover, I am a person who always likes to look on the bright side of life and so, to cheer me up, I thought that I was already lucky as I had not ended up in the unpronounceable Fær Øer.

So, having defeated the initial fear, I began to discover you little by little. The first thing I knew about you was that you were elected "European Capital of Culture 2017" and that you had chosen "Let's Rethink" as a motto. It seemed to me an amazing combination. Rethinking was exactly what I was doing with my life and I immediately took it as a good omen. I found out that you spent 2017 by organising conferences, concerts, plays, events of any sort in order to give a new perspective on culture and arts. More than 4,000 volunteers did their part in making you thrive and I could not be but impressed by the commitment of all of them.

Afterwards, I came to know that you are often called the "City of Smiles". Are you serious? Not only I moved to one of the happiest countries in the world, but apparently also to the most cheerful one. Indeed, I can confirm that in the last months I have seen many smiles and I owe a lot to them as they were my primary source of heat while I was waiting for a spring that did not want to start.

And what did your future hold in 2018? Starting from the success of your events in 2017, you were ready for a new challenge: becoming European Volunteering Capital 2018. Every year this award is given to a city that has distinguished itself in the field of volunteering. After Barcelona, Lisbon, London and Sligo it was your turn to receive this recognition and another time you proved yourself worthy. The reason you have been chosen is your successful policy of active citizenship and the strong collaboration between the common and the political agenda.

However, I asked myself immediately: "Is it really like that?" Sorry, but I am a sceptical person by nature and I tend not to believe what I am told if I don’t see it with my own eyes. That's why I decided to find out in person if you deserve the title that was given to you. And what better place to start my investigation than your voluntary organisations?

As a consequence, in the next months I am going to visit different associations to experience the vibrant atmosphere that you managed to create and to become a "volunteer for a day". I will listen to the people who decided to help you to become a European reference point in the field of volunteering and to those who live on their own skin the benefits of your generosity.

I do not know what is likely to happen in my future. I cannot wait to get started and I'm ready to let everybody know about my discoveries.

Med venlig hilsen,

Are you curious to find out what's going on in the European Volunteering Capital 2018? Then do not miss the next article by Genny that will report from AIESEC Denmark.

Genny Cabas is an Italian taking a European Volunteering Service in Denmark. In February, she started working at Studerendes Frivillige Netværk (SFN) based at VIA University College and she finished her project on 1st October.

To know more about her and SFN visit the Facebook page SFN - Studerendes Frivillige Netværk.