Being present at the International Stuttering Youth Exchange gave me a sense of belonging despite it being outside my comfort zone. Interacting with 40 people from different backgrounds is something which I usually don’t like to be involved in. Meeting 40 people who stutter is something that I looked forward to. From this meetup, I realized how much of an impact stuttering has in our daily lives and how connected we are with the strength that our stuttering has given us. Being around these folks gave me the freedom to be myself without having the fear of being judged. I enjoyed attending the different activities like a bike ride to Lemele, Finnish night where the Finns had beautifully shown the significance of Kalevala in their culture and language, and then dancing to the Letkiss. (I have now started hearing Letkiss on loop).
The second day was filled with a lot of emotions. After a quick breakfast and a relaxing guided meditation, we presented different workshops to a group of 4 people. I and my partner from Portugal Fabio presented our workshop on the perspective of body language and stuttering. We explored how stuttering and body language varies when speaking to a stranger, or a group of known and unknown people. We got to learn some fun lessons about Kayaking and finish the workshops with a short game of football before the rains started to pour. Yummy pancakes were being served for lunch along with grated cheese and Cinnamon jam. After a filling lunch, we moved to open mic where we got a chance to share our emotions with all of the folks on a stage, and this for me was the highlight of the youth exchange. I could see how emotionally strong stutterers have been and will be in their daily lives. For the first time, I was courageous enough to hold a mic and speak to an audience voluntarily. It made me feel a lot more connected to the audience and gave me a feeling of accomplishment. We ended the day after a delicious pizza and bid goodbye to everyone. Sadly, I could not make it for the entire youth exchange but having been there just for a day makes me look forward to the next one.