My name is Mirka and I’m an alum of JSC year 2018-2019. I come from a small country in central Europe – Slovakia. I did part of my Master studies in International Business at the UNC Greensboro and was glad to return to NC again. The JSC year brought many new experiences and learning about myself that I continue to use also after the end of the program year.
My placement with JSC was working in the kitchen at Club Nova with people with severe mental illnesses. JSC told us that sometimes the initially most challenging placements become the most rewarding in the end. This was very true for me too. I had never worked with people with severe mental illness and didn’t know a lot about the cooking style in the United States either. So the placement was a big challenge for me. During the year my understanding of the challenges people with severe mental illness face grew tremendously. As a result, I can now understand members of my own family better. I found the clubhouse model at Club Nova to be so great that I’ve been wishing to find something similar back home.
I also learned so much about empathy. Before my year with JSC I thought that I was already a very empathetic person, but soon realized how much more room there was for growth. I also learned so much about the United States way of cooking and North Carolina cuisine; both of which are quite different from what I am used to in Europe. Towards the end of my placement I realized that for most of the year I thought of myself as helping THEM (our Club Nova members), but in fact they were helping ME. Looking back at my placement, it was the best experience I could have received.
After completing my year with JSC I returned to Europe and have been working in the customer service department of a European airline company. I studied management in college, but before JSC I didn’t feel confident or interested in taking on any kind of leadership position. I wasn’t sure if I would make a good leader. That changed after going through the servant leadership curriculum. I love the idea of leading through service. Independently from each other, my supervisor at Club Nova, one of the JSC members, and a housemate each told me that I have good organizational skills and that I am a natural leader. Through their words, my work at Club Nova, and handling the budget for our Carrboro house I started to believe it. I learned to see the leadership qualities within myself and understand that they are a gift. I was empowered to stop shying away from them, as I previously did, and use them to their potential. I was also told I have a sense of humor. All of this served to increase my professional self-confidence. Now I feel motivated to seek a position in the business and management sector next year and feel assured that I can do well. Moreover, through Enneagram training I learned how to use my perfectionism (I’m a One) for good.
Finally, living in North Carolina for a year taught me a vast amount about United States culture, lifestyle, and way of thinking. Going on the Washington, D.C. retreat, eating meals together in community, and being immerses in a different environment were all part of the learning experience for me. During the year I learned to drive, improved incomparably in dancing by joining a salsa dance school, and improved in Spanish. Altogether, I wish to say THANK YOU to everyone who made this possible.