Interview with Katka Szerb, a participant in the teenage development program Pathfinder

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Hello Katka, we really appreciate you taking the opportunity to tell us about your experience with the Pathfinder youth development program.

To begin with, what would you tell us about yourself - who are you, what do you do, how do you like to spend your free time?

Hello, my name is Katka, I was born in Hungary, but I have been living in Slovakia since I was five. I am a friendly person, I like to spend time with people and I like to communicate with them. I have just finished English grammar school and in September I start studying International Relations at a university in the Netherlands. In the future, I would like to become a diplomat or work in politics, in the field of human rights. I have been doing western riding since I was six and I also have my own horse named Taris. I have also been practising the martial art of krav maga for four years, in which I advanced to level two - P2 just two months ago.

I find it interesting that you engage in a not entirely typical sport - Krav Maga. Could you give us an idea what it is about and what the different levels mean?

Krav Maga teaches us how to fight in unfair conditions. So the goal is not to participate in a competition and get points, but to be able to defend myself if, for example, I were to be mugged on the street. This is a set of self-defence techniques used in the Israeli army. It's practical, fast, and unlike other martial arts, it doesn't have fair rules - we are allowed to rip someone's ear off, strangle them, or use objects such as an umbrella to fight. Krav Maga consists of three levels - P (Practitioner), G (Graduate), and E (Expert), each level having five sub-levels, so P1, P2, P3, P4, P5, G1,...etc. However, getting to P1 is not as easy as it might seem. I trained for over two years to pass the P1 exams. I trained for four years for the P2 level, where I am now, and passing the exams involved six hours of non-stop fighting and fitness training.

Wow, that sounds really interesting and very challenging. What made such an action girl join the Pathfinder program? What was the moment when you said to yourself "I'm going to do it"?😊

I learned about Pathfinder from a friend of my mother's, who completed an adult development program. She mentioned how fantastic it was, how much she had learned, and that there is a version of this program for teenagers. My mother then surprised me on my birthday by enrolling me. I have to admit, at first, I was sceptical about the program, because I didn't know what I was getting into and whether it was something for me. But in the end, I left the first workshop with the feeling of "wow, that was so good". When I returned home, I told my parents and friends all about the whole workshop.

What in particular convinced you during the first workshop that Pathfinder is "the thing for you"?

During this workshop, we were divided into groups and each group was tasked with planning a school trip and then presenting it. We didn't understand why or based on what divided us, but when the presentation started, it was interesting that all the presentations were very different. It was not about where to go during the trip, but about how we went about it. For example, my group wrote a lot of specific information, including what the weather would be like or what the students would have to eat. The presentation of the second group was rather general, about what places they will go and how great it will be. For example, they did not mention at all how much it would cost. The third group built their trip on relationships, but the last group went about it very analytically. At the end of the workshop, we found out that we were divided into groups based on our talent profiles - the first group was Tempo, the second was Dynamo, the third was Blaze and the fourth was Steel. It was really interesting because all the groups worked out their trip exactly according to the characteristics of their talent profile, without knowing what profile they are. This was my "aha moment". I found it to be a really great tool, not only did I get to know my strengths better, but I also learned how to work better with people in a team, how different talent profiles complement each other. If, for example, the team consisted only of people from Tempo, then maybe everything would have been done according to plan, but it would lack the creativity added by Dynamo.

What did the individual workshops look like? Can you explain it to someone who has not yet had such an experience?

The workshops lasted four hours and always involved at least one activity that was following up on the topic at hand and helped us grasp it better. For example, when we discussed the topic of identity, they divided us into threes and one person whispered positive things in our ear and the other negative things. We learned whether we focus more on the negative or the positive part of what someone is telling us. After the first two hours of the workshop, we always had a break when it was time for food, which was fantastic every time. And after about half an hour we continued "learning". I never had the feeling that anything was boring or that anyone wanted to leave. I think the workshops were very well thought out, not only with respect to what we learned but also how we learned it. All the activities were built in such a way that we would figure out the important information ourselves, instead of it being given to us on paper.

Do you perceive any changes or a shift for the better in your life after completing Pathfinder?

I feel like I understand people better after Pathfinder. For example, my best friend's profile is a Mechanic, so he is on the opposite side of the talent dynamics square. I like him very much and we see eye to eye in many things, but we often have conflicts because of small stupid things, which mostly stem from the fact that we look at things differently. Since completing Pathfinder, I have a better understanding that just because he sees something differently than I do, it doesn't mean that I see it right, or that he sees it right. We just see it differently and that's good because we are all different and thanks to that we can complement each other. I also learned that for all of us, there are things that naturally come easier to us and things that "rub us the wrong way " - it has to do with talent profiles. A friend of mine is a Creator profile, and when she has to plan something for an exact time, of course, she does it, but she doesn't like it very much and it's not always her best. Since I'm a Dealmaker profile, I remind her of the things I know she'd forget. I think that if we understand who is what type of person, then our communication and relationships in general can improve.

I would say that thanks to the program I also got a better understanding of myself. I understood why I am nervous about certain situations. Being a Tempo, I need to know what will happen when, how it will happen, and so on. A lot of people in my life didn't give me this information and that was the source of my nervousness. Since I started attending Pathfinder, I started a diary, it helped me to be better organized, which keeps me calmer.

Would you recommend this program to other young people?

I would recommend the program to someone younger than I was when I started Pathfinder. I was 18 at the time and although it gave me a lot, I think that if I had completed the program a year earlier, it would have been even better. Since I started school a year earlier, at 18 I was already in my high school graduation year, I had submitted applications to universities and I even had passed my graduation exam in Slovak. I saw how Pathfinder helped other people in my group figure out what they wanted to do in life. I had found it out before, but it may have taken longer than if I had participated in Pathfinder a year or two earlier and had someone help me with it. If I had already had the knowledge from the program that I have now, I could have made my decisions faster and been more confident in them. This way, Pathfinder put a sort of finishing touch on what I wanted to do and convinced me that diplomacy is the right choice for me as a Dealmaker.

What would be your message for future Pathfinders or someone who is hesitant to try it?

I would advise future Pathfinders to join the program with an open mind, really listen to what the lecturers say and try to apply this knowledge in everyday life, because it is really good stuff. After the workshops, I tried to figure out the talent profiles of the people around me and then later use the concept of the amygdala sentence. For those who don't know, we all have something that hurts us more than it would hurt anyone else and that is our amygdala sentence. For example, it can hurt someone a lot if we tell them that they are stupid. If someone had told me that, it wouldn't have hurt me so much. It would hurt me more if someone told me that I'm not smart, because subconsciously I might feel that I'm not smart in some things. We all have such an amygdala sentence, so we have to be careful about what we say to other people. Because it might not hurt us or we would just laugh about it, but it could hurt someone else a lot.

I will now follow up on your amygdala sentence, it sounds very personal. What was it like to share such information with a group of peers?

Our lecturer started each sharing and by being the first to open up in this way, they made us feel that it was a "safe space". The fact that it is a safe space was emphasized at the very beginning when our lecturer introduced the rule that what is said in the group stays in the group. I also think most people took these sharing moments seriously. Sometimes I was the first of the Pathfinders to start, which was more difficult because I didn't know what to expect. But I really said things about myself openly, because that's the most important thing, to tell the truth about how we feel and to be open.

And finally, can you tell us whether you have developed any closer relationships, contacts or friendships within the group?

I have definitely made at least one friend. We have texted a few times since the end of the program and we even met once. Maybe not long-term friendships, but just the fact that I had the opportunity to meet people that I probably wouldn't have met outside of Pathfinder, because we are from different parts of Bratislava and have different hobbies, was a great experience.

Thank you for the interview and for walking a part of your path with us 😊 At the same time, we are pleased that you decided to continue with us in another program - Group coaching for teenagers, where together we search for answers to topics chosen by the group in a playful way. We look forward to seeing you again and wish you much success in your university endeavours. May you be happy in life and stay in the flow.

– 28 July 2023 –