Volunteering Stories: My unexpected journey – by Ellen

Hello. My name is Ellen and I am a nineteen-year-old girl from Germany. This is the story of how I came to spend three months in Romania, volunteering.

After finishing high school last summer I was not quite sure what to do next. I chose the easiest thing and decided on doing a gap year. Soon I was planning a trip to Iceland, Canada and Italy. After four months of traveling the pandemic hit and I was forced to return home early.

I was lucky to spend quarantine within the comforts of my family home, but without the possibility to travel or work the boredom was becoming unbearable. When I received a request for a volunteering program from the European Solidarity Corps the excitement was great.

When I received a request for a volunteering program from the European Solidarity Corps the excitement was great. A Romanian organization called Team for Youth Association was looking for participants for a social project regarding non-formal language education. I had never worked as a volunteer before and I also never really saw myself in the field of social work, because I do not have that much confidence in my skills. There also were not that many details about the actual tasks I would have to do (which led my father to questioning the whole existence of the organization in the first place) but I decided on giving it a shot.

After I applied, things seemed to happen rapidly. There was a very nervous interview, I started looking for travel routes and waited anxiously for the lifting of the travel restrictions.

The first month of my stay in Baia Mare is coming to an end and I am very glad to have come here (I can also assure you that my father’s skepticism was unfounded and that the organization does exist). Despite of small culture shocks the city grew on my fast. I am enjoying having my own apartment for the first time. It is not only my first time living independently, but also my first time to share a flat and a room. I had great luck with my flatmates. Although we did not know each other and we come from three different countries, we have been getting along very well since the beginning.

The project itself held some surprises for me. Originally work was planned with high schools but due to the pandemic a new plan had to be formed. In my very first week I learned that we would spend the next few weeks teaching nine- to twelve-year-old kids in a local summer camp. To be honest, being an only-child with very little contact to children this was really tough at first. But after two hard first days I started to warm up and found myself having fun doing the activities with the kids. Of course, I did not magically become a child whisperer, but I learned a lot already.

I am very grateful to have the opportunity to do meaningful work and I am looking forward to the next two months of volunteering in Baia Mare.

The volunteer is hosted by Team for Youth Association in the DOIT! project, on a 3 months European Solidarity Corps project in Baia Mare. The content of this testimonial does not reflect the official opinion of the European Union. The responsibility for the information and views expressed in the article rests entirely with the author.