Volunteering Stories: Challenging challenges – by Merle

Going to a foreign country, you know almost nothing about? Living and working there for five months? Sounds like a challenge! Hi, I am Merle from the eastern region of Germany. I am 20 years old and currently as you might have figured in Romania.
Coming here I had zero expectations of the place where I was going. I choose Romania more by chance, than making an actual decision. The first impression was frankly shocking. I was not used to the old soviet architecture. To someone, who is accustomed to them this might be surprising. However, for me it really was something else.

The time right after my arrival was the most stressful, but also the most exciting time of my volunteering. Meeting so many new people, having to adapt to a new environment, hearing a different language around you and cultural differences- everything contributes to having a feeling of being overwhelmed. But on top of this feeling, I experienced the positive rush of excitement.

After the stage of arrival comes the “fall”. The rush fades bit for bit and you start to reflect on your surroundings. Missing home, feeling like you are not going to adapt to the new environment around you, frustration in your project, the feeling of being lost- all very normal reactions for volunteers. Hearing about it is one thing, then actually going through it, is challenging.

However, this stage won´t last that long for most people. After this, you start to look for new things. Discover your surroundings, going on trips with the people, who are now not strangers anymore, but friends. The environment will be not foreign anymore, but “normal”. In this period, I felt less frustrated in my project, things actually seemed like they were moving forward very well. Furthermore, I had time to look into new things, for which I had no time before.

So, a lot of different stages within a short amount time. Predictably, every stage brings new challenges. Overcoming them, you will gain so much in so many different ways. For that reason, I advise you, take the leap and do a volunteering project. Even within two months, you will learn so much about yourself and develop new skills. In your free time, you will have enough opportunities to develop skills, that you always wanted to look into a bit more. Developing skills in video making, writing a blog, doing photography- the possibilities are endless.
Finally, something about myself right now. I feel like I was not able to adapt to Romania the way I wanted to. I never really had the feeling of home and completely arriving. The country will stay foreign to me personally. However, I would never go back in time and decide not to take the volunteering opportunity. Living and working together with people from all over Europe is amazing. Completely living in an unknown country is challenging, but also exciting. Meeting the local people and being surprised by them over and over again, is funny.

Finally, I am very much sure that I will miss so many things in Romania, which seem annoying to me right now, but I will find so charming when I will go back to Germany. The feeling of Romania- I will kind of miss it.

The volunteer is hosted by Team for Youth Association in the Cultural Fiesta project, on a 5 months European Solidarity Corps project in Baia Mare. The project is funded by the EU through the European Commission. 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.