Volunteering stories: Life lessons – by Maria

What do you expect when you are going to start a EVS? In my case, my expectations were improving my English, immersing myself in a new culture, meeting interesting people and learning a lot of things. OK, I wasn’t wrong but what I learned throughout these four months in Romania is so much more complex that what I had expected. It’s as complex as life itself.

After finishing my degree and working in several places, I decided that the perfect moment for an international experience was then. When I was studying Psychology I didn’t go studying abroad with Erasmus and I felt that I had thrown a great experience into the trash. I’ve always been a bit of a coward for these kinds of things. Luckily, in that stage of my life I discovered EVS, and after several tries and disappointments, Team for Youth gave me the opportunity to be part of the ‘’CarnIVal’’ Project, which was very close to what I was interested in. Yes, it seemed perfect but, like many other people, before coming I was scared and with infinite doubts about living abroad, about my capabilities … Not only that, I had to push myself to make this step, although I knew that only good things could happen to me, the fear about the unknown was blocking me. After a very tiring fight between my fears and all the things I was looking forward to, I ended up accepting. The negative feelings did’t stop until I got on the plane. Suddenly, all that sh*t dissipated. I think I felt the sort of calm that you feel when you realize that you are doing the right thing.

As soon as I put my feet in Romania, my lessons started. Life lessons:

  1. Despite of the cultural differences, people are essentially similar.

I learned this when I had just arrived. I’d never been in such an intercultural experience. I was worried about not feeling integrated with my mates. I thought maybe there would be too many cultural barriers… what a stupid thing! Soon, I realized that we were not that different. Mainly, most of us share the same interests, problems, passions, fears…

  1. Everything seems very difficult until you do it.

Nobody is born knowing. Sometimes we think there are people who have certain abilities that we haven’t, but it’s not like this. You can be more talented for some things and less for others but what really matters is your attitude, effort and motivation. In my project I’ve done a lot of new things which at the beginning I though I would not be able to do. Because I had never tried … Now I’m more aware that your limits are just in your mind.

  1. People come and leave.

One of the hardest lessons so far. I learnt it last week when my teammates left the country. Human beings tend to perceive the world like something stable, not thinking about the possibility of changing. It’s natural, if not we would be badly depressed. But maybe we need to be a bit aware of this. Knowing it we could take advantage and enjoy more intensely the moments with the wonderful people around us. I was very lucky for spending my time with my teammates. With them I’ve lived amazing moments, unforgettable travels, and I’ve created great friendships. After 4 months with them I’ve learnt that people are not forever, although in this case I’m sure i’ll meet the Carnival girls again, someday, somewhere!

  1. Knowing what you like to do is important for orienting your career, but don’t stress!

Like many people that I knew here, one of the reasons for doing an EVS was discovering my vocation. I have no idea about where is it, I didn’t find it yet. This romantic idea of vocation is starting to piss me off. I think some people feel passion for what they do but for most it’s not that easy. And I’m one of those people. Sometimes, just trying, you realize that something makes you happy and fulfilled, but this process, at least for me, is long. Vocation is not something that one day comes calling at your door, so don’t worry.

  1. You can create connections and relationships with people without speaking in your mother tongue. Even if you’are not so good in English.

Before coming to Baia Mare I was praying to find somebody who speaks Spanish. I was really worried about communication with people. Not for basic things but for making friends. Oh my God! I was so wrong… After a few weeks I discovered myself so comfortable speaking in English that I forgot all that worries.

  1. People have a great capacity of adaptation

I thought I would miss so many things from my home… Friends, family, food, places, my habits. At the beginning maybe it’s a bit hard but soon I started to feel my flat as my home, my mates as my friends and this city as mine. We need less things that we think.

  1. There’s no excuses for not travelling

At least, not financial excuses. One of the good things about doing an EVS is that you have the opportunity to travel around your host country. In this period I learnt that you can travel with little money. Thanks to several mates I’ve known the usefulness of hitchhiking, coach-surfing, night trains and backpacks! Yes, backpacks. You can go with all your clothes everywhere on you back, you can walk as much as you want. Having a minimal luggage has many advantages. Bye bye suitcase!

  1. It’s important to get out of your comfort zone and see the reality of other people.

I couldn’t have written this blog without including the essence of EVS: solidarity. Giving your time and effort to a good cause makes you grow. I had the opportunity to contribute just a bit but I knew that the people who I was helping day by day where people who really needed it. For me it was hard to see the reality with roma people. From my (more or less) comfortable position is Spain I wasn’t aware about this big social problem that Europe has to face. This community was invisible for me but now I’m glad that it isn’t any more.

  1. You can learn something from everybody.

Don’t think your idea is the only correct one. Don’t underestimate people, even if you don’t really like them, even if your way of thinking is completely different. Give yourself the opportunity to listen to them and maybe this way you could understand them better. Everybody has something to offer.

  1. Everything finishes.

OK, this is obvious but now this fact is slapping me in the face. After the departure of my chicas just one month is left for me in Baia Mare. I’m feeling a bit in a rush to doing all the things that I want before leaving. I don’t want to loose my time here because this experience (at least for me) is only going to happen once. This feeling of finality reminds me that in our life it works in the same way. Time doesn’t come back!

Thanks to EVS for letting me learn so much about Romania, about people, about myself… about life.

Maria is from Spain and she is volunteering in the ”CarnIVale” project (short: CIV). Here in Baia Mare she had activities related to promoting non-formal education and discussing about themes such as: human rights, gender equality, and inclusion of minorities, volunteering, climate change, intercultural learning and foreign languages. The project is supported by the European Union trough the Erasmus Plus program and implemented by Asociația Team for Youth Association in partnership with 5 other organizations from Italy, Poland, Spain, Portugal and France.