Five months in Baia Mare and seven more to go

Yuliia is a volunteer from Ukraine, hosted for a total period of 12 months in Baia Mare, in Romania. Part of her activities includes teaching visually impaired youngsters English, organizing and implementing after-school activities for children and intercultural summer camps organized in the rural communities around Baia Mare.  This is her story so far:

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My name is Yuliia Sokol, I am a 22 year old Ukrainian (although the age doesn’t matter) and I have been staying in the most traditional part of Romania, Maramureș, in the city of Baia Mare for a period of 5 months already (I can’t believe time flies so quickly and almost half of the project is gone).

In the beginning we had an on-arrival training, where our trainers presented us a scale where all the phases of the project were included. Since I am a long term volunteer here (1 year), I have the opportunity to fully realize each of them. Right now I would like to let you immerse in my „volunteering ocean” and understand how different „fish” and ”sea weeds”  have influenced my life so far. Don’t perceive the meaning directly, it’s time for metaphors.

In January 2015, being a 5th year student of languages in the University of Ukraine, I started to think what I would like to do after graduation. I felt that I was not ready to apply for an ordinary “9 to 5 job”, so I decided to search for diverse internship/volunteering/exchange opportunities. Luckily, on my birthday (January the 22nd) I got to know that I am accepted for the ”Eye Care / Day Care” project in Romania and there were no limitations to my substantial happiness at that very moment. Although some of my friends looked at me like crazy and some relatives couldn’t understand why I need this kind of experience in my life, I knew it was a chance I mustn’t neglect, especially regarding the fact that people are looking for these kind of projects minimum for half a year! In my case it was 3 weeks.  I applied for Visa, I got it and I left for an interesting journey.

When I came to Romania I realized I don’t know any Romanian words, so that caused me some troubles at the border and bus station where all the people thought I was from Italy. Strange, no? Sighetul Marmației is a town on the border with Ukraine and my appearance…  Anyway, with the help of office staff, I eventually got to my home from home-away and got introduced to some members of the T4UTH, volunteers, and finally my new flat mates (Austrian and Italian girls). Now I can say I didn’t feel much excitement, in my case it was more of a slight shock and realization that I am already in a new country surrounded by yet unknown people.

First weeks I was getting used to everyone and everything around me.  I wanted this period to be over as quick as possible and soon it was. Then I started to get interested in all the volunteers around who were from different cultures, with different backgrounds and with their own sack of experience.

[quote]I was happy to have met people who had similar thoughts and ideas and who devoted some part of their lives to volunteering. Parties, cooking together, a lot of conversations were the main activities of those early days.[/quote]

Before the on-arrival training, two of my friends and I left for Brașov – amazingly beautiful city in the heart of Romania. We really enjoyed our unforgettable 2 days and visited Bran Castle and Râșnov Citadel. That was the first trip of my EVS and I knew it was not the last one, because I’ve developed itchy feet. After the training,  I’ve got new acquaintances, some of our project activities have started and I definitely got used to the place. We have also visited Sibiu, Timișoara and Arad and once again realized that Romania is a worthy touristic destination! So this period I can surely name “honey moon” when everything seemed perfect and I felt at ease. I would say it has lasted for quite long – 3 months more or less.

After this time, I have got to know who is who and realized that there are only a few persons I really want to spend my time with. I started to miss home. I was bored with activities. I wasn’t motivated enough. So obviously I have had a low moment in my project which also fortunately came to an end.

At this very moment I cannot say I feel very satisfied, I feel okay. I enjoy summer (although it is very hot here, actually as it is all around Europe), I have visited Bulgaria and I am planning one bigger trip. I am looking forward to autumn (not only because of weather changes), but also because at that time we will have an opportunity to organize some big projects which are tightly connected with our activities on our own. I still want to go home, but I won’t. I’d better spend my time for travelling. I am trying to do some useful things, not to waste my time and understand what I would like to do next. I enjoy my English lessons with visually impaired teenagers, I feel how much patience I’ve gained, how more organized I’ve become. Here, in Romania, I have met a special person who supports me, who is on the same wavelength as me and whom I trust. I feel independent and realize that I have already learnt here a lot and I still will. I have 7 more months to bring some other developmental changes into my life.

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I am happy I have opted for EVS, because the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. It started with Romania – beautiful, rich with traditions country with generous, pleasant people who are always ready to help. I have added new bands to my musical list and some books to my “must read” list. And I am sure there is still so much to discover not only about cultural and historical heritage of this country, about people around, but also about myself! As you can see, my EVS ocean isn’t perfect, it is full of ups and downs, but we shouldn’t forget that “when all the details fit in perfectly, something is probably wrong with the story”.

Yuliia and her six international colleagues are implementing the ”Eye Care / Day Care” project,  a twelve months European Voluntary Service (EVS) hosted by Team for Youth Association, in Baia Mare, in Romania and financed by the European Commission, through the Erasmus+ Programme.