Volunteering Stories: I learned a universal language – by Alexia

Let me tell you a story about what I learned here. My name is Alex, I am 22 years old and I am currently finishing my adventure here in Baia Mare, Romania. It’s been almost two months since I am here. So I’m coming to the end of what’s called “short-term project”. When I first came here, one of the first things I was told (on a number of occasions) was that it does not matter if I do not learn a lot the language of the country. Because I am here “only” for two months. It’s normal, it can be difficult to learn fast. But my own notion of time has been very different.

– I learned to adapt –

Through my missions, I have been faced with various public. The interaction with them was very enriching. We played with children. We use photos with the students. We show what we mean with our gestures with people with disabilities. We are experimenting with new ways of communicating.

– I learned patience. –

It is not easy to find people who do not speak a word of your language. Neither of the most spoken language today (English). We must redouble our efforts to make ourselves understood. Using our body to convey a message with the facial expressions, or entering in the space of the other to create a connection between us.

– I learned to take a step back –

And then one day, a new activity was added to my schedule. In a center for disadvantaged people, without roof, we came to help prepare and serve their meal. I found myself in front of adults seeking to communicate with me, with no apparent solution to facilitate this. The coordinators were by my side and translated for me. But they will not always be there… so how to get up to this new challenge- has followed a reflection on it.

– I learned to question myself –

I did not get discouraged. I learned to say simple and basic sentences like “it’s hard for me to learn your language” or “I do not speak Romanian, but I want to learn“. I wanted to show them that I was not giving up on communication! One of the people even said that she was annoyed that I did not understand when she was talking because she wanted to talk to me. And same from some children. What a pleasure to hear this, but also what sad it was for me.

– I learned to open myself –

I decided to leave aside all my fears and apprehensions. I took my courage in both hands; and once again in the center, I stopped worrying about what language I could speak or not. I just lived the moment. I spent time with people. I opened myself to them to open to me in their turn.

– I learned perseverance –

At the same time, I noticed that people were apprehensive about the persons coming to help at the center. According to them, it is better to speak one of the languages spoken there. Whether Romanian or Italian. As if there were criteria that would make the situation easier, less concrete. I understand these apprehensions because I had the same. But if you really want to invest, give your time, no matter what your skills, even when you think you do not have one, do it! So go for it!!

– I learned a new language –

Since this new motivation in me, I keep learning in this place. In the middle of all these people, I feel at my place. I am no longer a volunteer. I am Alex. And they are themselves. I express myself as I can, and they answer to me. We laugh. We do not care about our lack of knowledge about languages. We smile. We help each other. We Dance. We eat. We say thank you. We look at each other.

We take care of each other. We learn new things from each other. We take care of each other, whatever our place is. This language is universal. It’s sharing. And that’s the biggest lesson I’ve learned here.

Alexia is part of an Erasmus Plus short term EVS project, here in Baia Mare, for the last couple of months.