Volunteering Stories: In love with Romania – by Ulya

My name is Ulyana, but in practice I have a lot of names here: Ulya, Ulyanita, Uli, Hulya and so on. Choose any, as my friends volunteers do, and call me how you want. You can even invent a new one, I don’t mind. I am from Belarus, from the small but very old town Lida (I’m not very old, only 19), and I’m volunteering for the project COW – Citizens of the World – for almost 2 months (to be honest, this week I will write my YouthPass, pack my small bag and leave this beautiful country). But before I’ll leave I want to share with you my incredible Romanian experience. So make yourself comfortable and let’s get it started.

Sometimes it’s very strange to think about how the smallest acts and fortunes affect your life – the butterfly effect in action. A very ordinary post in a social network, which appeared one very ordinary morning, became my future. Without thinking even for a second I started to write all the necessary documents and in 1.5 hours something similar to a letter of motivation appeared in Google Translator. After a few days I knew for sure that in 2 weeks my life would change. And it has changed.

The next 2 months were a crazy stream of days running so fast that it seems you don’t have time to blink. These were 2 months of incredible contrasts, where, on the one hand, there was a lot of happiness, escapes into the mountains on the weekend, fresh air, travels, interesting people around and parties (well, of course). I’m constantly surrounded by people from different cultures, learning from them at the same time such simple things as cooking recipes for something tasty or “hello” in their languages, and very complex things like respect, tolerance, and how they see the world. Can you find something like that in a textbook? And the best thing about these lessons is that there are no teachers or students and that there is no other way to get these knowledge. This is a non-formal education in its purest form.

On the other hand, poverty and the quality of life of the people you are trying to help. When you see these kids, rummaging around in trash cans in their free from school time (or instead of school), it’s impossible not to think about what is happening and how you can help. Another lesson which cannot be found in a textbook is about compassion and how to be grateful for what you have. This is knowledge that can be obtained only in a practical way, and for which I’m very thankful to this volunteering.

Writing this short message for you, I would like to wish not to be afraid of this country and volunteering in general, if you are only going to come here. Do not believe people who tell you something bad about Romania (well, or you can believe me telling you that I love this country with all my heart). Romania was one of those places you don’t expect a lot from and after you don’t even know, how to explain your love to that place. My family is still afraid for me and nobody has completely understood, why did I come here, to that «dangerous country with gypsies».

But they don’t have to worry a lot, because unfortunately in 5 days I will take the bus, leave behind my friends, my small apartment, which was my home for 2 months and which is not possible to find on the map. But I will also take a lot with me. I’m leaving changed and I still remember the phrase my mentor said me in our first meeting: «it’s all about you». Yes, it was.