Our AGH-108 volunteer Hilal in Denmark shares her experiences on the volunteer project that started in Copenhagen…
There was one thing I kept repeating when I started my EVS life in Copenhagen. The hardest will be the beginning. Previously, I had changed houses, cities and jobs many times, I was floating around. I was very happy with floating around. Whenever I feel like I’m starting to complain about life, I run to the place where I do not know how to name but it is in the intersection of my mind and my heart. I ask that place what I should do. The answers have been there for a long time. You just have to dare to ask. About ten months ago I asked the same question again. I said I don’t feel good, productive, happy, satisfied. The answer that told me to change myself came from there immediately. It said that there is such a thing called “the comfort area” that you keep complaining about, no matter how old you are, it seizes you without you being aware of it, it surrounds you, it puts on the mask of peace and ties you up. It said; “You fall into it again.”
I looked where I could go as soon as the bells of change took over my mind and heart. A place that suits my experiences where I can develop myself and produce. I remembered the long-term EVS Spanish girl that I met when I was in a youth exchange project years ago. She was traveling from place to place, meeting new people, learning a new language, above all she was smiling. I started, cowardly and timidly, the tours of the European Commission’s youth portal. At first, I was just staring, daydreaming. One day I was playing games with children in Spain, and the other I was organizing a sports project in Estonia. After a while, even looking at the projects and imagining myself in those projects started to give a pleasure. Then I decided to go. I prepared a good CV, an honest, sympathetic, and a really motivated letter of motivation which I updated according to the project.
For about six months, while I was working on the one hand, I also applied for projects. There were no replies at first. Then, there came a time when I made a Skype call one after the other. Then came the acceptance from the organization that I am currently working. I immediately learned that I had to find a sending organization. I became a member of Facebook groups. I would send an e-mail to the place where the most beautiful comments were made. Pi Youth Association has never disappointed me with its speed and professionalism at every stage.
The more the time of leaving got closer, the more I felt sad. Questions such as “am I doing something wrong?”, “what happens when I get back?” and so on began to annoy me. I told my friends about my concerns. They said everything would be great, you can do it. And they constantly said this savior sentence: What could be the worst?
At worst I would be very sad and come back. At worst I would get bored, I won’t be able to get along with people, I wouldn’t like the city, I would face some racism issues and couldn’t be able to find what I hope for. All of these have a great one-word answer, I’ll get back! The best thing about EVS is that it is a voluntary project. No one wants you to do your best, always smile, keep the things you lived through inside you, even if you die of unhappiness as in business life.
After coming here, I knew I would be struggling despite my past overseas experience. Home, work, city, language… Everything except myself has changed. First the water came a little cold, I put my fingertip and pulled myself back. Then I realized that its temperature is not going to change by itself, I jumped in.
They had planned everything wonderfully for me before I went to the voluntary office. During the first two weeks, I attended one-hour introductory meetings with all of them from the top manager to the expert. None of these meetings were in the meeting room, of course. In a cafe by the canal, I got to know the people who I would wander around the city with and work with for a year and told them about myself. The first advice they gave me was to remove the hierarchy and familiar rules from my head. Office hours, dress applications, upside down relationship no longer exists they said. I said I’m from the country of hierarchy, but I will get used to this quickly.
I was confused in the first week because of the intensity of work in the office and the high number of projects. At some points, when people ask how I am doing I would say that I am confused even though I would say that I’m fine if this was asked to me in Turkey. This was the most important thing I observed during my two-week period of getting to know the employees. Being able to say things like; “this is not my area of interest”, “I’m having a hard time in this”, “I do not prefer to do this.” My colleague who hears that doesn’t look at me in the face like I swear at her/him. To be able to produce solutions and alternatives together. On the one hand I noticed the difficulty of this. I realized that I was not used to being in an environment that is open to criticism and where openness is supported. Being open also requires being able to bear openness. Time will tell me how much I can internalize it.
My second week is over today. The hardest is the beginning. I’m still at the beginning. After a while everyone was familiar to me, the streets were familiar, the roads to my house will become easier to remember. Knowing this I look at the boats passing through the canal, the green, the nature, the bouncing bikes. I’m still surprised when I still have the chance to be surprised. “How beautiful it is” I am saying to myself “it’s good to be here, to return to the nature I forgot, to return to my bike which I gave up on at some point in my life, to go back to the streets and wander around while following the rules, and to wonder what happens next.”
The other day I was again confused and was going to a meeting feeling blue. The woman in front of me was wearing a blue shirt that had a saying written on it; “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.” I smiled to myself. Nobody said it wouldn’t be hard. As no one said it would not be difficult, I voluntarily chose the hardest of all the projects.
Even though everything is perfect compared to my old life, I still got bored time to time. I remind myself that it would be strange not to struggle at those times. After all, didn’t I set out to have fun and become a “talented sailor”?