Hello, I am Gülşah and I am a univeristy student. I’ve studied my second year of faculty in Germany, as part of the Erasmus program and in the third year I’ve seen an EVS opportunity in Zagreb, Croatia. I didn’t have any information about this program before. One of my friends sent me the link for this project via Facebook. They were looking for volunteers that can dance. As the duration of the project was 1 year it meant that I had to freeze my third year of university. I applied for the project without hesitation, thinking about the contribution of this experience abroad as a volunteer to my career in the future. Being accepted for a Skype interview after sending my CV and motivation letter, I understood that my chances of being accepted just became bigger. In the meantime, I realised that the time I needed to tell my family about my plan has came. I told them about this project, but I couldn’t convince them, because they didn’t find it trustworthy, and they said like: “Why would someone pay for your flight ticket, visa expenses and also pay the rent for the place you are going to stay only because you are a dancer? Why would you like to extend the period of your studies for a project like this? You are still daydreaming when you can simply graduate and become a teacher.” – these are the words that I was continuously hearing from my family. After some time, I managed to convince my family to allow me participate in this project with the support of my teachers from the university, who explained my parents the positive aspects of going abroad and be an EVS volunteer.
Everything has gone just perfect. Firstly, I got the e-mail in which I was informed that I was accepted in the project, afterwhich my project coordinator sent the all the needed documents in order to apply for visa. I got my Cigna health insurance from Pi Youth Association, my sendind organisation, and informed me about my rights and obligations and explained me all the details about the project via Skype interview. At the same time, I started the process of freezing my third year of faculty. I also worked during summer in Antalya in order to earn some money for my flight ticket. So, I got my flight ticket and applied for visa. I was still not believing that I would participate in the project until I got on the plane. During my first week there, thoughts like “Did I act correctly by leaving my school for one year and coming to this project?” were totally killing me.
First of all, I would like to talk about my first impressions. The house I was living in and the room that was given to me were amazing and I was really happy about that, but the distance between my home and city center was about 30 minutes by tramway. Still, even though at the beginning it was tiring for me, I got used to it after a while. The place I was living was really close to one of Croatia’s biggest natural parks, Maksimir. I even had a bicycle and I used to go to the park to relax in my spare time. In the first weeks, together with the other EVS volunteers we visited Croatia throughout. Thereafter, we met with the volunteers from the other NGOs. In the meantime, we started to the language course. After my first month, I became friends with people (Erasmus participants in Zagreb) from many different countries. In order to legally stay in Croatia one year, I applied for residence permit and then I also applied for Schengen Visa, so that I could start visiting.
These are the places that I visited in Croatia: Opatija, Rijeka, Zadar, Pula, Porec, Split, Rovinj, Pag island, Plitvice lakes and Dubrovnik
These are the other countries that I visited: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Germany, Belgium, Holland, Serbia, Finland, Estonia, Polonia and Bulgaria.
I would also like to talk about what I did as a volunteer in this project. I was responsible to write and organize youth exchange projects. As these kind of projects are about social responsibility, the main purpose was to raise awareness using dancing as an instrument. I wrote five projects in that one year. Two of them were accepted by the Croatia National Agency and we implemented one of them. Here is the link for my project video; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RqH7S2T9vRE Apart from this, we presented the Erasmus program and we gave information on “How to travel for free” to the people living in that area. We also uploaded articles and interviews on the organization’s webiste; http://urbanamladez.hr/
Also, I gave salsa lessons to the local students and I organised a “Turkish Language Table” course for the Croatian people learning Turkish. I was truly happy to make new friends from this area as well.
What did I do during one year and what new skill did I acquire?
– Croatian language;
– I improved my English speaking and writing skills;
– I learned how to use office programs and fotoshop;
– I improved my teaching abilities;
– My power of imagination increased;
– My leadership skills improved (especially when I managed my own project);
– I learned to write and organize a project;
– I learned how to take risks and how to manage them;
– Teamwork is another thing that I learned during my EVS;
– I learned many stories from many different cultures;
– I learned how to say “cheers” in every language whose speakers I met with;
– I experienced many good and bad things during my travels;
– I learned how to ice skate;
– I improved my dancing by going to ballet and modern dances;
– I started learning playing tennis;
– I adopted a new habit of eating healthy food and doing yoga almost every day;
– I learned to cook dishes from other cultures (I can prepare a very tasty tikka);
– Here I got the opportunity to finish watching many serials (Game of Thrones, Stranger Things, Brooklyn Nine Nine, Black Mirror, Sherlock), which helped me improve my English as well.
– We organized cultural evening together with my close friends from the project (Dutch Night – King’s Day, Baasilian Night, Balkan Night + Turbofolk parties);
Most of my closest friends are the ones that I met in this project; and all of them are people in whose presence I can be myself, people that never judged me, that respect me and people that are willing to be part of my crazy plans and people who know how to have fun. It is, of course, impossible to talk about and even resume all the things that this one year brought to me and everything that I related here are only the things that I remember. Before finishing my writing, I would like to share with you some of my crazy photos – maybe it brings you inspiration.