Hi! I’m Kamila and I’ve just recently returned from my year-long volunteer service in Izmir, Turkey.
Since I’ve been back, the most common question I hear is “How do you feel?” and as much as I would like to, it’s hard for me to put into words how I actually feel.
A year is a long time, and a lot has happened in the meantime during the project on the project locally: I met a lot of fantastic and inspiring people, we celebrated holidays and birthdays with other volunteers, and as a result I was able to learn not only Turkish traditions and customs, but also German or French ones (the other volunteer were coming from those countries). I learned how to conduct activities and prepare them on my own, thus sharing my own skills with others, while at the same time gaining knowledge and experience from them. Living together with the volunteers allowed me to work on patience and showed me how to share common responsibilities. I was able to get to know Turkey from a completely different side that was unfamiliar to me before. This was definitely helped by trips to various parts of this huge country, as well as by the people I met on my way who were so eager to introduce me to their culture and traditions.
However, this experience would not have been as interesting if it were not for the other volunteers with whom I lived, organized events and enjoyed spending every spare moment. At one point, I honestly felt that we managed to get along so amazingly that from strangers who came to Izmir for the same purpose, we became closest to each other, almost like family.
At the same time, there was also a lot going on in Poland and I missed important occasions, events. Of course, there were moments when I missed my family and friends. I missed Polish food sometimes, especially during the holidays.
However, there was always a solution for this too! Friends and family visited us, and consequently brought us Polish food.
I’ll never forget the evening when we taught our Turkish friends how to make pierogi, and they taught us how to make mantı – which is, you might say, the Turkish equivalent of our pierogi, only smaller and always served savory (they didn’t believe we dined sweet!).
This year allowed me to rediscover myself, showed me what I missed, allowed me to break stereotypes and taught me to make friends more easily. It left me with a circle of friends now scattered around the world, with whom I know we will meet again more than once. And that’s how we said goodbye to everyone – saying görüşürüz – see you around, because after all, we will see each other again….
Back to the question, mentioned at the beginning, I guess now it’s more than clear why it’s so hard to say how I feel. I’m happy, it’s good to return to loved ones and to what I missed. On the other hand, I left a piece of my heart in Izmir, and sometimes I wish I could wake up once again in my room and, together with my friends, run quickly to the ferry that will take us to the other side of the city, to our workshops….
Finally, if I had to advise someone whether it’s worth it to drop everything and go on a year-long project… then in response I would pack a suitcase for you myself 🙂
I’m keeping my fingers crossed for you all the future volunteers,