“Merhaba” and “Hoş geldiniz” to this blog post. My name is Antonia, but everyone is calling me Toni, and I am a nineteen-year-old girl, who has been living in Izmir the past two months. I came to Turkey as a volunteer for a whole year.

Before that, I was living in Germany a little outside of Potsdam, a city exactly next to Berlin, with my parents and my younger brother. I graduated from high school in summer 2020 and the last year I was studying orientation studies at the “Freie Universität Berlin”. This program is an opportunity for young people to get an overview over possible study subjects. So, I participated in all kinds of lectures and seminars of different degree courses because I was unsure about what to choose as a bachelor and career in general.

In my every-day life in Potsdam I went horseback riding and to volleyball training every week. Back in high school, choir and musical practices were a part of it as well. Whenever I got the chance to travel or even better to see new places, I took it. So, I spent my last summers and other vacations surfing in the south of France, visiting my family all over Germany and going on spontaneous trips with my friends. Now that I am in Turkey I hope to continue travelling here as much as possible, too. Further, a lot of people around here have already asked me why I choose specifically this country. But I have to say that, rather than choosing Turkey, my decision was more based on the city Izmir and the project of the Pi Youth Association. Izmir as a Mediterranean city, which seemed to be very open-minded and lively, caught my attention. In addition, I definitely wanted to work with children and the youth, because this means teaching and learning something valuable at the same time to me. That’s why, working here as a volunteer felt like an amazing opportunity.

In the morning of the 12th of September, I woke up to packed suitcases filled with all my important things ready to travel 1.900 km to the south-east. After having the last breakfast with my family for a while, we all together headed towards the Berlin Airport meeting my best friend there as well. Saying goodbye to all the people close to me was not easy, but the excitement for the year coming outweighed it.  While I sat on the plain to Turkey for 3 hours, I slowly started to realize, that I will spend the next 12 months of my life in a different city experiencing and diving into a culture, which I only had a vague picture of until then.

After setting foot onto Turkish grounds for the second time in my life, one of the first things although the most remarkable one I noticed in Izmir was the warmth. Back in Germany the summer was just coming to an end, the evenings and nights got colder, and the sun was losing its power bit-by-bit. However, here it was still quite hot even later in the day. The warmth of Izmir is not only in the air directly but also in the light, how I discovered during the first days staying in the city. A few hours before the sun sets, every part of Izmir is bathed in golden light and looks so soft and peaceful. Walking along the coast side in Karsiyaka on the second day experiencing this atmosphere, I felt like I have come to exactly the right place for the next year.

Another beauty of Izmir is, that this warmth is not only in the air and light, yet it also stays in the people living here. Everybody here welcoming me here from the first day to this present time, one and a half months later, was so heart-warming and open. Getting introduced into the association did not feel like starting a new job as a volunteer but like being taken into a new extended family. All sorts of people made sure that I and the other volunteers will have an enjoyable and exciting time and offered their help whenever needed. So, in this first one month I already got to meet so many kind and interesting persons, that it seemed like one of the easiest things on earth to find new and good friends.

This is possible here thanks to some special people. For instance, a bar keeper, the other volunteers and I just met and talked to the other night, who invited us the morning afterwards without hesitating to spend the day with his family in a district a little outside of Izmir, having lunch and a swim in the sea together. Another example is a lively young woman, who you can sneak away from the group with and you two have some delicious waffles with chocolate and raspberries out of some craving. Furthermore, there is a friend and mentor, who is so trustworthy and kind that you can just close your eyes while he drives you both on a scooter along the seaside of the city, which is filled with people in the evenings, mastering some more obstacles on the way.

I am deeply looking forward to enjoying more of this warmth, which is so typical for Izmir, in the next 11 months and to creating some unique memories with everyone around here. Hopefully I can give back the same openness, excitement, and friendliness like I received so much of already.

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