‘‘Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.’’
My name is Muhsin Şen, and I’m 30 years old. And yes, this year was my last chance to participate in an ESC project; I am delighted that I succeeded. The quotation written above was the entrance of the motivation letters I used in my ESC applications. In my first blog, I would like to talk about myself briefly. I graduated from Uludag University, Department of Business Administration, in 2014. During my university life, I worked as a volunteer in various non-governmental organizations.
When I first started university, I had to take the proficiency exam to pass the preparatory class and start my department. Unfortunately, I failed this exam. The pass mark for this exam was 70, and I got 57, so I studied for a year in the pre-intermediate class. While in preparatory class, I improved my English by taking a reading, listening, and grammar lessons. Although I was sufficient for reading, writing, etc., I wasn’t good enough at speaking. After passing the preparation class successfully, I started my Department – Business Administration. As soon as I began to my department, I checked all clubs, communities at university to practice my theoretical knowledge.
People’s motivations to start voluntary work may differ. Some people become a part of an NGO to develop their skills; some look for a new network for their future careers, and some want to socialize. My motivation was to find a place to put my English into practice, which I learned for a year. As a result of my research, I joined AIESEC Bursa Local Committee. I had the chance to meet young people from many different countries for two years there. Let me tell you about my first painful experience in which you can see how hard it was for me to talk to someone foreign. We had a volunteer from Brazil. I wanted to meet her. I was hoping that the knowledge I gained while studying for a year of prep class would help me have conversations. But when she said ”hello, how are you?”, I couldn’t even open my mouth and answer because, until that moment, I had never met a foreigner in real life. As I couldn’t answer, I had to walk away from my friends. This situation upset me, but it also motivated me. From that moment on, I realized that I should not be afraid of my foreign friends, even if I could not talk with them very well.
Since I didn’t have a smartphone in 2010, I used to carry a dictionary because I love Bursa so much and would like my foreign friends to discover and see these beauties with me. First, after getting rid of my shyness, I tried to communicate with simple sentences. The next step was using longer sentences, and finally, I began to build long conversations and speak a bit fluently. At first, I had some headaches because I pushed myself too hard, but I was more comfortable talking in English after spending more time with my foreign friends.
My first overseas experience was a 6-week volunteer internship thanks to AIESEC. In the summer of 2012 in Kyiv, Ukraine, I organized English-speaking clubs for local youth at language school and university. In spring term in 2013, I went to Szent Istvan University in Hungary as an Erasmus student. I visited ten countries and 15 cities in 5 months.
I worked in various associations in Bursa, such as AIESEC Bursa, Volunteer Movement, ESN Uludag, in the volunteering life that helped me improve my English. I had responsibilities such as team membership and team leadership. During this period, I improved not only my English but also my social skills and network. The 6-year period I was in Bursa was when I met and worked with precious people and organizations.
After graduating from university in 2015, I decided to join the military. One day I saw Pixel Team volunteer call of Pi Youth Association while browsing Facebook at the internet cafe one day in March 2016 when I was on leave. At the end of March, I was going to complete my military service and return to Izmir, so I applied for volunteering in order not to be idle until I found a job, and at the same time to continue my volunteer work. After passing the first stage, I was invited to the association office for a face-to-face interview. Unfortunately, I was late for the interview for about 30 minutes due to reasons beyond my control. I conducted my interview with Demirkan, the general coordinator and one of the founders of our association.
During the interview, we talked about my experiences and expectations. The e-mail I received two weeks later that I was accepted as a volunteer was one of the best moments in 2016. After the orientation meetings, I started my work. During my time at Pi Youth Association, I took part in the office team. I tried to institutionalize the association’s activities in the international arena by establishing the international networks team here. One of the first things I did there was to support the work done to gain ESC (then it was EVS) accreditation for our association. In 2016, our association was accredited by the Turkish National Agency as a host, sending, and coordinating organization. While the first volunteer we sent within the scope of EVS went to Poland in 2017, we hosted our first volunteers from Lithuania and Greece. It was my first time as a mentor within the area of EVS. One of the proudest moments I experienced in the association was that our first project, Genç Bak İŞ KA3, was chosen as the best practice example by the Turkish National Agency in 2016. I contributed to our first KA2 partnership and was a member of the European Youth Foundation. Seeing the experiences of more than 100 young people we send abroad every year motivates me more to engage in civil society, especially in Pi Youth Association.
Next chapter, I will talk about my ESC application process. ? See you soon!