We, as ESC volunteers, want to learn, travel, make friends and explore new cultures, but at the same time we are afraid to step outside too much of our comfort zone or simply admit that sometimes it’s hard to figure out what’s happening in this unknown learning environment. Either if you set some goals before deciding to volunteer, or just went with the flow to get away from your regular life, I propose we take a moment to analyse how this whole experience is changing us without even realising it.
- What do I wish to accomplish?
- Why did I choose this country?
- What can I learn?
- Where am I heading next?
Are just some of the questions we should ask ourselves when volunteering because each project has its end, and we must also consider the period that follows next, whether if you want to start the job hunt or go back to school. Having some reflection points keeps your mind focused.
As a natural dreamer I’ve always focused on the big picture, I never tackled with the prospect of limiting myself to the present. “I hope one day to live abroad in a beautiful country and have a nice job that I truly enjoy!” that has always been my mindset and final goal, my Romanian upbringing also helped in creating this economic- driven mentality. The problem was that I didn’t know how to start, what should I do to get from an inexperienced student to a highly employable young professional. The answer? Doing an internship at an NGO through the European Solidarity Corps, of course! It was the perfect opportunity to learn in an office-like environment the skills that I need in order to apply for my dream job after this year ends. Working in Brussels gives ones so many amazing opportunities because it’s the city of the EU, the capital of Europe, the connections that you form here are top-notch. Or are they?
For years I’ve thought that in order to be happy I only needed stability in my life and a good salary, that’s how I was raised after all. But meeting so many people from all corners of Europe has thought me something important: I need to chill! On the on-arrival training I’ve befriended some lovely German and Austrian girls that were so relaxed and optimistic about this whole experience in Belgium, they enjoyed their job while I was treating my tasks as job-shadowing. Which is not essentially bad, having a goal and learning objectives is something constructive and it should definitely be part of your volunteering period, but it shouldn’t be the only aspect worth considering.
- Do everything with passion,
- Don't panic when sometimes things get confusing,
- Enjoy the experience!
My attitude towards this whole experience changed, I’ve changed. I think I am more mature and heading towards a better person in expressing myself. At the beginning I was driven just by desire to learn as much as possible, do everything perfectly so I can have a nice CV to present, now on the other hand, I focus more on my well-being. I work for the European Scout Bureau as a communication and event management intern, I’ve learned what I enjoy doing and what I wish to pursue later in my career due to them, but I’ve also discovered what I hate to do. In your volunteering time it’s important to express your wishes, what you are comfortable with or not, your organisation might not always listen to you, but at least you tried and spoke your mind. My tasks at the beginning were fun, social media schedule, working on websites, sending emails with MailChimp, taking care of the organisation’s newsletter, fun stuff. Until it wasn’t. Because I was so keen at the beginning to learn everything just to enrich my CV, my mentor assigned me some very unpleasant tasks that I profoundly dislike, mainly accountability and logistics, something I’ve never imagined doing. Sometimes you have to take things as they come, that’s life after all, no? I can just imagine a volunteer who comes into an organisation without a learning objective, he or she just wishing a nice get-away from the daily life, how much he or she would learn and experience! You come into the ESC inexperienced and somehow lost, but by the end you appreciate yourself more, discover what you like, what you wish to do next in some way or the other. Goals are formed with time.
This is a great adventure, full of ups and downs and probably the best source of learning. I advise you to consider once again why you’ve decided to volunteer in the first place, why did you choose the country you’re currently living in, or this particular project and how does it help you in your future career? If we are waiting for too long for something big to happen to us, we will forget our initial desires and dreams. Remember, each project comes with its own opportunities; you just need to identify them and act on it. What are the benefits of your project? What are the unexpected learning opportunities within your stay? What value and effort do you bring in order to achieve your goals or are you taking advantage of your available resources? Regardless that by the end of the project you 100% know what to do next or not, the most important thing is to stay true to yourself.