I visited Weimar recently and I was swamped with approximately ten thousand feelings, emotions, fleeting thoughts and memories from my first seminar.
I felt like Weimar and its small, charming streets were pulling me back in time to this moment of confusion, enthusiasm, ten thousand questions and a feeling of „wow, I will never learn this language, it feels impossible”. It also reminded me of language barriers as something sometimes non-existent, as I recall quite easily a colleague of mine discussing politics in very limited German with a person who started learning it a few weeks before that. They managed. Perfectly well, in their own way.
A friend once told me I am my own language barrier. He was obnoxiously correct.
The first seminar is a period of many things happening over a relatively short span of seven days. You come to a new place, have some time to unpack and then you’re suddenly in a room with approximately 20 other volunteers, knowing perhaps a person or two (but most likely – no one). It might seem scary or intimidating and like an introvert’s hell, but think about it – people sharing the room with you come from a country that is not the one you’re currently living in, are far away from home, have just started their projects (in my group was a person who started it two weeks before the seminar and some people who had been doing it for two months already), have way more questions than answers and probably just much as you want to have a good time.
It’s a solid start.
It’s a time for you to learn about the program, the rules, the obligations placed upon all partners of the contract, the role of the respective National Agency in it all and spend some time on activities entirely unrelated to the more official part of the project, more focused on the experience itself.
There’ll be some games, some self-reflection, possibly some time in the city, depending on your location. You’ll make new friends and acquaintances, you’ll have some good talks and discussions and you’ll learn something (or somethings) new about yourself.
It’s an introduction to possibly the best months of your life.
Use this time.
A possibly useful check-list:
- think about the questions you have: about the project, about your job, about your life in the country you’re currently living in; you will probably get some answers – from the trainers, other volunteers or the person from the National Agency (someone should swing by for a day);
- pack some real comfy clothes, you’re going to need them for the whole day (and the day after that. And you know, the following five);
- make sure that your shoes are good for walking. Might be useful, might be not, but better safe than sorry;
- check in with yourself – socialising is fun, but it might also get overwhelming. Some of the workshops might also wake up some hard feelings. Take care of yourself and if it means skipping some people time or going to bed at 8 pm – do that.
And have fun!