At the start of this project, I did not expect anything of the year to come. I only had high expectations of myself. I wanted to learn, I wanted to self-develop, I wanted to feel useful.
But when coming to think of the project, I knew so few that I could not imagine how my work life would be, how my colleagues would be and how my surrounding would be. This I only discovered when coming here.
This last month has been covered with up´s and down´s, with moments of frustration and love, but also fear and happiness. When I reconsider my experiences so far, it is a wonder that this all has happened within a single month.
When first arriving here, I felt terribly lonely and scared. It was late in the night and I was fetched from the train station by a monk of my organisation who only speaks Polish and another volunteer who seemed at first sight very withdrawn. This evening I rethought my decision, what if it wasn´t the right one? I couldn´t get back now, could I? University already started so there was no turning back. However, I also knew, I am not someone giving up that easily. And the next day proved my first impression completely wrong.
Everyone welcomed me with open arms and was so happy that I was now part of the team. The first project started immediately. So, I had basically no time to feel useless or bored. The first two weeks flew by with a lot of fun, new friends and new impressions of what was supposed to be my new home. This might now sound very cheerful but already the first week, I had to cope with a problem. The stress caused an inflammation at my eye and already then, I had to learn to stand behind that “weakness” and my diagnosis.
After this obstacle, I felt stronger than ever. Ready to start this year with new energy and the knowledge, that mistakes are human. However, I underestimated the factor of loneliness. The weekend after the end of the project, I realised that I did not have any friends here nor hobbies. And then the fear of feeling useless bubbled up again. I mean after all we are just volunteers, right? We don´t have a degree or a graduation except from high school so basically, we are not needed.
Henceforth, the On-Arrival-Training was exactly what I needed. Although I didn´t see it at first. It gave me strength and understanding, new friends and other volunteers. I learned that the fear of feeling useless is normal and only because this is a great opportunity, it is normal and fine to be sometimes angry or sad. They were teaching us that there are no good or bad emotions but just feelings and different approaches. They taught us that when there are other people going through the same problems, we are never lonely. They taught us that it is our own initiative to start something in our projects and that communication is the key for all our problems.
And they were right. I can´t comprehend my achievements in only this month. I started to learn Polish, I had to stand behind my own decisions, I talked to people only speaking Polish, I encountered 12 different cultures in one week, I organised a guided tour through a city I barely knew, I will give a workshop about “Europe in Solidarity”, I will work with children and different cultures. I know however that there might again be a time where I feel useless. And I want to remember what I already achieved so far. My mother ensured me that what I am doing is the work of a normal employee.
All in all, I think my expectations changed dramatically. Right now, I want to take this whole year in, with all the up´s and down´s, with the loneliness and anger, with tears and laughs. I honestly don´t even know any longer what I want to achieve. Maybe just starting a life somewhere else and getting through all the problems. I want to show myself that I can achieve anything, if I just try hard enough.
So, Sophie, if you read this, you are where you ought to be!