Whether we prefer to live in cities, towns or villages is generally an important question for each of us, especially when we think about the future. The moment we decide to spend one year volunteering, we also think, consciously or not, about where we will live during the next period. There are more opportunities in big cities, and it seems that this option is more inviting for young people, but not for everyone. Among future volunteers, there are also nature lovers, young people coming already from big cities, those seeking rest from the crowd and noise, those who also want to experience authentic, smaller lovely places in Germany, so choosing towns and villages could sound like a great option.
I met many ESC volunteers and asked them about their experiences.
Christabel (18) comes from England and currently lives in Fuerstenwalde. Her project with ESC is a kindergarten assistant. She said, she had the option to live and work in Berlin, however she decided to turn this down as the placement in Fuerstenwalde had many more advantages and more support. A good connection to Berlin was also important for her decision to choose this small city in Brandenburg.
I am somewhat satisfied with life in Fuerstenwalde as there is an excellent network of volunteers and the coordinating organisation is brilliant and in close proximity. I think that the only issue is a result of Covid times as the restrictions have made being able to go into, appreciate and socialise in Berlin a lot harder which has made living in this city even more confining and isolating. I think there are indeed many advantages to living in a small town, for example it is an excellent place to enjoy nature and exercise and it is also easier to experience German Tradition as cities tend to be more international, explained Christabel.
Abdelrahman (25) came to Germany from Egypt. He is doing his voluntary service in Westerkappeln in North Rhine-Westphalia. He is a photographer and works with young people in a youth center. Living in this small city makes him not so happy.
I imagined myself in Berlin or Munich. Choosing the city wasn't important for me when I was in my country because I thought there's no big differences. But now I am not satisfied, because I consider I miss a lot of things. Despite it, there are some advantages too like not a lot of Covid cases, nice landscapes and nature, Abdelrahman pointed out.
Like Christabel and Abdelrahman, Niyat (24) from Azerbaijan is spending his voluntary year in Storkow, the town in Brandenburg. He describes his role as kind of a small handyman, but since a few weeks he changed his placement and right now he is working in Fuerstenwalde and he is dealing with social media accounts of the international part of the organization.
I never imagined living in Germany for almost a year. When I found out that I will live in Storkow, I started to think about what kind of things I can do in Berlin which is close to Storkow. I was unlucky because I was stuck in this small town during the pandemic situation, so maybe it could be different if I had a chance to visit Berlin and other cities. On the other hand, I think I have spent all my life in the big cities, probably even there was not a pandemic situation I would get bored sometimes. I see two advantages; The first one is, people are more polite and kind than people who are living in cities. The second is much cheaper or sometimes there is nothing to spend money on it.
Mila (24) from Serbia had an experience of living in a big city like Frankfurt where she finished her ESC engagement. In September she moved to Bamberg to study.
The nature of the ESC project was more important for me than the city itself, therefore I was choosing a good position and environment to work in rather than a big or small city. One of the main reasons for choosing Germany was the opportunity to study and I saw ESC as a good "integration" year where one gets to know the society and the state from various aspects. The advantages of living in a big city are several: cultural offers, opportunity to meet more people (networking), better rail and flight connections with other big cities in and outside of Europe and last but not least - one doesn't get bored or feel suffocated easily, said Mila.
One more story of living in a big city comes from Bremen. Eilidh (21) from Scotland is volunteering in an organisation that promotes and runs Erasmus+ projects. She had already experienced German’s lifestyle because she had lived earlier in Freiburg.
When I began looking for projects through ESC, I didn’t have a clear idea where I wanted to volunteer, but I wanted to live ideally in a city and somewhere that I hadn’t visited before. I grew up in a small village, so I’ve also experienced living in the rural countryside too. Bremen is one of the biggest cities I’ve ever lived in and when I first arrived its size was a bit overwhelming, but now that I feel settled, I really enjoy living in such a big city. I live outside of the main city centre, which is good, as I feel that I experience and see more of the city when I’m cycling to the office and back home each day. Bremen and Freiburg are two very different cities and it’s been fun adjusting to my new home - I used to live in the heart of the Black Forest surrounded by trees and mountains, and now I live only one hour by train to the beach and the surrounding countryside is vast, explained Eilidh.
Like everything in life it is always possible to find some advantages and disadvantages and it is the same principle with our life and position during the project. It is also obvious that the current situation with the Corona pandemic is affecting our daily life and changing our wishes, goals and the imagination of volunteer services in general. However, it is some kind of challenge, to strive to be happy although we are sometimes unsatisfied. What we could do in the case of our expectations not being fulfilled is to try to create our own “small world” and shape it in the way we like it most!