My first goodbye was my mentor. She left in the end of May to work on a cruise ship and I am super happy for her achieving that job opportunity. In addition I also helped her in improving her German for this adventure of hers. Yet the goodbye came one month earlier than expected. From a great mentor in the beginning she became a great friend for me in the end. Not only because she was always there for me with my needs, problems and questions, but also because we had so much fun together just hanging out or cooking together, visiting the cinema, going hiking… I already miss her now in my last month without her and I am really looking forward to her visit in Germany so that I can give her at least something back from all the things she did for me.
Second goodbye was another volunteer: Vivi from Hungary. She started her EVS earlier than me and thereby also finished before me. I can say that I clicked very well with her from the beginning on. She is a funny, mainly goodmooded person that you can trust. I always felt totally accepted and appreciated by her and there are not a lot of people in the world (except for your family) that give you this feeling. Together with her I hiked the highest mountain of Zasavje region (Kum: 1220 m), had deep talks while overeating ice-cream and together with her and others I went out in Ljubljana, danced until the morning and felt the EVS-spirit. Moreover she showed us her hometown and university town in Hungary: Budapest. In the beginning of April 8 volunteers rented a van and drove 4 hours to the capital of the neighboring country. We spent 4 amazing days there with a lot of sightseeing on our own (I mean we had a local guide), but also attending free walking tours. I can recommend those to anyone who wants both: visiting the city on a low budget but yet also in a more personal and local way. Almost all bigger European cities offer them. She also introduced us to the nightlife and the typical cuisine (Langos, Gulash, Körtöschkolatch). I will clearly miss those days not only with her but also the other European Volunteers that became my friends now. I still have 3 more weeks with them to go and then those goodbyes are unavoidable anymore.
Another thing is that this week will be my very last week of school then the summer holidays are basically starting here. Already now some students are telling me that they are going to miss me and wish I could stay another year. This almost breaks my heart. I enjoyed working in this school so much: Helping the students, advising them, teaching them, understanding them, seeing they understood what I tried to explain and on the other hand learning so much from them. Not only about Slovenian culture, language and the country itself but also on a human base… This week will be my week of goodbyes to most of them since the last graders have already finished school a couple of weeks ago and now only have their final tests. But also my “colleagues” were and are great. Not only the German teachers that I have been working with everyday but also the other foreign languages teachers that I shared a “teacher’s cabinet” with. Next Tuesday we will have a pick nick together and it’s time to finally say goodbye to them. All this goodbyes will be hart but inescapable. And by saying goodbye and ending my story here I also know that another story a new story back home will begin. The end is always the start of something new.
What more is left in the end? What have I achieved during my EVS?
To continue with something simple: the language. I didn’t learn as much Slovenian as I wanted but I can say that I found my inner peace with it now. I am far from being fluent or having a proper conversation but I can communicate my basic needs, I can go shopping, use the public transport and survive my daylily life in Slovenian language. I can even understand quite a lot of what Slovenians around me are chatting and talking about. And even if I cannot really interfere in the conversation I am yet proud to at least understand. I had Slovenian classes every once in a while but mainly we did stuff that I had already picked up before, from the streets, from school, from wherever. Also the other volunteers were not so keen on learning the host country’s language and I didn’t want to force lessons just for myself all the time. So my Slovenian knowledge by now is certainly what I learned just by living in this country. And Slovenians truly don’t make it that easy for foreigners to pick up their language since they are just too good with foreign languages. The majority speaks English and Serbo-Croatian (which this is understandable because of the past), quite some speak German and some also Italian and French. So whenever you try to shop your groceries or buy your bus ticket in Slovenian, they would switch to English to be polite and help you. And as cute and nice as that is, it doesn’t help you so much to learn the language.
Of course I can neither blame Slovenian inhabitants nor my youth center for not speaking good enough Slovenian by know as I originally have wanted to, but only me. I could have studied vocabulary and grammar at home in my room and thereby improved. But I didn’t want to. Not only because I was too lazy (ok, a little, I admit it) or too busy, but also because I learned a lot about informal learning here. I didn’t want to study formally like in school but to see how informal learning works in reality. And I reached a level of understanding Slovenian and even speaking some but not “properly” studying it in school, but by learning from others, from listening, reading signs, asking people or even students what certain words mean and not to forget by having to survive with hand and feed and some words in Slovenian if a person (in rare cases) could speak another language. And I am pretty proud of that.
What should also be mentioned is that EVS is mainly about growth. In any way or sense of live that you want to and feel it’s needed. And I am sure that I grew a lot in the past months. I am more mature, more independed, more aware of my skills and abilities, more sure about what I want in live. I am not scared of responsibility and tasks that go with it. I know that I am a “maker”. That I can organize projects and events and speak in front of a lot of people without being super nervous, sometimes even without being prepared. I learned that learning is much more than studying in school. Learning about yourself and how you changed is an amazing thing to discover. My self-esteem and self-worth grew higher. I formed a strong personality with a lot of character.
Another positive effect is that I made friends all over Europe. Not only here in Slovenia but other European Volunteers from several other countries. I experienced and did a lot together with them. They helped me in my process of self finding and self developing. I am thankful for every single one I have met. I know that they will always understand me and my feelings during this period and also afterwards like no one else. Because they went through the same struggles, hopes and experiences. Sometimes even together with me through exactly the same things. It’s relieving to know to have such a sort of safety net that you can address when you will struggle in the future. To have a group of international friends with a lot of variety that everyone brings something different and valuable to. And I do really hope to meet every single one of them at least once again. They became a part of me that I would never want to miss and that I am extremely grateful for.
I cannot even line up all the positive sides of me EVS, all the projects I had, and all the times I failed and then did it better. There were too many amazing moments to share all of them, so I will keep all of them closed up in my heart and promise to myself to never forget them.
What I shouldn’t forget in the end is to thank all people for their support. My international friends as I have already mentioned. My mentors in school that always were true mentors that helped me in finding my way to supporting them in class and do my own thing there but that also always had an open ear for my personal needs and belongings. I couldn’t have asked for better ones.
Also my coordinator in the local Youth center and some (former) employees were always open for my needs and suggestions, I am thankful for that.
Nevertheless I am grateful for my support at home. My family and friends were always there for me. With Skype-calls, mail- or Facebook-conversations and even visits. I hadn’t imagined so much support and acceptance of what I am doing here and that they would take part so actively. I received a lot of mail and quite some packages that made sure I felt that I was not forgotten back home.
Especially I couldn’t ask for a better boyfriend. He was the one who supported me from the very beginning and stuck with me through the whole period. He was always listening, took time for calls and texts and cheered me up when I was low. Words cannot describe how much I love him for being there for me all the time. No matter if I wanted to share positive things with him or stuff that depressed me. He was incredibly patient with me and through all obstacles managed to visit me several times. He also made my time here what it was, because somehow he was always here in some way.
As I mentioned before that leaving this place here will be hard for me, not because I will miss it by itself so much but because I will always miss the people from here and also myself here, the person I was while I was here. But regardless right now I am looking forward to going home and continuing something old as a new person while in the same time starting something completely new.