Halfway of ESC
My ESC volunteer project has reached the halfway point this month. The time has gone by very quickly, and I would like to share here this small part of my experience.
This April is the seventh month of my volunteering, and although I am more than half way there, until recently I still had the feeling of having arrived yesterday.
These 7 months have been very different from each other, the Christmas holidays were a kind of turning point in my project.
I remember that in September and October, the first months, as everything was new to me and I didn't have an established routine, I didn't have time to get bored or to miss my friends, my family and my city.
The truth is that the beginning was very good. I had got on really well with my flatmates (as well as with the other volunteers); we went out to the bars and made plans at weekends. They were great when the we arrived and we became good friends. It took me a few days to join the kindergarten where I now volunteer, and I took the opportunity to explore the city. I was delighted to see that it was full of parks and greenery, and that everyone was cycling around.
I also remember the start at the kindergarten very well, my mentor is very attentive and close to me (and also the only one who speaks English). It's true that the language made it a bit stressful, but with the children I didn't find it hard to adapt in spite of that. To finish with the wonder of the first contact with what was going to be my year in Leipzig, I will say that I was also very motivated to learn German. I liked the lessons and the language itself, and I was very motivated when suddenly one day I was able to understand something a child asked me, even if it was just my name.
However, when winter came, the situation was different. In the kindergarten I started to feel as if every day was the same. Also, I was frustrated that I couldn't communicate with my other collegues. The days there started to get a little longer, and the excitement of the beginning gradually disappeared. I knew the routines in the kindergarten but I didn't know exactly what I was supposed to do, and I was a bit lost. Apart from that, with the covid here they had a particularly bad time, and everything was closed until almost February. I started to miss my friends and my city, I missed the mountains, the sea, spending time with my people... I couldn't wait for the Christmas holidays.
When I got back from Christmas, little by little, things started to pick up again. I took things differently at the kindergarten, I tried to think of activities that I could propose to the children, teach them handicrafts or small projects that I could carry out with them. I tried to occupy my time there and make the best out of it. I also saw my friends several times in the last few months, I took the opportunity to travel more and these trips also helped me to recharge my batteries. My flatmates left when they finished their projects, and new girls arrived with whom, fortunately, we also got along very well, as well as other volunteers in other flats. About restrictions and covid, this also started to improve, and everything was gradually opening up again, allowing us to enjoy new plans and opening up many more options to occupy our free time.
At this point, I have to say that my ESC has not been at all as I had imagined it would be. I guess it is inevitable to think about the future, and this makes us create expectations about what is yet to happen. Something like that happened to me, I made some expectations and when I arrived I found something different. It is also true that I had done an Erasmus, and that had been my only experience living abroad, so this year I expected it to be very similar.
I have to say that the fact that it hasn't turned out as I expected doesn't mean that I'm not enjoying it. I have learned many things, I have discovered hobbies and activities that I didn't know I liked and hadn't tried before, and I have met people very different from me that I wouldn't have thought I would be able to be intimate with a long time ago.
As I wrote in another article, when we move to another country we go through three phases: the first, in which everything is wonderful; the "frustration stage", when the difficulties begin, and finally a stage of adaptation and acceptance. I'm in that last stage right now, and although you realise that it's not as great as it was at the beginning, the bad things also pass, and you learn to enjoy the experiences in a different way.