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A Year of Growth with the European Solidarity Corps by Meri

Exactly a year ago, I was looking for a long-term experience somewhere in Europe when I saw a volunteering program in Slovakia. Slovakia was a relatively unexplored and new country for me, so I wasn`t sure what to expect. However, after the interview with the staff of Youth for Equality NGO, I decided to take the chance and start this European Solidarity Corps (ESC) journey.
The ESC is an opportunity that people typically only experience once in a lifetime, and I really wanted to seize this chance. I believe I went through all the stages of cultural shock during my ten months there. Each day brought a different set of emotions, from feeling lonely to feeling empowered for taking the journey alone. But beyond my expectations, I gained so much more from the experience.
First and foremost, I underwent significant personal growth. I became more mature, tolerant, understanding (even more than I could have imagined), helpful, caring, and confident. I learned to express my opinions, set boundaries, and prioritise my privacy. Reflecting on it now, I feel like I aged two years during those ten months. While there were moments I didn`t like, I had to deal with them because it was my choice to be there.
Moreover, beyond personal growth, I developed a deeper understanding of the world around me. Living in a new country, I was exposed to different cultures, languages, and ways of life. This experience broadened my perspective and taught me to appreciate diversity in all its forms.
For future volunteers embarking on a similar journey, I would offer a few pieces of advice:
● Accept the challenges and discomforts that come with living in a new environment, they will ultimately make you stronger
● Approach each day with an open mind and a willingness to learn
● Be receptive to new ideas, cultures, and ways of doing things
● Don`t wait for opportunities to come to you, take the initiative to seek them out.
● Whether it`s volunteering for a new project or exploring the local community, be proactive in making the most of your experience
● Build relationships, one of the most rewarding aspects of volunteering is the connections you make with others. Take the time to build meaningful relationships
● Throughout your volunteering experience, take time to reflect on your experiences and how they shape you as a person
● Be open to feedback and be willing to adapt and grow along the way
Overall, volunteering abroad is an incredibly rewarding experience that has the potential to change your life in different ways. Start the journey with an open heart and mind, and you will come out of it a stronger individual.