„Htio sam promijeniti svakodnevnu rutinu i okolinu. Doći u drugu državu, volontirati i na taj način promijeniti sebe“
Becoming a volunteer and what comes with it
I’ve always wanted to travel abroad. I’ve always thought that knowledge and competence comes through experience and practice, not through paper and your own small town, city or your own culture. That is exactly why I came here. Yes, it is a small town but it’s a huge world for me.
I’m Ethel, a 20-year-old Estonian who came to Croatia to a small town called Ozalj to be a volunteer for a year in an organization LAG Vallis Colapis.
After finishing high school I was sure that I will take a year off to travel and see the world. To rest from the school system which I’ve never enjoyed. Well, things went a little different, I was working as a barista for a year and a half, still in Estonia, already spending my second year off from responsibilities and this despised education system… I still was not ready – who grows as a person when working a year and a half behind a bar, making cappuccinos and frappes? My mom was worried already for a long time, and then I started getting worried too – everyone besides me seems to have their life together – they are traveling or studying already and evolving and I’m still here in Estonia…
Then an opportunity came to may way – I was offered to come to Croatia for a year and be a volunteer. Croatia has always appealed to me… A year… That’s long enough time to grow and evolve and become a better person… I couldn’t say “No”. I wanted to say “No”, I have to admit that, because it’s scary when you leave your life in your home country for a year. But really soon I came to realize, that feeling all these things, I was not alone. It’s really important to know that. All volunteers feel this way, it’s totally normal, you should be a bit worried about that – that’s what keeps the relationships between people alive.
And after my final weeks in Estonia, meeting up with people and saying our farewells, came the time to fly to Croatia. The first days, maybe even a week or more, it felt like I was inside a bubble. It wasn’t such a culture shock, but it was still really weird to be in another reality that was not Estonia. The adaption here was smooth thanks to my colleagues and my flat mate, but maybe it was the feeling of being torn away from home (the longest I’ve been away from home before was maybe two weeks). Everyone always asked me how I was coping and I always tried to be very honest. If you don’t like something, things are not going to get better on their own, communication is the key. And always try to remember, that you are not alone and lonely. If you start feeling lonely, you have to go out and talk with people and get to know around and be out of your comfort zone in order to feel more comfortable in the new surroundings.
So the first two weeks flew past quite quickly and it was time to meet other volunteers in Croatia. We went to an on-arrival training that was all about learning about Erasmus+ and EVS (European Voluntary Service). It took place in Orahovica from 5th to 10th of June. Lots of non-formal learning about everything volunteers might encounter during their service here. It was truly a brilliant experience for me. It became really clear why I came here and how to get the most out of my time here. And for a bonus, all the other volunteers are lovely people who I will meet a lot during my year and I’m sure even after my service.