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Erasmus volunteer in a pandemic situation

Published by Someone from Everywhere on

erasmus-volunteer

The insight of an Erasmus volunteer in a pandemic situation

erasmus-volunteer

Ready to hear some insights from an Erasmus volunteer in a pandemic situation?! Do you want to get some ideas about what you can do for both personal and professional development? OR maybe you just see how to manage best a gap year in case you have one, by incident or by your own will. 😉 

Izabell is here to tell you all about that. Therefore, here is her story: 

Introduction

Hello there! My name is Izabell and I am going to tell you a little bit about my adventure as an Erasmus volunteer in a foreign country. A few months ago I decided that I want to have a gap year between my bachelor’s and my master’s. I tried to search for long-term projects in countries with a better situation having in mind the virus. So I found a project with a theme that might interest me in the future. The project is connected to the ESC (European Solidarity Corps). If you have not heard of it, it’s a European Union initiative that creates opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad that benefit community and people around Europe.

 Everything was supposed to be easy peasy lemon squeezy, but it was not. The beginning of my journey was a little bit unexpected because of the pandemic situation. My flight was canceled two times, and the second time was the day before my departure. It would have been too easy for me to have a 5-hour flight from Bucharest to Vilnius, right? I had to reroute my way to Lithuania. So I ended up flying to the Czech Republic with one of my soon to be flatmates. From the airport, we took a bus, metro, and train to his grandmother’s place. After a short sleep on the floor, on a mattress (he snored so bad, I slept barely 2 hours) we traveled by train 2 hours to the bus station and by bus 18 hours to Vilnius, the capital of Lithuania. The organizer came to take us from the bus station and took us shopping for the next 2 weeks of quarantine. Exciting, right?

Accommodation

I spent my first day here, in Ukmerge, cleaning my room and trying to make it feel more cozy and familiar. 2 weeks of quarantine felt like an eternity. I managed to clean every inch of the flat, because of boredom. I forgot to mention that I have 5 flatmates. More exactly 4 guys: one from the Czech Republic, one from Jordan, one from France and one from Ukraine; and a girl from the Reunion Island. Interesting fact: I already met the Ukrainian guy in another Erasmus exchange project I attended last year in Poland. And no, we didn’t have a clue that we applied for the same project. I spent the first month living only with the Czech guy, the other guys arrived later because of this whole virus situation. 


Another interesting fact is that the Ukrainian guy didn’t recognize me. As we were talking the first day I told him that his English improved since we saw each other in Poland. It took him a whole minute to realize that we are not strangers to each other. And he said: “Oh! It’s you!”. Now that the flat is full it feels like home. We eat, laugh, cook, sleep, and spend most of our time together after volunteering. Although, our flat looks like after the 3WW, it is still better, than living alone in an Erasmus experience. 

Living in a foreign country

Let’s not even talk about the fact that I don’t speak Lithuanian, and people in this city don’t speak English. In fact, let’s not talk about that nobody here is speaking English. Google translate became not just my friend, but my boyfriend, soul mate, best friend, etc. We spent the first weekend at a scout camp. Not having a clue about what is happening 2 days in a row was something that was the beginning of this whole thing. The next weekend I went to Kaunas, the second biggest city in Lithuania, without doing any research about my small trip. I got off the bus at the wrong stop and I couldn’t find a single person to help me find my way to the city center, which is called by the locals The Old Town. I spent only a few hours because most of the things that I wanted to visit were closed because it was Sunday. 

Erasmus Volunteer -activities

As I said I’m an Erasmus volunteer here, at an afterschool. This means that from Monday to Friday I’m playing 5 hours a day with 12 kids (ages 6-10). The days at the afterschool are really nice. Are even nicer when the kids decide to paint my face and then go for a walk around the city. What can I say? I was proudly walking around the locals with my cat nose and mustache. I never knew that it is this exhausting to play all day with Lego, Barbie dolls, UNO, etc. Also, it is fun and games, until the teachers decide to leave me alone with 6 of the most energetic kids and almost get beaten up by them. 

Spending free and quality time with Erasmus volunteers

The whole pack of volunteers consists of different countries consists of 8 people. There are 2 more Erasmus volunteers (one Spanish guy and one German girl) in Kaunas, with whom we spend time and travel. This means that on rainy days we end up squishing 8 people in one flat, having fun, and trying not to be kicked out because of the noise that we make. And on days with nice weather we visit new cities and go to scout camps, helping out with the cooking and organizing activities. It literally took 7 weeks for everybody to arrive at the flats, because of visas, quarantine, passports, and coronavirus tests.

 

P.S . You will hear again from Izabell  with useful information about Erasmus volunteering. I hope you enjoyed her story as much as I did. Don’t forget about the Erasmus E-book . It contains a lot of useful ;). Apart from that, check the insta account, FB page and so on. I would be very happy if you would become part of Erasmus weekly community. 🙂


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