“The most difficult step ever is the first step. It comes with doubts, uncertainties, and all sort of fears.”
A few months ago, I wouldn’t have believed if someone had told me that I was going to live in a completely different country, about which I knew almost nothing, Romania. What did I know about it? The place on the map and some stereotypes. But I decided to give a try to this EVS volunteering opportunity. I considered it as a challenge – to see if I would be able to live for six months away from my family and friends, the places I knew and loved. I packed all my things (20 kg) and in the early morning of the first day of spring I said goodbye to my family, friends and my home country. A girl who had never travelled alone left and had to do everything by her own.
There was no direct flight from my country to Romania. So at first I went to Milan. I had to wait 8 hours to get the next flight, so I decided to visit the city center of Milan. I had to find where to leave my heavy luggage, where to buy shuttle bus tickets, where to get off and which metro to take. And during those moments I understood that, for the following months, I would have to speak English only. It was hard at first – remembering the words, asking clear questions and, of course, understanding what people are telling you. After exploring the city, I went back to the airport and took my next flight, which brought me here – in Timişoara.
First impression – scary – I was supposed to meet a person who was waiting for me at the airport, but my phone card was not working. When I saw them, ZURY president Andreea and her brother Cătălin, I felt more relaxed thanks to their warm welcome. We enjoyed a cup of tea while waiting for another volunteer coming from France. After he arrived we went to our new home where two other volunteers were waiting for us. All the way, I was thinking about how our place will look like. Will it be an apartment or a house, will it be cozy? It was so strange to enter the house which was going to be my home for the next six months. Once we arrived, Andreea and Cătălin told us some important things we needed to know, they ordered pizza and left telling us that they would bring one more volunteer around midnight.
So here we were – four completely different souls, from different backgrounds, with different experiences. So different, but so similar at the same time. Two French guys, an Italian girl and me, a Lithuanian girl. We talked about our lives before coming here – what we had studied, our professional experience, we spoke about our countries, the music there.
I had brought cards and we decided to play some games which are popular in my country. At first it was really hard to explain, nobody was used to speaking English all the time, everyone had different accents, but we managed to understand each other. One thing I thought of before coming here – how will we be able to tell jokes, I considered it to be mission impossible to say something funny which was not in your own language. But there was nothing to worry about – starting with day one, we were already laughing together and, from that moment, I knew that everything was going to be ok. We also waited for the volunteer coming from Spain and, then, we went to sleep.
The next day we met our coordinator Marina, she explained all that we needed to know and showed us the way to get to the mall where we spent a lot of time buying food for our big family of volunteers. During that day, we organized some get-to-know-each-other activities; we found out what are our responsibilities here, what EVS actually expects from us and what are the goals of this project. The next day we met one of the mentors – Alberto – he took us to the city center for the first time, showed us his favorite places there, which were unique and full of locals. I was there, having a coffee, and thinking that I am already in love with this beautiful city.
In the morning we decided to spend some time in our yard – we had a really funny snow fight, we built a snowman which we called Zuzu (because of the advertisement often shown on TV). We made some funny rules in the house, like enjoy Zuzu (strange advertisement), enjoy reggaeton (because our Spanish guy doesn’t like it), enjoy plastic people (because of some funny review we had read about one club). After a few days we met our Romanian language teacher Lore for the first time. She gave us some more details about the city and introduced us to the Romanian language. Oh, those special letters… I wish soon it will be easier for me to pronounce them. Then we met our mentor Adelina for the first time, and Alberto joined us later. We tried some typical Romanian food and it kind of reminded me of Lithuanian food, well, Romanian and Lithuanian people are both Eastern Europeans – we know how to cook.
Our first week here was all about accommodation, getting used to the place, people and to a different lifestyle. Getting used to very friendly car drivers, who stop all the time to let us cross the street, getting used to buses, which don’t go by the schedule and you never know if you are going to miss the bus or not.
From the second week we started going to the office and preparing for volunteering activities. At first it was hard to come back to the normal daily routine – getting up early in the morning, going to the office and not missing the bus (because the buses really don’t follow the given schedule), work on our presentations, and also have Romanian language classes two times per week.
In the office we were busy making presentations on different topics related to our project, we kept improving them, presenting them in front of each other so often that it became a normal thing in our daily life. I started from a trembling voice and shaking hands during my first presentation and I became more and more confident with each presentation at a time and now I can fluently deliver a presentation in English, because it is almost a month since we have been living here and have been communicating in English all the time.
Well, the first presentation in front of a group of students in a local high school was quite challenging, but now I know what to expect and what to do in different unexpected situations, when something doesn’t go by the plan. Our group of volunteers is going to Bucharest during the last week of March. There we will attend a Mid-Arrival training together with other foreign volunteers from all over Romania. I can’t wait to improve my knowledge about volunteering and make new friends there!
See you next time!