My experience as a European Solidarity Corps Volunteer in Romania
Read the second blog from Georgie, a volunteer we supported on her ESC placement to ACT in Romania, to hear her reflections on her amazing experience there:
In March 2021, I left my home near Cambridge to move to the small town of Bailesti in southern Romania for six months — to say I was nervous was an understatement! However, my time as a European Solidarity Corps volunteer for Asociatia Comunitati Pentru Tineret exceeded my wildest expectations; I had the opportunity to share my passion for the environment with children and teens whose enthusiasm blew me away, the time to develop my interests and think about the next steps for my career, and the chance to meet a fantastic international community of volunteers.
The European Solidarity Corps is funded by the EU and provides opportunities for 18-30 year olds from EU and partner countries to travel and volunteer in community projects abroad. ESC volunteers receive free accommodation, with transport, food, insurance and pocket money covered by the EU. My project — EcoYouth — took six volunteers from France, Spain, Denmark, and the UK, and focused on delivering workshops and community events related to recycling and environmental protection. Alongside my project, I also completed my YouthPass, a certificate recognising the non-formal learning that takes place throughout the duration of volunteer mobilisation and aims to improve the employability of young people. The YouthPass assesses how I have developed certain competencies throughout the duration of my project, ranging from improving my digital and STEM competencies to communicating in foreign and native languages.
With the EcoYouth project, I came to expect the unexpected. One week saw the team organising a community litter pick in the nearby village of Afumati, another saw us performing on stage in the city of Craiova’s EcoFest in costumes made from plastic carrier bags. No two weeks were ever the same and for this I am grateful!
Yet it is because of these experiences I have developed the skills outlined in the YouthPass in a holistic way — I now feel a more rounded person because of it. When I used to feel my stomach drop when I had to present to a classroom full of people, I now no longer think twice before doing so even in extremely basic Romanian. This new-found confidence has already helped me to communicate with a range of people in daily life. Additionally, through sharing interest in music, food, art, TV and dance, I believe I now have a greater understanding not only of Romanian culture but also the culture of the countries of the fellow volunteers in my organisation. This aided us in working better as a team towards set goals.
One of the highlights of the project was the opportunity to explore Romania. It is fair to say I saw every corner of the country during my six months; from historic cities in Transylvania such as Brasov and Sibiu, to modern metropolises such as Bucharest and Cluj, all the way to beach towns such as Constanta and Mamaia. Particular highlights include visiting the wooden churches in the Maramuses mountains, visiting the spa town Calimanesti, and travelling to stunning Peles Castle in Sinaia. Romania is not on the typical tourist map, but is a hidden gem from travellers — throughout the country we were received warmly and there was always someone going out of their way to help if we were a bit lost!
As with all things, there were highs and lows with the project. Our first attempt to set up an English Language Club failed after we received no participants. However, learning to overcome these lows and approach a challenge from a different angle is key. In this case, we re-advertised the club through different means, changed the content of the sessions to interest the children more, and made the club more participatory through role-playing and drama.
The European Solidarity Corps is in my mind the best opportunity to get outside of your comfort zone and to build confidence especially after leaving school or graduating university. Many ESC projects are still open to British applicants ranging from education and social work to environmental and social issues. I found out about the EcoYouth project on https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity_en ; you have nothing to lose by creating an account to view the opportunities, so I recommend doing so wholeheartedly if you are in need of an adventure! If you want more information or just a chat about ESC, I would also recommend reaching out to IARS or to Asociația Comunități Pentru Tineret.
Check out what the EcoYouth team accomplished on our social media: