I am 23 and come from Poland. My life taught me that I should always have an attitude distanced. My first day here is moving on right now, and I feel it’s an excellent time for the first reflection.
The reason why I am here is very prosaic and ordinary. First of all, I felt terrible after one and a half years of sitting at home due to COVID-19. Actually, a year was too much for me. That is why I have decided to apply for an internship in one agency of the United Nations. That is my dream. I am studying business and politics, and a plan to work there is still one of the most essential points in career planning. It turned out there is one problem – they don’t have any time limit to accept or decline an applicant. For an applicant, it means they can contact you even in a few years after your application. But we can forgive dream many things, right?
My plan was good. I thought so. I applied in spring 2021 to be able to go there on holiday. I hoped I will be suitable for some job offer and the UN agency contact me. It didn’t. I had been waiting some time, and finally, I decided to find an internship or volunteer. That is how I found European Solidarity Corps. Of course, I knew this programme before, but I never perceived it as something for me. It is mostly about volunteering, and I planned my career more profitably… Is it about NGO, which I love but regarded to that – there won’t be a very prestigious position in my curriculum. Generic, I planned my career way meticulously. And everything dropped dead when I realized there is a bigger chance I won’t receive any call from the UN agency than I will.
Moreover, there was a vision I would spend the following months in my lovely, but due to pandemic a little bit hated house for the last eighteen months. So I was ready to agree on everything as long as somewhere for the holidays. I believe in actively spending time. So I wanted to go somewhere where I won’t only lie on the beach but will do something perceived as wasting time and explore a new place in my free time. And that is why I came to the conclusion I will go volunteering within ESC.
If you expected an inspiring story, why is it worth going for volunteering within ESC, I have to disappoint you – it’s not about this. It’s about expectations, experience and approach. You have already got to know my motivation, so now, it’s time for demotivation. I took part in the Erasmus+ programme. In 2019, I went to Spain to study for one semester in Andalucia. When I applied for that, I was so excited about the country, sun, and everything that occur to you when you think about Spain. Well, it didn’t take too much time. My first contact at the university turned out xenophobe. It wasn’t a great start. Generic encounter with him had a significant influence on my stay there. And to pass your question – it destroyed my Erasmus a little bit. Was it good? Yes. I met new people. I started to learn a new language. I was lying on a beach when my parents wear coats at home. Was it great? No. My mentality didn’t suit that culture, no one spoke English, and I was a victim of xenophobia. When I came home for Easter break, I really didn’t want to come back that much. Disappointing is a very well suitable word.
Consequences of my feelings and relations after studying in Spain were questions “What?! Portugal?! Why?! Are you crazy?!”, when it turned out I will go to Portugal to volunteer. Of course, I realize it is a totally different culture, although I didn’t have any opportunity to meet it from the point of view of someone who lives with local people. Instead of that, many people still think in stereotype way about Portuguese culture as similar to Spanish. Among all my arguments, I could convince them only by one – I wanted to go somewhere near to a sea. Did it work? Probably, considering right now, I am sitting in an office near Lisbon and write it.
My first experience here? In the first two hours here, I met a few examples of a totally different mentality than Spain. I took two suitcases (’a little bit’ heavy), and I am standing with them in front of the stairs. One woman came to me and told me where is the elevator. After going out from underground, two men took my suitcases up to stairs, in a place where there wasn’t an elevator. What surprised me the most is the fact that nobody asked me about Portuguese or English. They saw I am a traveller and I don’t look like a typical Portuguese girl. So they just started talking to me in English, which would be totally unusual in Spain.
Would it happen if I would have thought in stereotype way? For sure. Would I be surprised if I would have been so excited like before Erasmus+ in Spain? Probably also not.
Expectations are thoughts on which we have a minimal impact. Every single time when we hear something, we paint some pictures in our minds about those things. Thanks to that, we can be excited by our thoughts and finally disappointed by reality or, in another way, be prejudiced and finally don’t experience such great things. Both ways can direct to not so pleasant feelings. Is it possible to heal it? Sure. You can always try to be distanced from all situations. I saw it as the best option for everyone in every case because only this attitude can give you the most objective perceiving a situation. Only thanks to that, I was positively surprised by people’s goodness. Thanks to that, you have an opportunity to read my reflections during the first day of volunteering in Lisbon.
What about with the UN agency? I am still waiting, not passively. I apply for the following job offers and upgrade my skills. And I hope they will call me someday with an invitation for the internship.
Read you next time!