European Voluntary Service: Marika's experience
Article submitted by Eurodesk UK Partner Edinburgh and Lothians Regional Equality Council (ELREC).
What did you do in Scotland?
In Scotland I volunteered with the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT). I was located in Montrose (East Coast), at one of the SWT Visitor Centres, where I was mostly involved in customer care. I stayed at the reception desk welcoming people and explaining them what there was to see and to do, helping them to find out what kind of birds they could see, and… providing coffees and teas. I also created a few exhibitions: an informational display about the Scottish Wildcat and the Birdphone, a brand new sound installation that people still can use at the Visitor Centre. I spent a whole year in Scotland and, apart from my job, I had time to explore places and cities, visit castles and old houses, and go out with colleagues and new friends.
What are the 3 most valuable things that you have learned from this experience?
1. The difference between being a tourist and being a traveler. When you visit a place with a tourist’s state of mind you keep seeing things from other cultures through your own filter. You tend to compare new experiences based on your previous knowledge. Instead, when you really live in a different place you learn to ask “why?” a lot and you start to understand the reasoning behind things a lot more.
2. The world is not so big: in an unthinkable place in the middle of nowhere you can run into someone you’d never thought. NEVER.
3. Discover new cultures is the most beautiful experience one can hope for.
How do you feel about it now? Are you happy you did it? Would you recommend it to other people? Would you consider a similar volunteering experience in the future?
I’m really happy that I have done this experience, I will never forget it and, actually, I felt a bit sad on my last day there. I would do it again and again if it was possible, maybe in another country, and I suggest to all young people to do it.
It’s a beautiful chance to make new friends, learn a new language, see another country and gain more self awareness.
What’s your favourite Scottish word?
Doubtless it is dreich. Referred to a period or the weather it means dreary, cold, tedious, wet, dismal, grey, awful… exactly the weather I found on my first day in Scotland.
My first impression wasn’t so good, but fortunately I had the chance to find out that Caledonia’s weather can sometimes be very nice!