LEARNING TO GROW: HOW VOLUNTEERING CAN HELP YOUTH DEVELOP LIFE SKILLS
How does volunteering abroad provide opportunities for youth to unleash their potential? Read the story of Wiktoria from Poland who is volunteering in Slovenia for the project PRONACUL.
“I knew that the world is very diverse, so I wanted to explore it as much as possible.”
Pandemic has been affecting everyone in the world, but youth was one of the most disadvantaged groups. COVID-19 forced them to take a break from regular classes at schools or Universities, or from temporary jobs. Following this hard period, 2022 shines a light on them as it marks the European Year of Youth, one year to celebrate the importance of young people to build a better future. Interreg ADRION Programme and its projects host volunteers from different European and partner countries through Interreg Volunteer Youth. New bloods make synergy and contribution to host organizations while they find a space for themselves to explore their potential.
To this end, we want to share with you the story of Wiktoria Widuch, an ambitious volunteer and tourism graduate from Poland who currently contributes to the activities of the cultural and tourism centre of Trbovlje (Slovenia) thanks to the Interreg ADRION’s PRONACUL project. Her experience portrays the expectations, joys, interests, as well as fears and doubts of a generation in their different walks of life.
Wiktoria was looking for a European Solidarity Corps project when she had chosen Zavod za mladino in šport Trbovlje, where they offered her cooperation with the local cultural and tourism centre. Thanks to that she found a connection between her academic background and the projects she takes part in. Here is the story of Wiktoria from her voice.
“My name is Wiktoria and I am 25 years old. I come from the area of Gliwice, a city in southern Poland, belonging to the Silesian agglomeration.
Since I can remember my greatest passion was traveling. As a child, every year I was counting down to vacations so that I could go away at least for a week. When I grew up, I started to deepen my passion. I knew that the world is very diverse, so I wanted to explore it as much as possible. I spend every money I have saved on travels and so far I have managed to visit 38 countries, both European and nearby. My adventure with moving to other countries started during my Master’s studies. At that time, after a period of many travels, I decided that I wanted something more than just a few days visiting famous attractions and places. I wanted to experience life in another country, get to know the local culture better, talk to people and participate in everyday life.
The first opportunity to do that came when I decided to go on a student exchange with the Erasmus+ Programme. I decided to go for one semester to the city of Cluj-Napoca in Romania. It was my first move out of my family house, so it was a big moment in my life. Although I was scared to go to an unknown country, without knowing anyone, I felt excited at the same time. During the five months, I had the opportunity to meet many wonderful people from different European countries. I learned how to cooperate despite cultural differences, I improved my language skills and I became more open to people. This experience also developed me as a person. I learned independence and responsibility. I became a more confident and communicative person. This experience gave my life a new direction. After the exchange, I knew that the opportunity to travel and live in another country in an international environment was something that made me very happy. Shortly after returning, I completed my Master’s degree.
A crucial question: What to do with your life?
Then I had to confront the question – what do I plan to do with my life? My dream was to repeat the adventure and move to another country for some time. However, I did not know how I could achieve this. At some point, I came across an advertisement for the European Solidarity Corps. I had never heard of this sector of the European Union before, so I decided to check it out. Then I came across the option of volunteering. I checked the offer and decided that it is a perfect opportunity for me. So, in one week I packed my suitcase and left for Zagreb, Croatia.
The project lasted two months. My tasks included promoting Polish culture and values at cultural events, as well as organizing my own workshops and events. Once again, I met many wonderful people and deepened my knowledge of life. Another experience taught me how to find myself in different situations and opened me up even more to the world. When the project was slowly coming to an end, I realized that once again I was unsatisfied with living in another country so short.
The decision to do a European Solidarity Corps Volunteering experience had a knock-on effect that allowed me to develop my skills and experience.
Spontaneously, I decided to stay in Zagreb for another one and half months. This was made possible by the fact that I started volunteering at the hostel where I stayed during the project. Indeed, the end of the project was not really an end, but it opened another gate. Following this experience, I managed to get a job in Zadar, Croatia, as a tour leader.
This allowed me to spend the whole summer in the charming seaside city, doing a job that matched my education and developed my professional skills. In this way, the decision to do a European Solidarity Corps Volunteering experience had a knock-on effect that allowed me to develop my skills and experience. After my summer job ended, I returned home to enjoy my family and friends again. As time passed, I found myself missing taking on a new challenge abroad again. I sent out several applications to participate again in one of the European Solidarity Corps volunteering opportunities.
Many applications went unanswered. I was slowly losing hope of being accepted to volunteer again when suddenly one organization responded to my message. The next day I took part in an interview and after a few more days I was already on the bus to Slovenia. This is how I started volunteering in the charming town of Trbovlje, in central Slovenia. I am now exactly in the middle of my European Solidarity Corps volunteering period, in cooperation with Zavod za Mladino in Šport Trbovlje (n.d.r Pronacul Lead Partner). Once again I found out how great the decision to volunteer was. On a daily basis, I work at the local Cultural Center – Delavski Dom Trbovlje. Here I can develop my interests and skills by working in the office in the tourism department. During the last month, I have learned a lot about marketing and editing programs and event organization. In my opinion, these are very important skills that can definitely be useful to me in my future job. I quickly adapted to the local environment, which turned out to be very friendly and peaceful. The conditions of the project fully meet my expectations. I am glad that I still have some time left for this adventure. With positive thoughts, I look forward to what the next month of volunteering will bring and at the same time I am sad that this experience will one day have its end.
The fact that I took part in the projects and exchanges has made me a better person. I am definitely more self-confident and open-minded.
I appreciate what I do every day and that I have this opportunity in life. I am learning many new skills and expanding my horizons. In the future, I will definitely take advantage of every opportunity that life brings. For now, I plan to focus on further self-development, I definitely want to continue working in tourism and in an international environment. Volunteer opportunities are a great option for young people who want to gain experience and try life in another country. As with any time in life, there can come and worse moments. In my case, it was sometimes homesickness and missing my family. However, the positives of the projects far outweigh the negatives, and it is a challenge worth taking on. I have certainly recommended and will continue to recommend participation in volunteering to my family and friends. In my opinion, the fact that I took part in the projects and exchanges has made me a better person. I am definitely more self-confident and open-minded. I have also learned many new skills, improved my foreign language level and made many new friends. My motto is definitely to take advantage of the development opportunities that our surroundings give us. I can’t wait to see what new challenges the future will bring!”