Claudia Tells Us More About Her Adventures in Varna, Passion for Social Work and Being an Intern During a Pandemic!

Claudia is one of the lovely interns that joined the team of An Association FOR YOU last fall. She is deffinately one of those energetic people, that fill you up with positive attitude. That’s may be because she is commited to social work, travelling around the world exploring new places and personal growth. Catch up on her adventures in Varna with the interview we prapared with her.

Hello! Please introduce yourself with a few words!

Hey and здравей ! My name is Claudia, I’m 25 years young and born in the beautiful city of Leipzig in Germany. I completed my Bachelor degree in social work/social pedagogy in Jena and I’m now in my Master studies with the focus on International Social work at the University of Applied Sciences in Erfurt. I had the opportunity to do a volunteer service in South India before going to university and I organised myself an Erasmus semester in the Netherlands during my bachelor degree. Now I have the great chance to do an internship as part of my studies in Varna, Bulgaria at FOR YOU.

You see, my love and curiosity for international exchange developed over the past years, not just in my education and professional path, but also in my freetime I love to do outdoor activities and to travel to not necessarily touristic destinations 🙂 

What motivated you to apply for the internship? How did you choose Bulgaria for your internship?

Due to the fact that the internship is part of my studies, my wish was to do this internship abroad to gain some experience at an international working organisation. To be honest, my research on finding a suitable internship place began somewhere else, but Corona influenced my options a lot. In the end I’m glad and thankful that I found the internship offer of FOR YOU at the Erasmus+ website and that I could go abroad at all!

Tell us about your experience as an intern! What were your main tasks?

My internship was divided. 3 days a week I spend my days at the office of FOR YOU. There I worked at project applications, summaries, data base research and updated the Instagram channel of FOR YOU. 2 days a week I spend my time in Hale3 at organising and implementing Artworkshops targeted for people in disadvantaged situations and with learning difficulties. In Hale 3 I also lived for the time of my internship and made very good friends.

What are some things you learned during your internship in Varna?

I learned a lot about cats and seashells 😀 Well, in my office work, I learned a lot about project applications and Erasmus fundings, how an alternative youth place like Hale 3 is working- what potentials and challenges such a common place and its people have. I got to know how you organise activities for a specific target group, but also what challenges you might have addressing and keeping them in projects and offers. It wasn’t my first time living in a shared flat, but the first time with 8 or more international people together. An experience I don’t want to miss 🙂

What was your first impression of Varna?

Claudia together with other volunteers and interns in Hale3.

I arrived in the evening, so the first thing I saw was Hale3, so my home for the next few months. I have never lived in such an interesting place! It’s difficult to summarize it in a few words, but it’s definitely alternative, colourful and diverse!

Just the next day, I went to the port and fell in love with the sea. I really love seaside places, although it was a pity to see so much trash at the beach.  The city center of Varna is beautiful and includes a really nice promenade. When you leave the center you see more houses which are not in the best condition, but somehow they are also part of the townscape. 

There are great initiatives and projects In Varna regarding learning bulgarian language, offering a variety of cultural  and sport programs, cleaning the beach each sunday and so on… Just be curious and open minded to discover the city!

You can read more about Claudia’s impressions from Varna in the article she wrote HERE.

Did you face any challenges in Bulgaria?

I tried to catch up with some bulgarian language, even in a language course. However, if you don’t speak a language very well you always have some challenges, but I also love that status of explaining things non verbally with creativity and patience. I made many nice people who were kindly explaining things although we didn’t speak the same language.

Did the pandemic affect your work?

Yes, definitely. Lot of projects had been postponed especially regarding group visits and exchanges and working tasks were changed. In the end the measurements were more strict again, so all activities with other people were prohibited. This was sad and challenging. Nevertheless, we tried to find some good alternative working tasks and stayed positive.

Exploring some Varna sights before the pandemic outburst.

You are currently working remotely from your home in Germany. How is that experience and what are the differences?

Yes, for the last month I’ve been working from Home in Germany. The pandemic situation both in Bulgaria, but also in Germany got intense in November, december, so it would have been a bigger challenge for me to travel forth and back for the last month after the christmas break.

My tasks did not change that much, since I also worked independently at the office of FOR YOU. I’m in close contact with my supervisor and the other team members, so if I need help I can contact them easily. In Germany we have for some weeks now a strict lockdown, this is challenging me though, especially in regard to social contacts, travel opportunities and online work mostly.

Do you think this internship will help you find your dream job?

I got experience in Erasmus+ granted projects, for my job I can imagine to work in an social working field related to EU projects. My experience will help me this way or in a similar way. My wish is to work in a working field related to international issues. This might be also working with migrants, but also here I’m sure that I can use and adopt the experiences and knowledge I gained during my internship.

Would you recommend this experience?

I ALWAYS  recommend others to go abroad, I want to encourage especially young people to take that chance, to go through some paperwork and organising challenges and tasks. But it’s worth it! I organized all my long term stays abroad on my own, you just should search for an Organisation or person who is supporting you regarding application forms, finances, place of living. And now you are lucky- because FOR YOU provides you with nice staff members who love to accompany you in that adventurous way!

What advice would you give to someone who is thinking of going abroad?

To be open minded for new situations, circumstances, ways of learning and living. Be courageous to try out new things, discover new places, get in touch with people and groups to get to know a city and a glimpse of the country.

If something will go wrong or fails, keep your head up and stay positive, connect with people who might help you and ENJOY this unique experience! And use your free time to discover the rest of the country and region, it will help you understand the view of local people 🙂

Another advice I would give is, NOT your relationship with another person to be a reason not to go abroad. From my experience I can tell that it’s sometimes hard and challenging, but also precious and worth it to try out another way of communicating and seeing each other.