What is it to be European Solidarity Corps volunteer in your own country?

Antonia (left) during christmas team building of NYF.

Antonia was a volunteer with European Solidarity Corps as part of the team of National Youth Forum for six months. This experience brough her many challenges, lessons and unforgetable moments! Read below to see what she has to share about her journey!

Hi! Please introduce yourself in a few words 🙂

Hello! My name is Antonia Papazcheva and I am 24 years old. Born and raised in the beautiful town of Stara Zagora, however these past 5 years I live and study in the capital city – Sofia. 

In 2019 I graduated my bachelorette degree in “International communication” at University of National and World Economy. Right now I am doing my masters degree in the marketing field with specialization “Brand Management”.

Is this your first volunteering experience?

While studying “International relations” I was also a part of the Students association for research of international relations. I was part of the executive body of the organization and I have always been active in event management and creating different initiatives. 

I have been a volunteer ever since high school – participating in different campaigns, local non-profit organizations and other non-formal groups.

How did you find out about ESC and what motivated you to join?

I stumbled across an ESC add in news website for youth opportunities. I found the opportunity interesting and I researched what is the main purpose of the programme. Then, I got even more involved in the idea when I found out that you have the chance to volunteer in another country, as well as in your own homeland since last year’s changesbased on your interests and the field you want to develop yourself in the future. 

I registered on the platform of European Solidarity Corpus, however I couldn’t find exactly the right position for me at first. At the end, it was worth waiting because I finally stumbled across the right opportunity involved with my passion. I looked for some reviews and feedback from previous participants of the program and all of them gave me positive responses, claiming that it is a chance worth taking.

And what made me participate in the program – my desire to try new things and communicate with lots of different interesting people.

Tell us more about your work as a volunteer (in the welcoming organization)? Was there something new for you and what was that?

Almost all of the tasks were new for me. My voluntary service started at the same time as my masters degree. I would say that a lot of things from university helped me during my work in the organization, and also a lot of the things I was learning during the project, I also used in my education. In the beginning of my experience with ESC I had made some goals that I wanted to achieve by the end of these six months, and I do believe I succeeded.

I learned how to work with digital instruments, how to organize an event step by step, I was also taught how to handle official correspondence, how to work with partners and do fundraisers and much more.

Which were the challenges for you in your voluntary project?

In the beginning it was very hard for me to adapt to the work at the hosting organization and even though I have been a volunteer before in other non profit organization, the differences were quite big and there were a lot of new things that I did not understand. 

In the first month I did not manage to take it easy and I did not feel ready to get out of my comfort zone. After this I gradually started to learn new things, develop more skills and jump of of my borders.

Please share with us what was the most inspiring moment during the time of the projects?

The thing that kept me motivated and inspired the most, and also made me work much harder were the results that I started seeing after my work.

I do not think that there is a better motivation than this!

Share with us some interesting or funny situations during your voluntary service?

My whole service was a fun and exciting adventure filled with many thrilling moments! It’s hard to decide on just one but let’s say that the whole journey was incredible and had many new and interesting situations.

What would you say to other young people as an aspiration to apply to European Solidarity Corps program?

If you are currently looking for yourself and your passion, you still cannot find your place quite yet – ESC is the right place for you!

Yes, it may sound a bit like a cliche ad slogan, however whatever I say about the program won’t be enough. The positives and the outcomes are really a lot, and the biggest rewards I believe – is the personal development you experience, the opportunity to evolve skills you did not even know you had!

Antonia with her colleagues from National Youth Forum.