Dilyana shares more wonderful stories from her ESC project – part two!

We introduced you to the sunny and positive Dilyana in her previous blog post,  which you can read HERE.   Her experience is extremely rich and intriguing, so we continue the conversation with her in the second part! She shares her thoughts on the challenges of life, how to make the most of life’s opportunities, and much more!

What challenges do you face as a volunteer abroad and how do you deal with them?

Firstly, I underestimated the change of environment. I felt quite comfortable using English, while my German wasn’t so good. In the first days, I can even say – for almost a week, my brain was getting tired extremely fast, trying to function in both languages. In my organization, we had lunch together every day and every week we had meetings with the whole team, where everyone spoke German because according to them this is the best way to motivate a person to learn a language – to be exposed to it as much as possible. So, future volunteers, it’s a good idea to give yourself about a week to drive it more slowly and expect your brain to be under steam.


Another difficulty is the lack of your usual surrounding of people – family and friends. Personally, I did not experience much difficulty in the beginning, because I had a clear goal, I knew what I could expect there thanks to Dilyanka, who is my coordinator in FOR YOU. We had very nice, long, and informative conversations with her, in which she explained to me wonderfully what psychological reaction I can expect from myself, shared her experience and the experience of other volunteers abroad, and I told her about my experience, expectations, and fears. Another positive thing was that during my delayed departure due to travel restrictions I had the opportunity to contact the host organization. My AWO colleagues suggested that I get involved remotely in some of the projects they organized, and this way,

Sometimes I find myself misunderstood or I misunderstand someone, which is quite unpleasant, as well as discover differences between my sense of humor and that of other people. The solution to these difficulties is in communication. Advice for future volunteers – to solve this type of problem, it is important to discuss openly and calmly what worries you. If you feel uncomfortable, don’t hesitate to talk to your mentor or coordinators. It is also good to keep in mind that people working in such an organization, in most cases, would not think anything bad and would certainly not want to offend you.

Another big challenge for me was that I had to stand up and talk in front of people, which is a big thing for a shy person like me. I’m still worried, but only three months after I arrived I saw a big improvement in myself. We had a seminar where I had to speak openly, and I was surprised at how I developed the ability to speak calmly in front of people without realizing it.

The last difficulty (for now) I face as I end my volunteer service is that I feel extremely confused. I didn’t know which way to go after this. Over time, I started to shape my decision and currently have several alternatives. As confusing as this situation may be, it has led me to think that it is perfectly normal to feel this way – this year I was given many opportunities and was taught many new things and the hesitation that has arisen means that I have opened doors that had previously been closed . I know that whatever I do, I will like it.

What inspires you most in your project work? What’s new for you?

What inspires me is working with people, and that I can see the results directly. The pandemic has affected me both positively and negatively, but the very connection with people who come from all over the world, online or in-person, the fact that we share the same values, that I am learning about new cultures, is extremely inspiring . It gives me an idea of ​​how much we can achieve together and further nourishes my inspiration in terms of how many things we can accomplish and improve in the Bulgarian social sphere, which I hope I will be able to contribute to.

Something that was new to me was working on more than one project, balancing and prioritizing many new tasks, which after about three months became even more complicated when security measures became stricter and I had to work from home. I can say that I still try not to be constantly distracted by the fact that my bed is just in front of me and that the weather outside is wonderful and ideal for walks. I guess a lot of people have felt that way and I wasn’t the only one.  

How does the pandemic affect your work?

Makes it harder. Germany has imposed stricter measures since early October, and more than six months have passed since then, during which we have had to keep physical contact to a minimum to avoid infection. Staying and working from home proved to be a great challenge for my motivation. The project I applied for has changed dramatically. In its original form, we had to organize events, seminars, camps in different cities and countries, in-person projects. Now everything is done digitally. 

I didn’t think it would be so hard because I’m an introvert most of the time and I don’t mind staying home, but this turned out to not be true. I faced a new challenge – to prioritize my tasks from home, to find a balance between work and leisure, as well as to maintain my social contacts. I’ve always dreamed of being a digital nomad, traveling and being independent, but I’ve already started to change my mind. It turned out to be quite difficult to limit myself because at home I get distracted – I cook, rest, look out the window, and dream. Unexpectedly, the end of the working day has come and I have not finished my tasks for the day, so I have to keep working to catch up. I realized that it was important to take a break and diversify with other activities.
One of the biggest difficulties was the thought of missed opportunities – that I could not live my volunteer year at its fullest as I had hoped. At such moments, I bring to mind that if I had not decided to seize this opportunity, I would not have been able to experience what is happening to me; to learn the lessons that are offered to me. Theo helped me a lot in terms of dealing with that. She is an extremely nice person and we managed to create a wonderful relationship with each other. If you are experiencing something like this, it is good to gather strength and courage and talk to your coordinators or mentor.

Can you tell us what are the good practices of German NGOs to deal with the crisis?

German organizations are dealing with the crisis by transferring everything online (which is unusual for Germany) and you can currently find all kinds of games, workshops, events, and seminars on various topics online. There are organizations that offer psychological help, as well as those that offer free street food and home delivery. AWO, the parent organization of Jugendwerk der AWO Württemberg, offers free quick tests to relatives and friends who want to visit their loved ones living in nursing homes. Other organizations offer other projects online: discussions and reading books, holding exhibitions, concerts, virtual tours of museums, or organizing treasure hunts around the city, as well as various challenges.

What would you say to others to inspire them to volunteer?

 Volunteering abroad is very exciting! It is an adventure to another culture and to challenge your deepest self. Even if the thought of living in another country scares you a little, and in the meantime, you feel excited about the idea from inside, do not hesitate! You’ll be surprised at how many different projects there are! And if you don’t know what your passions are – you will find a project that will excite your enthusiasm and touch your soul. When you get there you will meet people just like you – with the same aspirations, goals, and dreams. Let yourself explore the possibilities and allow yourself to experience an unforgettable year working for a good cause.



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