How volunteering changes lives – Yoan from the University of Economics-Varna!

Get ready for an interview full of revelations – Yoan from the International Department of the University of Economics-Varna tells us about his volunteer experience over the past year. From working with non-governmental organizations and international organizations, the development of personal qualities to the newly opened doors, read about Yoan’s adventures here!

Hello how are you?

Okay, energetic! In the mood for work, let’s say.

Great! Introduce yourself in a few words 🙂

My name is Yoan Dimitrov, I’m 24 and from the town of Sliven. My hobbies include romantic walks on the beach and watching movies, mostly. Also going out with friends.

What motivates you to come to Varna?

A few years ago, I decided that I wanted to enroll in International Relations and Law here. I enrolled in Varna Free University and started studying for a bachelor’s degree there. 

Have you been a volunteer before? 

Interestingly, I have not volunteered before. Absolutely never in my life. In fact, this is my first time volunteering. 

A boy and a girl doing a presentation

How did you find out about this opportunity? 

It was very fun. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree, I had enrolled to study law and I had started working in a call center. I realized that the call center was not for me, later I gave up my studies and the call center. I started looking for a job a month after the whole country was put in lockdown. Perfect timing. I decided that I wanted to be in Varna, and I intended to work in an NGO. Quite by accident, looking through the Internet I checked which organizations offer this type of internship. There weren’t many offers then, I applied in several places. They released a similar position for another university, but they did not approve me. I had almost given up. Then Elina (from Association FOR YOU) called me and said that I was approved. I was very skeptical when I started. Somehow volunteering here in Bulgaria is saturated with negative energy. Later, when I embarked on this endeavor, I found out that’s not the case.

Why did you want to work for an NGO? 

Two reasons. The first is that I think non-governmental organizations in Bulgaria are not so popular, and there is so much that can be done. That means that you can do absolutely everything. There is no area in which you cannot do what you want. The other reason is that my specialty is a little bit more interesting, I would say. You have two options for development – a state institution or an NGO. There are not many state institutions in Varna, and there were no vacancies. So I decided it would be an NGO.

What do your volunteering activities include?

I am a volunteer at the University of Economics – Varna, specifically in the International Department. I’ve been here for about a year. A lot of things happened to me during this period, personally as well. I am very glad that the events that happened to me, happened the way they did.

I literally do everything. I have helped my colleague who deals with incoming mobility, I have processed Erasmus documents for students and staff, I have done Bulgarian dinners and tours in Varna, tours of the university. I have also helped my colleague in charge of non-Erasmus international students. Also, I have worked with the head of the office, mainly for translations, but also on several European projects. 

Mainly, my work is largely related to documentation. Yes, it’s a little dry at times, but when it’s not dry it’s a lot of fun.

Was the beginning difficult?

I had preliminary preparation in the office – they asked me what I expected and told me what would happen. I was expecting some of the things, but I didn’t know that I would deal with so much documentation. My entry process was smooth, day by day, for which I am grateful. I was not overwhelmed and everything was explained to me. Yes, at times there were tense situations and some things I did not understand, but with repetition, everything became clear to me.

What are the new things you learned? The new skills you acquired?

What isn’t new? For the last year, I have changed so much in every way. The first and most important thing for me is that I have become much more communicative. Whoever I meet, I can strike up a conversation with. 

My organizational skills also improved. When working in an office, you should always have some organization of your own – to prepare things in your head and know what to do, when to do it, and so on.

I learned to handle a large set of softwares. I even had to try to be a graphic designer. In general, if people asked me to try something different, I always accepted, no matter what it was. This worked very well for me.

I learned to deal with strange situations. It sounds crazy, but there are many strange situations in the office. 

How did the pandemic affect your volunteering?

Personally, the pandemic did not affect me, or maybe it did but in a good way. Since I am not an employee of the university, the rotation work schedule did not apply to me, and I was at work every day. That’s why I know how to do a piece of each colleague’s work. Someone calls me urgently, he needs this and that, and I’m doing it.

From the point of view of the activity itself, the flow of people has really decreased. We had Erasmus students, but they themselves failed to fully experience their projects, which is unfortunate. Now, as the measures weaken, we have an increase in interest again.

A group of volunteers smiling in front of the sea

Do you have a favorite moment or event from your volunteering?

I have, but it’s not just one, there are quite a few. I expected it to be a typical office job, for which people say “these boring people do nothing all day,” but that’s not the case. Here we are positively charged party people and we have a very good time!

What inspires you in what you do?

There are several things that really inspire me. The first is working with people. Strange as it may sound, I don’t get tired of meeting and talking to a lot of people. For example, when I talk to foreigners and they tell me how much they like Varna. 

The other is when we send someone for the first time outside Bulgaria. Such people always come back with a big smile and are very grateful to you, which charges you positively.

Why should young people volunteer?

I know that volunteering is not popular in Bulgaria. That needs to change. More young people need to apply, to travel, to learn new things, not to stay in one place. Given that the European Commission is funding these endeavors, you just go somewhere and gain knowledge and experience freely (and between us, you have fun).

People need to be volunteers because of the energy that this activity brings. I personally feel good and I am charged with the idea that I will help someone. I like that. You also experience differences. Volunteering happens in different areas, in different countries, with different people, which is useful for you and enriches you. Since I volunteered, I have increased the number of my contacts by 4 times, which is indicative enough.

Describe your volunteering in three words 🙂

Positive energy. Unexpectedness. Experience.

You have special news for us, share it!

Another month or two after I started volunteering here, I was hinted several times that a job could be created in the office. But now officially – after the end of the project I will stay to work here in the position of Outgoing Mobility Coordinator. I’m excited, the feeling is completely different. I know that someone there appreciated me and the efforts I made.



The European Commission’s support for the production of this publication does not constitute an endorsement of the contents which reflect the views only of the authors, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained therein.