Hello! I’m Eva, a girl from the north of Spain. I have been a volunteer in Bulgaria for 9 months, and it has been an experience that has marked a before and after in my life.
When I made the decision to go, and they accepted me in the project, everything was very fast. In a matter of two weeks, I left my routine, my house and my country. I simply wanted to try something new, reach the limit and give myself time. Therefore, I did not have clear expectations. I have to say that my life was also very different: from laboratories, universities and science, I went to work with disabled people and gypsy children.
What I found was a surprise. It has been a very intense season in terms of emotions, self-awareness and activities. At first it seemed easy, but I quickly realized that the change was complete. I forgot about the old problems, needing to adapt and solve all the challenges present on a daily basis. I was used to be alone and self-sufficient in my leisure time, but I fastly adapted to living together and discovering my partners, all of whom are different. I learned a lot about Eastern Europe and the cultures: Turkish, Bulgarian, Croatian, Romanian, Italian… My vision of the world has become more objective, realistic and global, thanks to the good and bad experiences I’ve had.
By nature I am curious, competitive and empathetic, but this year my personality has reached another level. During this experience one matures, grows, lives and suffers. I have had time to heal, to grow, to relativize and appreciate my country. I have also had time to fall in love with Bulgaria, always looking for positive things, visiting the country and meeting local people with huge hearts. I have learned a little bit of this impossible language and I have immersed myself in this culture. If someone had told me that I would give up Latin rhythms to learn traditional bulgarian dances, I would not have believed them.
I have had time to make friends. I have traveled Europe with them, more than any other year in my life, through opportunities and projects. I have also argued, I have defended my beliefs and I have faced difficult situations. I have cried, I have exceeded my limits. The first weeks of volunteering are so far away now, where my obsession with control and perfectionism prevented me from seeing all the positive aspects of flexibility and constant adaptation.
Along the way, my heart was closed, always directed towards my professional career. And suddenly, I have reconnected with many emotions, giving positive energy without expecting anything in return, relearning how gratifying it is to know that you help people who need it. Without wanting to, I have fallen madly in love with my Turkish boy, with whom I have established much deeper and more intense bonds than with any of my past relationships. Despite the language barriers, we have travelled, laughed, loved, fighted… And it is something so beautiful and unique that there are times that I have no words.
I think that when you go to live a volunteer experience, you start a blank space: tabula rasa. You have the power of decision to show yourself as you really are without the social conventions that bind you during the years you spend in your country. You have the opportunity to start, to remodel yourself, to explore. You also could rest, think and enjoy precious moments.
I recommend the experience to everyone, since it is essential to know yourself. And to get to know yourself you have to read, travel, interact… The volunteering project is the perfect environment for all of that.