The adaptation process: An uncommon side of volunteering
Moving to another country is always an incredible adventure and, even more if you are going to be volunteering there. You will meet new people, a new language (or even two as it is our case) and a new culture, which is undoubtedly an amazing opportunity to grow personally and professionally and, of course, to have a lot of fun. However, not everything is so easy as it seems.
Embarking on a volunteering project is an intense emotional rollercoaster to say the least. First, you leave everything you know behind: your culture, your language, your beloved ones… In my case, I have been incredibly lucky to have such an amazing organization as ATA as my host organization. All the members of the staff are always there for all of us anytime we need to talk about how we feel, and the same happens with the other volunteers. At the end of the day, they are my family in Cristuru. Nevertheless, you still need to go through an adaptation process which can sometimes feel overwhelming and isolating.
In my experience, it has helped me a lot to allow myself to feel sad somedays and to listen to my needs. For instance, there had been some days in which I couldn’t keep up with the rhythm because of my emotional state; so, instead of forcing myself into pretending to be good, I just cry if I need to or talk to someone.These moments might be quite present during your project (especially in the beginning) and, although it is hard to cope with them sometimes, it is also important to let them flow and to take into account that after a storm the sun always shines again. Moreover, it is also very helpful to remember the reason why you decided to volunteer. Looking back at the contribution you make to the community and the joy you bring to the people you work with is extremely motivating.
Apart from these emotional ups and downs, being a volunteer here in Cristuru Secuiesc has been an insanely enriching experience so far. When we are not volunteering, we travel around Romania, spend time with each other, and in general, we try to soak up all the culture that surround us, both from the international environment we enjoy at home, and from this new country. Furthermore, we are, slowly but surely, learning the basics of Hungarian which helps a lot when communicating with local people and feeling more integrated.
To sum up, throughout this journey we will have to face countless challenges: the language barrier, cultural shock, homesickness… But worthwhile things are never easy. We will try to continue growing and learning from this wonderful opportunity, and offer the best version of ourselves everyday.