Discovering Croatia in 6 weeks

Richard Riispere – Croatia
Duration of project: 6 weeks

Type of exchange: voluntary work in project Discover Dalmatia

 

 

I had decided to participate in an AIESEC project by the summer of 2015. I heard about it from a friend who just went on a project the summer before, and told me about the amazing experience he got. I started to feel jealous because I didn’t want to be any worse. It took a lot of courage to finally click on the „apply“ button but after that everything went quickly and five days later I was on my way to Croatia to work as a volunteer in project Discover Dalmatia. I chose this project because there wasn’t anything really connected with my major in school but I thought I would still learn a lot by getting to know the history and culture of Croatia, develop my English skills, broaden my mind by getting to know different cultures and living outside my comfort zone.
 

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Everything went so fast when so it wasn’t even enough time to start to feel anxious. Late in the evening of my first day in the coastal city of Split I finally arrived to the apartment where I was going to stay with the rest of the 7 members of our team. Half of the team was there, including the Korean girl whose name sounded like “Hello”, so as you can imagine I was a little confused at first but we all agreed to later to call her by her last name. The other half of the team was on the city’s promenade, the Egyptian guy was going to accompany me to meet them, and we sat on the bus. The bus was really noisy, people were screaming, and at that moment I thought that this was the culture shock I was going to have. Are people going to be yelling and screaming around me for 6 weeks?! As an Estonian who isn’t really used to that kind of intense environment, I soon learned that Croatians are actually people who are really down to earth, love to drink coffee, and have a quite calm demeanour.
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The second day was the introduction seminar at the local youth club, and dividing our roles within the team. Our job as a team was to promote tourism in the region of Dalmatia by managing social media pages by posting pictures, videos and articles about local sights. One of the jobs also included writing blog posts which was going to be my main responsibility. During the project I wrote 12 blog posts about different sights and we did a lot of team work by helping each other take pictures, videos, make articles more interesting, take interviews with locals etc.
 

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Most of the project was about visiting lots of sights and studying the history and culture behind them, taking pictures, making videos and making interviews with locals. Every week we would have a plan that we would visit certain places, and have goals connected to these places to accomplish. Every day was busy with lots of traveling by bus, and on foot. We would collect materials of a location starting before noon and return home in the evening and usually spare at least one day in the week to edit pictures, videos and write posts in the youth club or at the university. One day would be a resting day where we decided to go to the local mall to watch a movie, spend a day by the sea or take trip on one of the many islands of the Adriatic Sea. Every day was very fun even though it was a challenge to live with 8 people of different cultures in one flat, but quickly everyone clicked and became best friends. It was impressive for me that my team members were so open and understanding about all their issues which is different for my other friends in Estonia.
 

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The last week of the project involved participating in Global Village which involved every member of the team to present the culture of their countries in the local mall where everyone had their own stand.
 

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The thing I will most remember about this experience is the time we took a ferry to the most distant island from mainland Croatia. Since there were six of us going there, we rented a scooter and a car because the bus lines were not good on that island. Later in the evening we saw a very beautiful sunset and slept on the beach with lots of stars in the sky since this place was far away from light pollution of the cities.

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I feel like I learned so much from this experience and that’s why I have decided to participate in another project of AIESEC to gain teaching experience. I would recommend this project to every student even though it might not be connected to many of your majors. This project develops teamwork skills, English skills and communication skills and mainly gives an opportunity to learn about the culture and history of the coastal Croatia and spread it to other people around the globe. You will make lots of life-long friends, have an international experience to add to your CV, which is a big advantage compared to other students when applying for a job. Besides Croatia is truly an amazing country with beautiful nature, culture and mountains, I was in awe since my very first day until the end of the project.
 

6 weeks of voluntary work in Hungary

Keyt Uudeküll – Hungary, Budapest

Duration of project: 6 weeks

Type of exchange: Voluntary work with young people and carrying out Summer For Youth camp

 

It all started when I was working in AIESEC Tartu in an outgoing exchange team. Seeing outgoing volunteers coming back with sincere and happy emotions and positive attitude gave me the desire to go on exchange as well.
It took me exactly one year to ACTUALLY step out of my comfort zone and apply to different volunteering projects. I knew from the start that I want to work with young people teaching soft skills. Therefore, I applied to 10 different projects in different countries in Europe and finally got accepted and decided to go volunteering in Budapest, Hungary working on a project called Summer For Youth.

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With other 13 volunteers from different countries we were responsible for creating the flow for seminars and carrying out Summer For Youth camp. I was responsible for creating and carrying out seminars on topics such as role models, personal traits and global problems. We worked five days a week, 8 hours every day. The main idea of this project was to educate young Hungarian people in subjects they don’t learn in school, discussing social problems and more importantly improving their English. Working in teams with other volunteers, along with leading seminars in front of 50 young people, helped me develop my leadership traits but also improve me in teamwork.

From what I have written so far, one could think that I was working on this project all the time during my stay in Budapest and I didn’t have time for anything else. This is partly true and partly wrong. As I knew that my time was limited, I used my time very efficiently and I can say that I had never lived my life so fully as I lived it in Budapest during those 6 weeks. I worked 8 hours every day, but also found time to party, go out with local friends, spend time with volunteers and children from the camp.

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Thanks to two Hungarian girls from the local committee I also got to see how wonderful Hungary can be from the first days of my experience. I got to know Hungarian culture, their kitchen and traditions.

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As I was working with 13 other volunteers from all around the world I also learned about their culture. I learned about the problems in Egypt, the different aspects of Muslim culture and different Chinese traditions.

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After my experience I can point out several aspects of how I developed my professional skills – how to be a good leader and a team member, how to carry out seminars and also how to put my imagination into leading interesting but also interactive seminars. Most importantly I developed my personal skills – how to accept my feelings, how to appreciate every moment I am given in life and how great it is to have a good impact on someone.
I always thought that in order to have a good volunteering experience one has to travel to a completely different culture far away from home, but it is not true. Every one of these young Hungarian people gave me so much sharing their stories and discussing different problems. Every one of them is unique and has a different view on things and through that I got to grow myself as well.

If I were given a chance to go back and do it all over again, I would not even hesitate. My experience might be over for this time, but all of the people I met during my exchange will always have a place in my heart and.. I will have a place to stay at when I want to travel to Hong Kong, India or even New York. We are now a big-big family and nothing can change this! I always thought that saying ”You have to be the change you want to see in the world” is cheesy, but after my experience I am sure that it is possible.

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I hope that whoever is reading this, will get the desire to volunteer as well, because it is the best way to grow both personally and professionally, having a great experience at the same time. So step out of your comfort and apply to the AIESEC Global Citizen Program now! You WILL NOT regret it!

6 weeks of volunteering experience in Mauritius

Kertu Liis Krigul – Mauritius

Duration of project:  6 weeks

Type of Exchange:  Voluntary work to raise awareness of  stray dogs

 

It’s rather unusual that by April I still have not decided what to do with my summer… which was the case last year. Suddenly an opportunity popped up in Facebook to volunteer abroad.

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It was a thing I always wanted to do – travel far and learn the most about local community while giving something back. Working together with locals helps to understand country’s culture more than anything and volunteering seemed like a perfect opportunity to develop myself as well.

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The project I chose was called “Save a Dog, Save a Life” which aim was to reduce the rate of stray dogs in streets (there are about 60 000 strays). The most important task was to raise awareness about stray dog situation first and foremost among locals as well as people around the world.

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I knew this was something I wanted to do the first time I found out about this project. I have taken all opportunities which have been available in my life. When something like this appeared on Facebook, I knew right away that I have to do it. Dogs always will be weaker ones and needing our care and attention. If some people are reckless with their decisions towards weaker species, we should try and fix the root of the problem, which in many cases is the lack of education.

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Our main task was to help organisation called Paws Mauritius. We created posters for them to promote adopting, leaflets for hotel rooms to spread awareness among tourists about stray dog situation, put together a booklet about how to treat a dog (what to feed, what care does a dog need etc) and renovated the shelter. In addition, we carried out a survey on the streets to find out how much people know about dog care and while carrying out the survey we also educated them. Furthermore, we created presentation to pupils about dog care and collected methods how our countries deal with stray dog problem so Mauritius could implement our solutions to fix their issue. We were also broadcasted on a local radio.

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On free days we had many excursions together with other projects. For example we visited illusion house, went sailing and parasailing, visited some religious events and so on. We explored many of the famous beaches with crystal-clear waters. We also went diving and everyone from my project did a parachute jump (except me, because I get motion sickness way too easily).

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On some free days we also went to the shelter to walk, wash and pet the dogs. Me and my roommates were actually so dedicated that we didn’t even want to take free days and sometimes we worked before or after the excursions. We even took one puppy and offered him foster home until someone adopted her.

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I was really lucky with my project. Every single one of the participants was awesome and taught me something I didn’t know. We had a really hardworking group and I appreciate the experience very much. I encourage to go abroad, meet and especially work with people from different cultures. It’s a valuable life lesson which broadens your mind.