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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.