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Beyond Borders: My volunteering abroad expectations

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Thanks to Erasmus Generation in Action, I'm embarking on my first solo adventure abroad! I'm not sure if the words can describe exactly how I feel - there's a great mix of some jitters with excitement and happiness. I'm really looking forward to seeing what this journey holds!
Oktawia Burzak in Turin

Hi! I'm Oktawia and thanks to Erasmus Generation in Action programme, I got lucky to be able to travel and volunteer abroad during these days! It is said that travelling can always be a great way to get to know yourself better, especially when it comes to travelling on your own. This is why I was extremely excited about this opportunity but at the same time I had some doubts - what if I won't be able to do it all by myself?

I've always loved visiting new places, meeting new people and learning more about different cultures, although every time I had some company. This journey is my first solo trip abroad which I think is really important to mention since we, as young, "fresh" adults have many new challenges to face every single day and travelling could definitely be one of them. Of course, it's a fun thing to do with the your friends or family but volunteering abroad might sort of have its own rights.

That's why recently my brain was mostly occupied by the thoughts like "What if I get into the wrong train and accidentally go in the wrong direction?", "What if my language skills won't be enough to get along with the people or ask for some help when needed?" or "What if I forgot something important at home?". Notice how every sentence starts with "What if...?" phrase, making the situation assumptive right from the start. It's just my mind playing tricks with me, trying to deal with a new, potentially stressful situation, which is a totally natural reaction! Of course, all these things could happen but they are not a blind alley. If I take the wrong train, I can always change it; if I forget something then I can probably buy it somewhere. The main thing is to prepare prepare yourself a bit before the trip; make a list with all essential things e.g. passport, phone or medicine. Don't forget about the positive mindset too!


If we don't take into consideration my travel anxiety, the main expectations about this journey were definitely positive. I've always wanted to take part in this sort of activities but I guess I haven't had any proper opportunities before. I knew it was going to be alright and I was extremely happy when I found out that I'd to be able to experience such amazing journey! 


For my first point I picked my favourite city in the whole Italy, Turin, a culture centre in the north part of the country. Italy always makes me feel at home, even when home is thousands of kilometres away. It has its pure magic (literally and figuratively - in fact Turin is a centre of the light and dark magic triangles at the same time!) which is very hard to describe, you just need to feel it on your skin. I was really looking forward to trying some local goodies, accompanied by some Italians, discovering even more secrets of Italian culture together. One of the philologies I study in my major is Italian so the thought of putting my language skills in practice and sharing the things I've already learnt made my ride towards this journey even more thrilling!

Zurich was picked as my second destination, it's an insanely beautiful city in Switzerland. I have never visited this country before but I've always wanted to! Although, my second philology is German, I wasn't that optimistic in practicing my competencies in this language at first since Switzerland is marked by different dialects, that might be unclear even for Swiss people themselves, coming from different part of the country, as well as for the Germans! Don't get me wrong though, I like myself a little challenge so only time will tell. Furthermore, an idea of visiting such a pretty place sounds really appealing itself! 

But most importantly - people. Even the prettiest places can't be the happiest without good people around. Even though the trip is an alone trip, I know I won't be lonely. Although the words "alone" and "lonely" may appear as synonyms, in fact they have quite an opposite meaning. Even though I agree with the words that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry once said -  “It is lonely when you’re among people, too,”; I firmly believe that right people make the difference. But how do I know I'm going to be surrounded by the right ones, you may ask? It's quite simple. Being a part of ESN reminds me every single day that we all have the same goals here, which include spreading positivity, support for others and education, but most importantly - working on making the world a better place through kindness and integration on the whole globe! That's why now I'm really lucky to experience these values in different countries.

When I think of the places I've picked, I can already see some similarities, even though they may seem so different at the first glance. I think it also says a lot about my personality. In both of these places you can admire the mountains, they both are culture and economic centres but most importantly - they're my own choices, I've picked them both by myself. I'm really looking forward to visiting these cities, meeting people there and gaining some new experiences. I have no idea what the future holds but I'm sure of one thing - the choices we always lead us to the right places, to the places where we're just meant to be.