NEW COUNTRIES, NEW PEOPLE, NEW CULTURE, NEW EXPERIENCES

Hey it’s Ari, I am writing this article to express and analyze the different emotions and feelings I have felt this first month as a volunteer and how different it has been from my previous experience when I lived abroad. Being a volunteer in Poland has meant many things for me: it has been a dream come true, since I have been willing to volunteer internationally for many years, but I could never find the project that fitted my necessities. However, after Alba (another volunteer also participating in this project) explained the project to me, I knew I needed to join and learn as much as I could with the opportunity.

ALBA AND ME (ARI) BEFORE COMING TO POLAND AT THE AIRPORT IN BARCELONA

Furthermore, it has also brought me uncertainty from moving from my country to another with a language and a culture different from mine. This was not the first time I left my country to live abroad, but this time it was different. Because of that, want to pinpoint the differences between both of my experiences when it comes to moving abroad.

MY FRIENDS AND I BEFORE LEAVING TO AMERICA AT THE AIRPORT IN BARCELONA

Two years ago, I moved to America to study the third year of my degree there. I was there for 8 months until Covid appeared, and then I left back to Spain. However, that has been the best experience of my life because I got to learn many things about other cultures and also, I learned about their educational system. There I met amazing people that encouraged me to grow and push my self further, made me learn and grow as a person.

SOME OF THE INTERNATIONAL FRIENDS I MADE IN AMERICA

There it was when I realized I for sure wanted to be a teacher, but not only that, I realized I wanted to teach internationally and learn more about other parts of the World. And let’s be honest, there is no better way than seeing it with your own eyes and experiencing it with your own feelings.

Lunch time in Wolno Mi

It’s been almost a month since I first got here in Poland. I finished my degree in Primary Education and I wanted to gain some experience and live abroad for a while. So, this project just felt perfect for me. I had some expectations of how a democratic school would be, but after having been in one for three weeks, I can say that reality exceeds my previous thoughts. One of the things that has had more impact on me has been the vegan mindset they have.

For me it was really shocking when they told me that in the school they were not cooking any meet nor fish. This does not mean that the kids are vegetarians, as most of them eat meat at home, but I believe it is nice that the school encourages them to follow a healthy and natural diet. And not only that, but also children are able to choose what they want to eat between the options they have and the amount of food they want. Some of them just take the plate outside and eat in the sun.

I believe this is a really interesting approach as kids take responsibility on their diet and gain consciousness about their body. When I was young, I had to sit down in the dinning room and eat all the food I had on the plate. Thus, lunch time was like a nightmare for me, as I normally did not like the food and I could not leave until the plate was empty. I would have loved my school to be like this.

Alba

Final article from Clara

Hey hey!

This is Clara from Spain again! But this time I’m not here to show you my adventures during the volunteering project. This is the last time I will be around because my project ends… So here I am to sum a little bit of my experience of this project.

“It will be the best year of your life” “you will enjoy these months a lot” “it’s a great opportunity for you” and all of this kind of phrases that I recieve before starting the project are too short to explain how I felt during the past months.

In January I quit my job to get this opportunity to learn more about teaching methods and living abroad, so I just left behind eveerything and decided to go to Poland, a country I never feel excited for…but now I wouldn’t say the same.

After 8 months in the project I had to say that I am very gratefull for all the experiences I had, ,everything I had learnt either in a profesional eihter in a personal way, all the places I had visited and all the people I had met.

I am finishing the project earlier because I got a job in my home country in Spain, but I am sure that I will be back to Poland! I have a lot of places and things to do left!

And for sure I will come back to eat more zapiekanki (my favourite polish food)

What I got from volunteering?

Well…I have already volunteered before and is always a good experience, giving what you are and recieving what you will be in the future. I grew up a lot and I am quite sad that this project ended, but I know I have to let my spot to the future people who wants to join to European Solidarity Corps and create a great chain of volunteering experiences all around the EU.

Poland will always have a spot in my heart, do zibaczenia!

August

09.september.2021

Hi there, Maria here, wraping up the first month of this European Solidarity Corps volunteering in Poland adventure, grateful for the opportunity and excited about what is yet to come.

Let me give you some context, I had been living in France mostly working as an “animatrice” in public schools and preeschools, I loved being with the children and it broke my heart how violent the traditional education system is towards them (and everyone invoved really), I literally cried every day leaving work, but I loved it, it touched me and I had not cared so much about anything before so I figured I had something to do on this path.

Then covid happened and thanks to it I had lots of time of endless research and found something called “democratic schools,” they talked about a system where the children’s natural interest and curiosity was accompanied, and the adult – child relationship seemed more horizontal, so I was very into it and took a workshop about it the upcoming summer in a school in Ardeche, France called “La Ferme des Enfants”, it was wonderful and I also learned ESC existed.

Since then I started looking for opportunities to integrate a school with this system (prefferaby in the forest for obvious reasons), fast forwarding I was invited to join Fundacja Dmuchawiec !

After a turbulent pre departure where the promise of having my own room for the upcoming 11 months seemed to hang by a thread, I finally arrived to Krakow’s airport, broke down momentariy out of fatigue and the realization that it was night time, I had no internet and had to somehow arrive to an adress where someone would kindly open an appartment for me to spend the night at. It all went well and I slept like a baby.

Next I took some trains where no one asked me to mask myself, surprisingly and to my greatest joy, to arrive in Sosnowiec, where I met other volunteers in a big appartement and spend some days doing an on arrival training. This consisted on administrative paper work and learning I had to do 2 posts a week on Instagram and Facebook to promote the project and the organizations.

Being a social media renegade, I was not happy, but compromise is key and it takes 5 minutes to post.

Afterwards I arrived to Lodz (with a little line on the L and it is pronounced like a W, I think) where Maria and Olek where waiting for me at the station and they both spoke spanish (!) this felt great – spanish is my mothertongue. I got to walk in the longest street in Europe, Piotrkowska, and get a taste of the kanapki (polish open sandwich, wich from what I hear go way back to when there were no plates, so a thick slice of bread was the plate and then you eat it, genious) and Lodz’s nightlife, in my impression, people are friendly here.

Picture – A house for piggeons, I had never seen one before, it was near the first appartment I was in the city, and I think it is pretty cool.

Finally I went to the forest school, it is amazing, plenty of space in the woods for the children to run around and play, 2 domes for shelter and warmth and a little house for water and kitchen, a vegetable garden, a very kind team who have helped me more than I can say here and children who speak to me in polish even though I don’t understand a word, but they insist and I am glad they do, that’s how I’ll learn.

See you next month!

Travelling through Lower Silesia!

In Lower Silesia there is the In Situ Foundation, for which we work as volunteers. It is one of the most beautiful regions in Poland. Full of greenery and peace. If we have time we try to travel around it getting to know the less known places.

One of the places we recently visited was the Gross-Rosen Museum in Rogoźnica, an old German Nazi concentration camp. We spent two hours there, during which we heard the whole horrible history of the camp and the testimonies of the prisoners who survived.

The camp existed from 1940 to 1945 and was initially a small labour camp where granite was extracted from a nearby mine. It grew from year to year until in 1944 it became the central camp at the head of an empire of camps in Lower Silesia, of which there were more than a hundred.

The prisoners did not only work in the quarries, various German companies gave them various jobs, mostly in electronics. Despite this, this camp was considered the hardest and not many people survived.

The camp operated until February 1945, when it was liberated by the Red Army. During this time of “work” 40,000 prisoners died in the camp. It is not a pleasant story to listen to, but it is one that everyone should know.

Dominika, polish volunteer, In Situ Foundation

María José, final article

At the end of 2020 my idea of wanting to live abroad began. I had just finished my bachelor’s degree and wasn’t sure what I wanted to do next. In my city, Granda, I had been participating in an educational volunteer program for over a year and from there I started looking for an educational project in a country other than Spain. Searching on websites and social networks I found the organization Somos Europa that published a project and in January they published the project that as soon as I read it I knew I wanted to do it.
It was a project in a city in southern Poland, called Bielsko Biala, on alternative education and Waldorf methodology.

In February I arrived in Poland happy, excited and hesitant because it was a new challenge for me, but it was a challenge that I wanted. I wanted to improve my English, get to know another language, other cultures, customs, have new experiences and learn everything at all times.

As soon as I arrived I was lucky enough to get to Sosnowiec where I met some great people and two weeks later I started my experience at Bielsko Biala. When I arrived I had very good feelings, but it is also true that at the beginning some moments were difficult, especially due to the pandemic.
In April the situation improved and in that month my experience started 100%. It has been a great few months where I have learned a lot, I got to know myself better, traveled, met great people and shared many experiences, laughter and adventures.


If I had to choose today, I would say “yes” again to this experience in Poland because for me it has been great and above all it has helped me achieve my initial goals and has given me wonderful people.


If you are reading this and you have doubts about whether to live an experience abroad, do not hesitate and do it! You will learn a lot and surely you will always have this experience in your 💜

María José, from Spain at Waldorf School in Bielsko Biala, Poland

#europeansolidaritycorps #activewomenassociation

My first trip in Poland was in Gdańsk
My first route with “The Family”

Verona – study visit

In July I received a message that I could take part in a study visit to Verona on climate change. It was an amazing opportunity not only to learn more about climate change and its prevention, but also to visit Italy and the wonderful city of Verona. It was my first trip to Italy and I am very happy that I could take part in it.

The trip was only 5 days, but we made the most of it. On the first day of arrival we got to know the place where we were accommodated and our Italian mum! Monica was wonderful and cooked amazingly! I will remember her dishes for a long time.

Over the next two days we travelled to several places to meet organisations that care about climate change, the environment and the people around them. My most memorable experience was the meditation centre, which was located in the mountains and had an amazing view over Verona and Garda Lake. The centre was run by two women, who told us about the importance of the world around us, the creatures living in it and the fact that we should not only look after our bodies, but also our spirits. Material things will only give us happiness for a moment, we should find an inner happiness that will not end in a moment but will be with us always.

On the fourth day we had a trip to Gada Lake, the largest lake in the region. We drove to one of the towns, Lazise, which was once a fortified stronghold and now restored was full of restaurants, shops and tourists. The weather was very pleasant and we took advantage of it by swimming in the lake. Of course, for Italians it was cold that day and they looked at us strangely, but 30 degrees for Poles is almost like the tropics :D. We also visited Verona itself, where we saw the Colosseum and Juliet’s house!

On the last day of our trip, not wanting to spend the whole day waiting for the plane, which wasn’t until 10 pm, we decided to go to Milan. We spent 6 hours in the city walking from one attraction to another doing almost 20 kilometres. We visited, among others, the Duomo Cathedral, the Galleria Vittorio Emanuele II shopping arcade and the Pinoteka Brera. The day was tiring but very satisfying!

If you ever get the chance you must go to Verona!

Dominika, polish volunteer, In Situ Foundation in Sokołowsko

Sandra final article

It was September 2020, I was kind of stuck with my life and I had no clue of what to do. That’s when I discovered that I had the option of volunteering abroad so I took the chance. Now, I have already finished my voluntary service in Poland and I think that it has been one of the best decisions I have taken in my life.

I spent almost 8 months in Poland (from November 2020 until July 2021), in a project related to the world of the alternative education. Now, when I think about it, I feel that it was all super short and that it all ended super-fast but, at the same time, I feel that it has been years since I took that flight from Barcelona.

It has been a really intense experience. I lived abroad for the first time in my life, with people from different parts of the world, of different ages and ways of living. I had to face situations that I had never experienced before. I met some amazing people with whom I connected instantly and also others with whom I know I would never connect. And all that things and lots more are the ones that made me grow as a person and that made me see the world with different eyes.

I also spent a lot of time with children, as that’s what the project was about, and I am still amazed about the amount of things that I was able to learn from them. Usually, we see children as little human beings which need to be taught about how to act, how to behave, how to think… but they are not incomplete human beings, they just see life in a different way and have less barriers when it comes to think and act and I think that this is super cool.

I don’t know what is waiting for me now in my “adult life” and I am really curious and scared at the same time but, overall, I am happy because of what I was able to experience during this months and I would not change anything.

My final article ~ Martyna

Witam wszystkich!

In this article I’ll shortly share with you my 12 months experience in European Solidarity Corps project. It was a new path in my life. Full of new adventures, challenges, unknown cultures, interesting people, rush, responsibilities, discovering myself and surrounding me world which I got know from the other side. Sounds like Netflix movie or latest book, huh?

My story (with project) started in September 2020, but a lot of things happened before because of which I appeared in a right place and time. I was a volunteer in Special Need School no 4 in Sosnowiec when I started my Bachelor Degree, so 4 years ago. I decided to stay in a school and one teacher Dagmara (who became my tutor) proposed me to join the project. She knew me very well and she thought that I might be interested because one year I had an opportunity to met and hang out with volunteers from previous years. Dagmara saw me that I was happy to met them. Of course I agreed to join the project. I spoke with a coordinator of the project Ania, nice woman <3, who introduced me to the project and AWA (Active Women Association). So I started the project with few volunteers. I spent a lot of time with a group. We were hanging out together, going for a parties, trips, cooking and many more. With time I’ve met more volunteers. They were in whole Poland! You don’t even expect how popular is this project. I was shocked that so many people from abroad are coming to my country to be a volunteer. I found it amazing. I remind very well my trip with Ondra and Giuseppe to Leszno, to meet volunteers from my On Arrival Training and also their friends. That was fun!

On the beginning volunteering was a bit difficult as a Corona situation in Poland. But then I feel like I catch up with this. I did a lot of stuff with students. I was cooking with them, making lessons, play basketball, dance with them outside, taking part in artist classes such as glass and clay. I also visited another school “Nasza Dobra Szkoła” in Katowice. It was totally different than mine but I was really charmed. The class I spent time with is working on Montessori method which is very interesting for me. That was also nice experience.

During the project came more volunteers to Sosnowiec and some of them already left. I’m glad to meet all of them and I’ll remember them forever. When I’ll be an old lady I’ll have many memories, good memories 🙂 Project was full of meetings, journeys, crazy spontaneous things, work and great people. It was one of those good decisions in my life.

Not once and not twice I was in rush, I had many things to do, I was more out of home than in it. Many of you would say “OMG how did you manage?” “It must be exhausting for you”. I had many duties connected with project and not. But you know what? I liked it. I can’t sit in one place. I had motivation and energy for all of this. It made me happy because I’m good at what I’m doing. I did my best 🙂

I discovered more things about myself

  • I can do it
  • I’m more organized
  • I can do many things and still not lose myself in it
  • I’m powerful
  • I can deal with new challenges
  • I can learn more languages

It sounds like a motivation speech haha, but I like to share happiness with people. Maybe after reading that you will join some international project, or maybe you will make a big decision in your life you were considering for a long time, because you read a story of polish blonde girl 🙂

Pozdrawiam, Martyna from Poland, volunteer in Special Need School no 4 in Sosnowiec

#europeansolidaritycorps

#activewomenassociation

Paco, final article

Yesterday i arrived to my hometown in Spain, after being in Poland from Septmeber (with a break in christmas) until half of july i take with me a full pack of learnings, experiences and memories.

I remember when I found the project, last year I was finishing my studies and I didn’t really know what to do. It was like an answer from heaven, more blind than with doubts, without thinking too much I applied. Time passed and finally everything was ready and I was on my way to Poland. I remember my first day, arriving in Krakow, Katowice and later in Sosnowiec. The unknown faces that little by little were getting to know each other and new volunteers who were coming. Little by little I was adapting, I started the first contact with the school, sunny days playing with the children and discovering this new system of alternative education, totally new for me. Contact with the local community was also established, participating in protests on the issue of abortion, joining martial arts training groups and dancing classes. The knowledge about the school was deepening, participating in performances, discovering new disciplines such as Yoga and Capoeira and creating and sharing more and more with children and adults. Despite the COVID situation, some trips could be made through Poland, Krakow, Opole, lakes, parks … and when I wanted to realize it, the snow covered the city, and I was already leaving for Christmas to Spain.

Just as I left, I immediately saw myself in Poland again, this second part passed very quickly and I feel like I did countless things. Visits to other schools, forests, different cities Wroclaw, Bielsko-Biala, the Baltic Coast, festivals and parties…The sun was shining, and the people who I was meeting too, the time was getting closer to leave, to say goodbye, to thank and to recount what we had learned.

I take with me multitude of good friends and good times, a new way of looking at education and with new tools and possibilities, a multicultural and more critical flavor after all the experiences. I leave with less fear and more security, with a more open mind and more attentive eyes

Last day of School in Wolna Szkoła Dzika
Big hug goodbye in Wolna Szkoła Dzika