International volunteering is definitely a life-long experience! Once you taste its wonderful vibe, you want to taste it till the end of your life. International environment and discovering all around Europe is like you can do it forever! Volunteering projects such as ESC Volunteer are life-long experiences for people between the age of 18-30. You learn to respect others and create a common sense of humor and fun. You can make an impact from miles away from your actual home. Also, you get rid of your prejudices by experiencing them by meeting, talking, and sharing with people.
I was a former participant in a short-term ESC(European Solidarity Corps) project during May-June 2021 in Zagreb, Croatia. I stayed in an apartment with 2 other volunteers. My sending organization was ”Eğitim Programları ve Evrensel ve Kültürel Aktiviteler Derneği EPEKA” from Turkey. I volunteered in Syncro-Synergy Croatia which works with children and young people. My project’s aim was to learn how to be a youth worker in an NGO. We were usually working in the office but we had a lot of activities in the parks of Zagreb and other areas. We created podcasts, organized educational events for children, and pleasant activities for the young people of Zagreb.
What kind of projects are there?
NGOs in European Union and other partner countries are writing projects to their National Agencies. Projects are usually related to their target area. These areas could be environmental issues, refugees, children, women, and the being who need help and need to be improved. And European Solidarity Corps volunteers are the biggest part of this international inclusion in local areas.
What covers the ESC?
European Commission is covering your expenses. Your return and going plane tickets and rent are given by the organization. Usually in short-term volunteering, volunteers are staying in a hostel together. Depending on the project and country you get pocket money for your living expenses. Unfortunately, there is no language support from the NGOs in short-term volunteering.
How to find projects?
After reading all the information and getting hyped from them. I think, the first question coming to mind is well, everything is perfect but how will I find the projects and choose them.
There are many sources for finding them. In my opinion, the best way is the groups on Facebook such as European Solidarity Corps Official, ESC EVS, Youth Opportunities, and this kind of maybe national groups. Youth workers are publishing their projects on these platforms. There is an official site for finding projects. Also, some Instagram pages are for publishing opportunities around Europe and all the world.
First, you should check which countries they are taking for volunteering. Then, you should check the topic of the project. This is really important because you will spend maybe two months in that NGO and if the topic and the working field are not suitable for you, it will be very hard for you and the NGO to create good work. And you should be aware of the fact that volunteering is the responsibility and you should be committed to it.
After finding the right project for our skills and your character, the application process starts. It depends on the organizations but mostly, they want from candidates a cover letter and CV. It will be better if it is a Europass CV but depends on the NGO. You should find a sending and host organization.
Do not forget to check the application deadline. Also, it is really important for you to be fully available to volunteer in another country. And lastly, usually, people are choosing projects depending on the country and city. But in my opinion, the project and the quality of the NGO are more important.
What you should complete before you go?
First, if you do not have a valid visa for the country, you should take it. Then you should take a criminal report, health rapport, invitation letter sent by the hosting organization.
If you are planning to visit other cities of the country or to other countries, maybe it is better to have extra money. Working is not permitted in ESC volunteering.
How is social life when you are volunteering?
My experience was short-term but during my experience, I met a lot of people from different organizations. Like Erasmus exchange students, volunteers are meeting in different social areas such as international nights, sports events, events of the NGO’s and so on. So you can enlarge our social area with these opportunities.
What did I gain from this experience?
I think it could be better to ask what I didn’t contribute to my personal and life development. Firstly, you are learning to live in another country which is completely different from yours. That means cultural changes and lifestyle changes. You should adopt all of them.
Besides the adaptation to the city, it is really important to adapt to working in an international area. All of your work will be in English and your friends who are also your colleagues. And you will improve your English a lot. Especially in conditions of explaining and solving real problems.
I strongly advise each and every available country’s youngsters to attend international volunteering. You will gain much more than you expected! If you have additional questions, you can send a message to me ASAP.