By Maëlle Julou
If you had the opportunity to live abroad for some time, learn, create, enjoy with great people around you, and all of that for free, would you do it?
I couldn’t miss this opportunity, of course. I participated in a two-month European Solidarity Corps in Poland, in the city of Leszno. It was during a gap year between my bachelor and my master, when I felt I needed it in order to know myself better, give something to the world, travel and learn new competencies before continuing my studies.
I was one of thirteen volunteers from Europe and beyond, living in the small city of Leszno. My first impression was quite spooky, experiencing the foggy paved streets of the city and feeling we were the only people alive there. Then, I discovered how colorful and lively the city truly is, and most importantly I discovered the kindness of its inhabitants. Leszno is not far from the other polish cities of Wroclaw, Poznan, Krakow, and you can also easily reach Berlin or Prague by bus. As you can imagine, my weekends were fully booked.
All the volunteers being day and night together, we were a solid group, all different from one another, with ages going from 18 to 29 years old. Turkish music, georgian alcohol, greek mythology…I was continuously discovering details about different cultures, habits and languages, absorbing everything like a sponge. We laughed, we cried. We were supporting and pushing each other to grow as persons.
I improved my ability to teamwork a lot as well, because we were thinking of and deciding the projects we wanted to develop all together, especially workshops in schools or artistic actions in the street about human rights, activities to offer in the association space (chess, painting, craft making, photography workshop…). Twice per week, I was teaching French and English to teens and senior groups in a café.
Otherwise, I was going every morning in a different classroom of the city (from kindergarten to higher education) to share some aspects of my culture thanks to gamification methods. The moments with the children will stay as my sweetest memories, as I was always going back home with the biggest smile on my face.
During my stay there felt guided, but always with an adequate amount of autonomy, a lot of space for decision making and the implementation of my ideas. This experience enabled me to learn about a lot of things, but more than anything I learned about myself. I have a clearer idea of what makes me go home and say to myself that I had a joyful and productive day. This is, I believe, the life experience you don’t want to miss.
By Maëlle Julou