„Time for Engagement, Action and Mentorship“ - my month with the ESC
Now that I'm back home, I can reflect on my stay in Bulgaria with a little more distance.
First of all, I spent 31 days in Blagoevgrad, a medium-sized city in western Bulgaria. With me there were about 25 other volunteers from different European countries.
Especially during the pandemic, I naturally spent a lot of time alone or in a small circle of those close to me, so being able to meet so many new people at once was an experience in itself. It didn't take much effort for me to agree to participate, but I was still very curious to see how socializing would work out, after all there were hardly any opportunities for it lately.
Turns out: there was not the slightest reason to worry. I ended up in an apartment with the 4 best people I could imagine for it. What unites all of us (not only in our shared apartment, but also the other participants) is a common will. We wanted and still want to observe, learn, laugh, have conversations, experience, experience. While we were all at different points in our lives - one with a degree, the other (that would be me) just finishing school, as well as, of course, from different regions of Europe - it didn't feel like our differences were holding us back. Instead, they led to a very good dynamic between us, each able to reflect in a whole new way.
Most of the time while we were out of the office, we spent exploring the country by bus and train, and sometimes on foot. For that, you have to know that in my experience, the buses, but especially the trains are sometimes rather on the adventurous side of the comfort and reliability spectrum. In the end, however, we managed to explore the largest and most important cities of the country at least a little, despite timetable difficulties. Usually, of course, this only worked on the weekends, but thanks to the organizational skills of some of my roommates, we were able to make the best use of our time and even save considerably in the process (this is also necessary; Bulgaria is quite cheap compared to Germany, but on the one hand, there are participants with a wide variety of financial backgrounds and on the other hand, of course, you want to see as much as possible, and the costs of travel and accommodation add up quickly when you're on the road a lot). This usually boiled down to the fact that we slept little at home on the weekends and a lot on buses and trains, but it was definitely worth it.
In the end, I can say with a clear conscience that the interpersonal part of the program alone was worth every second. Besides, Bulgarian nature has so much to offer!!!