This is Faruk reporting from Liège, Belgium and I can tell you that everything is quiet on the western front, except for the activities I have been taking part in my ESC project. I feel like I just arrived here but it has been an unbelievably busy period of four months in which I have participated in activities that not only added to my personal development, but also enabled me to travel, meet new people and discover different ways of living along the way. I had been excited and had sky high expectations the first day I arrived and I am happy to say I have not been disappointed.
Last week, I returned from my project’s midterm seminar so I thought it would be only fitting to mark the midterm of my project with an article that would give an update of what I have been up to with my volunteering project so far. I would not want to spoil the end but there has been more than I thought there would be. If you read the April issue of the newsletter, you may remember the account of my very first days here in Liège. A few weeks after landing in Belgium, I attended my arrival seminar organized by the national agency to welcome new volunteers and it has been a great help in my orientation to the Belgian community.
During the arrival seminar, we connected with the other ESC volunteers, got to know each other and had fun. Another goal of the training was to receive guidance about the different administrative procedures that we had to follow in order to start our projects in the best conditions possible. We also spent time reflecting on our own rights and responsibilities in our projects. There were also exercises to make us aware of how to deal with conflicts in case we would need it during our projects.
However, for me I believe the best part of this seminar was the activities that aimed at presenting the meaning of intercultural learning. This took my ongoing intercultural learning process further. I also had some moments to reflect on my motivations, personal and learning goals and planned the coming months. Lastly, we were given some good insights about Belgian culture and nice tips to enjoy our time here!
If you think my volunteering project only included attending seminars and going to the VIEWS office every day, you are wrong. Beneficial and informative though they are, my project would not be as colorful as it is now without travel opportunities in other countries. Up until the spring of 2022, Corona virus had brought everything to a standstill including learning training, teaching activities and face-to-face administrative meetings of Erasmus Plus projects. Luckily for me, all these activities roared back to existence following the end of most Covid-19 restrictions, as if they had been waiting for the start of my ESC project.
In only three months, I not only had the chance to live in a different country with a different language and culture, but also traveled to two other countries abroad –Italy and Republic of North Macedonia as part of my ESC experience. In the Republic of North Macedonia, I participated in a VIEWS partnered project called “Braille Challenge”, whose aim was to increase the awareness of the importance of Braille for VI individuals. I also went to Italy where I represented the VIEWS International office in a transnational project meeting. All these excursions gave me the possibility to observe the implementation process of Erasmus Plus projects and turned the theoretical office work I do at VI office into concrete and practical experience. I am aware of how lucky I am to have got this chance and grateful for VIEWS International.
I feel like this was only the beginning because I still have the other half of my ESC project to do more and soar higher. However, before that I need to have some holidays as I am using my vacation days to go on an interrail trip in order to better discover Europe and broaden my horizons. I hope to see you all on the other side, meaning after the summer holidays and who knows, perhaps I can keep filling you in on my further adventures right before the end of my ESC project.