Three months ago I moved to Belgium for a volunteering experience abroad with the European Solidarity Corps, my first experience. I had already done volunteering before, in Italy, working as an au pair operator for disabled people in a social network that was born in my city, but then I felt that it wasn’t enough, that it wasn’t the place for me and the work for me; I needed more.
The opportunity for this ESC project came up in another European project; I was initially undecided, also because I had 10 days to think about it and send my application. I attended the university, so I was not sure I wanted to suspend my studies and go for 9 months abroad, again, after having already been a semester in South Korea. But I liked the idea of being able to help and do something useful and I always loved to hear about these young people leaving and going to volunteer abroad so why not me? So I made my decision and now I’ve been here in Belgium for three months.
How has it been so far? In short, I would summarize with ‘it went well’, but you would like more details, right?
I have to say it was difficult at the beginning, and I was very afraid. My biggest fear was taking the transportation means alone. I was also afraid I was not able to go to what would be my job place, but thanks to a fantastic mobility instructor I made it.. Just think, I now also know how to go to the salon to do my nails, which will seem very little in mind but to me, who I have never done my nails elsewhere, is a great achievement. I am also learning day to day new interesting places where to drink good coffee, or eat good Liege waffles, or even some excellent salty crêpes.
And guess what? I overcame my fear, although for now only partly, but I am working on it. Now I can take the buses alone! Trains not yet, also because I am terrified of the tracks, but here in Belgium there is a great assistance service that will not prevent you from moving from one city to another.
I’ve already happened to get lost on the street (here in Liege are building the tracks for the trams and so it’s all a mess) especially in some areas, but no panic! With the help of technology and really nice people on the street, nothing serious has ever happened. You have to know the language, though, because here in Liege they don’t speak English! And that’s where I will move to the next point: the language.
I had already studied French, so learning was relatively simple to me, because it was just a brush up. I am glad that the French I learned at middle and high school has turned out to be more than useful, because otherwise at the beginning it would have been a big problem even just to ask: ‘Good morning, what bus is this?’ For the first two weeks Views provided me with a person who taught me French, but it is clear that a slight shattering had to have it. Another point I want to talk about is meeting new people, but I will be short, because the truth is that I haven’t met many people. Fortunately, before I left for Belgium, I already knew someone in Brussels, then once in Liege I did and I am doing my best to meet people, but it is certainly not the easiest thing in the world. I talked and joked and had a coffee with several people but for now it’s the only thing I can tell. What else? I hope to make friends before I return to Italy.
The work is going well, the people I work with are really friendly and open minded, and you breathe a quiet, joyful, comfortable air. Everyone appreciates you and they don’t have any problems helping you out or explaining something.
I volunteer as an assistant to a French teacher, and through playful and educational activities I make sure that students learn the language in a way different from usual reading, understanding and doing homework.
In conclusion, I hope of course that from January I can do even more both at work and at daily activities that are lacking a bit for now, but I am really happy to be here because I am learning really so much and I am going to continue doing so.
Thank you for reading this far, I wish you the best but first a good day. Jay