Mihai is sitting while smiling at the camera. In the background is a river with houses on both sides of it.

Hi everybody, Mihai here. It has been a long time since I have shared my experience with you here. For those of you who did not have the chance to meet me in person, my name is Mihai, I’m 30 years old and I come from Romania. I’m currently in a master’s program in European Integration and European Institutions and I’m also interested in social work and decided to start a voluntary service abroad to get new experiences for my future so I applied for an ESC project in Liège, organized and implemented by Views International aisbl.

Doing voluntary service means working with(in) an association or institution, supporting the staff and helping the community in which you stay, but also learning something new for yourself, developing your skills and acquiring new ones while focusing on your own personal development (i.e. learning a new language, broadening your horizons and tolerance by getting in touch with new and different cultures etc.).

So, during the last 8 months, I worked at the VIEWS office in Liège, supporting them in their work, creating the monthly newsletters that you read which improved my writing skills thanks to the feedback I received from my colleagues, updating the social media (mainly Facebook) with posts regarding VIEWS’ local, national and international activities, organising and preparing these activities together with my colleagues, which offered me the chance to improve the way I organise things and keeping an agenda with all the deadlines and responsibilities.

I am truly thankful for these local and international activities because I had the chance to learn how to organize activities of the Erasmus Plus projects (such as Learning, Training & Teaching Activities – LTTA and Multiplier Events). Within the local activities, I managed to communicate in the French language in order to be involved in them and during the international activities I travelled to Turkey and Italy and meet with people who had different backgrounds and cultures. But from all these, what I enjoyed the most and will forever treasure were my experiences in Brussels, the heart of the European Union (EU). As I study the master’s program, just seeing in person some of the institutions that I have only read about was truly bliss. During the VIP Tech Job Time 2 Act! Project, I had the chance to be inside the European Parliament in Brussels and feel closer to the EU.

However, this is not all. Since I don’t have a visual impairment, living, interacting and working with visually impaired people had a big positive impact on me because I learned how to offer them my support as a guide and learned about their needs. I learned about the Braille alphabet and how to make activities more inclusive for them.

Of course, I also had different challenges during my experience as a volunteer and those were mainly with communicating in French language. Since I knew almost zero French when I started my volunteering, feeling integrated into the community and being active in the activities proved to be difficult, but I’ve managed to overcome these challenges by doing extra preparations and organizing myself better for them (like preparing my dialogues before and printing them and learning key-words in order to use them with the french that I learned during my stay there). In general, it was not easy for me to be part of the community at the beginning. I felt very uncomfortable at times because I was in a completely new environment where a foreign language was spoken and I still clearly noticed this language barrier, especially at the beginning. But of course, it all got better with time. Above all, it became easier and easier for me to speak in French.

All in all, I can say that my experience was mostly positive. And even if something didn’t go so smoothly, that’s part of life and it’s also a good experience to learn how to deal with it and make it better next time you find yourself in the same situation. It was a thrilling experience to be abroad in another country with different cultures and languages and I could not be more happy that I had the chance to include this experience and the people that I have met in my life. I believe that a stay abroad is a formative time in which you can develop yourself and that can change you into a better person than you were the day before. Of course, there is a fear of the unknown and we make ourselves focus on the negative that might happen, but true development can be possible only when we exit our comfort zone. For every problem that we may think would appear, there are more ways to solve them than we might imagine. And with the right support, you will be amazed at how much room for growth for every one of us is there. Views did an awesome job in supporting all their volunteers in finding their way (literally and figuratively) during their experience and after. This experience was a truly unforgettable journey that challenged me to grow both personally and professionally.

Thank you all for listening and reading all my experiences so far I can only hope you had as much fun as I had and that I could offer you an immersive experience alongside me in this adventure. `Till next time we cross our ways, Mihai.