This year my birthday was quite a different day.
Sometime in March a classmate told me I should apply for a summer volunteering job in Estonia they saw on the student page.
I never volunteered abroad before so it seemed quite of a challenge. But I love challenges, when you have to get out of your comfort zone and actually go and do something that you’re not used to or will put you on the spot. These are the times when you will genuinely learn something and grow as a person. At the end of your challenge, there is no better satisfaction than the one of ‘I never thought I could do this but I've done it and I enjoyed every single second of it.’
So I was looking at this brochure about a summer camp where I would be teaching English to students aged 10-17 (the big age difference is what made it a real challenge!) and like many other times in my life when I thought ‘It won’t work out but I’ll still try’, I decided to apply and couple of weeks later got offered the opportunity to join 10 other university students from all around the UK who were also interested in gaining some work experience abroad.
One thing I didn’t read in the brochure was the fact that I had to fly over there on the day of my birthday! My first thought was ‘What a shame, I won’t be able to spend it with my friends…!’ However the first thought was replaced a moment later with ‘Actually… How awesome it would be to spend it with new friends!’
And that’s exactly what happened – by the end of my trip I met 160 of them and I still keep in touch with a good few!
This way, my summer experience was filled with interviews, stress, paperwork, long nights of marking exams and falling asleep with my head on the laptop, lost wifi connection when you needed to show a video on a presentation starting in few minutes, lots of coffee cups to wash, kids who at some point didn’t want to cooperate, the only shop in the surroundings seemed to be even further away when you fancied some ice-cream, tonnes of brainstorming, tonnes of workshops to prepare, tonnes of plans and such few time…
On the other hand, there was even more ‘laugh out loud’ times with whoever and whenever, lots of games, galas and contests where everyone had to get involved in any way, lots of volleyball, the food in the canteen that reminded me of my childhood in Moscow, being surprised that they call you ‘Miss’ but feeling flattered at the same time and after teaching, sunny days spent on a beautiful beach nearby; lovely nights telling the others the anecdotes of the day in the ‘teachers lounge’, dancing the Macarena song with the kids on a stage, making a fool of myself, knowing everybody’s life stories, getting all emotional watching the kids show their skills in the talent show and thinking how amazing they are, wanting to cry because you feel so proud they learnt something from you and that they might even use it once they are far away…
It was a wonderful learning experience and I recommend you all to volunteer at some point. You can do it for a certain cause, to gain/improve skills, meet new people, see new places, challenge yourself… The list is long and if you are in good spirits and pack your bag with extra motivation, no matter what you choose to do it will be an experience to remember!