There is only one thing more precious than our time and that’s who we spend it on

Arrival training in Orahovica from the 2nd till the 7th of September is a lot more than just a training; it’s something happening, even now. Not as in hip, but like an event, a place to be, but not like a location, but like somewhere within yourself. It gives you time, but not actual hours or minutes for learning, but a chance to be, like be yourself, and have a second mid-term training. Surely, everyone is patiently waiting for it by counting the minutes.

We had our on-arrival training in the Red Cross Centre in Orahovica, Croatia, a lovely venue. We met other EVS/ ESC volunteers from around Europe and were surprised at how many different nations gathered together: volunteers from Great Britain, Austria, Croatia, Egypt, Spain, Italy, France, Ukraine, Hungary… One thing was already clear: we were in for an exciting weekend!

In the first part of the training we spoke about why we wanted to participate in EVS/ESC, and all of us presented the organisations or projects we would be working with for the next six to twelve months. This part was especially exciting for me, as it was great to see how enthusiastic everyone was.

The next day began with the interview sessions among locals with the topics based on community needs, local social and economic problems; we also had group grant game, my lovely Secret Friend, talking sessions in the field of solidarity, Erasmus+ learning opportunities for youngsters, project management elements where a goal means the most.

Exploring differences between internship and volunteering we discovered the expectations from employees and trainees, what does it mean to be a volunteer at all, how to explain what we are doing to the older generations; we learnt new information about the organizational culture, problem solving, communication and understanding conflict situations + we had a lot of team-building activities helping us to reflect on our experience with EVS/ESC and how our perspective might have changed since we first applied. The ‘Orahovica Dunford Foundation Challenge’.

In such way I call my favourite task that was designed to help us to get our group grant within such tasks as: group photo, babel, kite, animal selfie, A to Z, how tall is Albert*, paper bridge, sing song, surprise, make a map. In total we can gather 200 points. But you know I’m happy with our 153 😉 And as than, as now I’m totally sure that our cool team deserve that grant in any case. Can’t wait also to mention our relaxing time in the swimming pool, while playing water basketball …

All these things put upper helped us to come out of our own comfort zones, to try something new and overcome personal limitations. In small groups, we completed various tasks around the city. We found the old buildings in Orahovica; closed Blues club, many pekaras, a marvelous lake.

We interviewed complete strangers and found out some interesting facts about their life (some was dreaming about turning back into Yugoslavia times, the other – was mentioning unemployment rate, others – were talking about the great level of migration among Croatian people living in small towns).

We ended our Orahovica adventures with traditional dinner, music and dancing in the centre. That was without any exaggeration just wonderful, and helped us all dive into Croatian culture in a different way. The next days were all about working, listening and reflecting. We spoke about our own cultures and also that of Croatia. Something that really helped us was the explanation of the so-called ‘iceberg cultural model’. It shows that some areas of culture are “on the tip of the iceberg”, so the differences can easily be seen (e.g. language, customs, clothing, food). However the vast majority of cultural differences remain hidden “under the surface”, such as norms, values, beliefs, and philosophy.

The areas below the water surface are not directly visible to people who are not familiar with the culture. However, they influence the visible aspects of culture very strongly. Only by knowing these hidden areas can one can understand a foreign culture. This was really helpful for me personally and-in addition, this opportunity to meet so many great people – was the most important part of the weekend for me.

I’m looking forward to staying in touch with all the other EVS volunteers and using my new knowledge to have a great ESC experience. This made me aware what a long road is behind me. And we may forget days, conversations. But we will always remember how a great lake in Orahovica made us feel togetherness and unity (Remember, we have our little cutie archives based on this memory shooting with my Gopro…mm, you will see it soon).

The project “YOU are the EU” is funded by the Agency for Mobility and EU programmes withing the program European Solidarity Corps.

you are the eu