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Take the time and join the European Solidarity Corps!
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Hi there! I'm Estelle from France :)

This year I joined the European Solidarity Corps and moved to Italy for 8 months to volunteer in a non-profit organisation from Macerata, a city that has it all (almost). I was working in the local environmental educational centre - organising and leading activities for kids - with two other volunteers, Miguel Ángel from Spain and Wiivi from Finland. But we were more than that because we lived this experience with Ilona, half Finnish half British, Julie and Saona, both French. They were working for the same association but on the protection and promotion of Borgo Ficana - a historic neighbourhood of raw earth houses from the late 19th century, in which we were living all together.

Imagine living somewhere you can see on your wall the earth, sand and straw mixed with each other to build the house, the same elements you used to then build an oven in your garden because you wanted to cook pizza. This is how La Foresteria (the name of our house) felt like. An atypical place to live in and to make it live up to your image, until the time of the next volunteers. We created a free and safe space there, where everyone could express their needs and thoughts and where we would just be ourselves + invite all our friends to share this atmosphere.

I think that this is what I will remember the most from this volunteering. All the people I met, the strong friendships I created, the good atmosphere between all of us. As European volunteers we were put into a welcoming environment, by people happy to show us their lives and to help us live ours. We also met lots of Erasmus and international students (because Macerata has a university), thanks to the Erasmus Student Network there, which was organising many things. Again, it was so easy to connect with people! After a few months of learning the language, I also started to bond with some Italians, which was a lot of fun.

I would say that learning a new language is the second big plus of this kind of experience. With the language, you are able to open yourself to a new culture by interacting directly with the locals, learning what the traditions are, the arguments about them, learning the way of life and how it is different from yours, or in some cases similar. And nothing better than living in the country for this.

I could tell you a million things about volunteering: how cool the city is, how the social and cultural life there is, how I would spend my days, how much I travelled, etc. But the main point is that it has been totally worth it for me to take the time to experience something like this. It has been the European Solidarity Corps for me (and I really advise it!!), but it can be anything else that makes you go out of your usual environment and meet people happy to share their experiences with you.

Thank you for reading me! E grazie a tutte le persone del volontariato per rendere bella e figa questa esperienza. 🫰