I came to Portugal to be a volunteer. During 11 months I worked in a non-formal kindergarten/nursery where children’s education is approached in a liberal way.
Before starting the project, I had a lot of ideas about how I was going to contribute to with my personality, and about how much I would learn from the opportunities the host organization would provide me with. I was also curious about if, with my competences and skills, I would be able to leave relevant marks. I had expectations to develop my skills, competencies and to have a memorable year with the most joy that it could give me.
The first 2 months were full of hopes, good intentions, and patience. It was as if I had been reborn here. I had a lot of new information to absorb, positive-negative emotions to live and deal with. At the same time, I had gotten several questions to answer and challenges to conquer. These months flew past so fast.
Then, somehow things slowed down and I had more time to think and to be conscious of what had been happening here so far. Starting to work in a new environment, among new people and kids, where I didn’t know the language, it was impossible to avoid some difficulties. I started to understand that my role in the kindergarten was not just about me and about implementing my ideas. Communicating, with the kids and my colleagues, was more difficult than I expected. After a few noticeable cases, I started to analyse things. What I did wrong and what I did right, and to somehow start to see myself from the outside of my own bubble – I guess that was the most important thing that happened. There were lots of situations that made me see things from a different perspective, and lead me to be more open-minded. This made follow new ways to interpret and solve cases. For instance, I learnt how to work in an international team, to accept their way of working but not be afraid to speak for myself. I got to know my limits and how not to let people push past them. I’m more relaxed and adaptive towards changes that hide unknown experiences. I realised I have to be very patient and take more risks if I want to achieve my wishes.
Well, of course, I learnt very serious things that might change my life and my view forever. But, I also had several instances where I didn’t analyse anything, I slowed down and enjoyed and lived in the moment. I can’t miss mentioning how many beautiful and unusual places I’ve visited here. How many crazy adventures I’ve been through that made me tough, just by saving that little amount of money that I receive here! The relationships with the people that I’ve met and with the kids that I’ve worked with still give me a lot of positive feelings. And being a foreigner in a country for almost a year somehow leads us to do unusual things that are different from our “normal” life.
This one “gap” year also gave me a way to transition towards a new part of my path and time to accept that, from now, I’m not a student anymore, but a responsible adult who needs to put into practice everything she has learnt. So, I’m just waiting to see what time will bring; but my EVS isn’t over yet.