Calina’s ESC in Iceland
“I laughed, cried, lost some habits and created others. I inspired people to be crazy and joined their craziness”
Calina Porto, from Ílhavo, Aveiro, spent four months in Iceland in her “European Solidarity Corps”, with SEEDS Iceland. We asked her to write a testimonial about her experience and this is the result. If you are interested in having an international volunteering experience, check out our Erasmus+ page and contact us!
I am Calina, and my experience with SEEDS Iceland started when I was 23 and already living in Portugal.
You must be asking yourself, “Why Iceland?” Well, I have to tell you that I didn’t choose Iceland, it choose me! It all started because I was looking for volunteer projects to participate. Yes, in nature and related with education, environment, culture and sustainability. But no, I was not opting for cold countries with very short days. The point is that, even with all the “cons” in my head, when I first heard about SEEDS, I immediately became interested in being part of that organization and...surprise! There were no vacancies available for me to join the project. A month later, the opportunity came and SEEDS team chose me to be a volunteer for four magical months.
I believe it happened because I opened up to this experience. I knew that most of the days would be dark and cold, that I would have to share my space with others, that the food would not taste the same and that people would have habits and customs different from mine. However, I wanted to challenge myself to do this.
Now, I can say that I have, above all, fond memories of the time I was away. For example, I remember, on the first day, on August 31, when I was going home (Mikla House) for the first time, to be dazzled by the beauty of the mushrooms I found on the way. There are no words to describe how charming and mystical nature is in Iceland. Everything has a different color, shape, size and energy. And believe me, you can discover and learn about the powerful and valuable creations of nature in this place!
The truth is that Iceland's beauty was also in the SEEDS family. Our apartment was always full of plants growing in pots of skyr placed on the windows, of several shoes at the entrance, of tea cups scattered around the rooms, of decks of cards on the table and post-its stuck on all places, even right at the bathroom door. This explains a lot about how the other fourteen volunteers who lived in Mikla Up were: kind, caring, passionate about nature, loving, creative, communicative and who liked to have fun. Yes, we were people from different backgrounds, but with the same purpose: to have a new experience and to acquire and share knowledge, helping others to be more aware individuals about environmental issues.
An advantage in all of this is that our “goal” was our “role”. Most of the volunteers were camp leaders, just like me. Our main task was to lead the workcamps and virtual camps, developing activities, debates, games, workshops and presentations, which facilitate the cultural exchange between the participants and stimulate their critical thinking, regarding the impact of their actions on the planet.
But the SEEDS experience was not just about this. We were constantly encouraged to take part in activities carried out by other organizations in the country and to create and develop our own projects. The team responsible for us was always supporting us and ensuring that we were happy with what we were doing.
“Happiness” is the word that best describes the time I spent in Iceland. Once again, I want to say that I have many good memories of when I lived there. Even with the pandemic situation that the world faces and with all the changes that this has caused in the way things normally work, it is very easy for me to see the positive side of these crazy times.
All because, during these crazy times, I became part of an amazing family, learned, shared, met lovely people, explored unknown places and discovered different cultures. I helped those who needed my support, lived in the middle of a garden, almost flew in the wind and spent some time on an uninhabited island. I played with the snow, saw the Aurora Borealis, went hiking in the forest, saw Polar Stratospheric Clouds, planted trees, felt an earthquake and screamed at the top of several mountains. I cooked, I ate healthy and tasty food and I also tasted things that I don't want to try again. I swam in the cold water and relaxed in the thermal pools. I danced on the street, painted on the couch and played cards until late at night. I participated in parties and made music with people who had no idea how to do it. I laughed, cried, lost some habits and created others. I inspired people to be crazy and joined their craziness. I received good massages, gave tight hugs and, in the end, I realized that I fell in love. Of course! It would not be possible to leave Iceland without being in love. Passionate about nature, SEEDS Iceland and all the amazing people I met and left there. Today, I feel blessed to have lived unforgettable months on this island of fire and ice. It was a beautiful, enriching, high-growth experience with strong connections, worth every day and every moment!