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ESC “Friends at work “halfway through it” – Ainhoa

Incredible as it may seem, the good weather is here and that reminds me that my volunteering experience is closer to an end. What I ask myself is, where are the 10 months of volunteering I used to have?

Seven months have gone by since I first arrived in Trani, a small city in the south of Italy. Although in summer it turns into a tourist destination, during the rest of the year no foreigners are found on the streets. In fact, this might be the reason why during this time I have somehow become famous as “the Spanish girl”. I still remember my first month here where my greatest challenge was communicating with local people as I had no idea of Italian and for sure they didn’t understand English. However, since the first day, every person I have met in my volunteer work, as well as in my social life, has shown a very positive attitude towards me. Language is no longer a problem but one of my greatest achievements: I can live speaking in Italian!

My work as a volunteer is mainly related to people with disabilities and how to ensure their inclusive integration in our community. By participating in different project initiatives, I have had the chance of establishing deep bonds with people of different ages, from younger high-school students to adults. I must admit that when I started I felt completely lost, especially because working with people with disabilities is not easy. I used to have no confidence in my personal capacity to develop the work and I felt I was not ready. Now, it is amazing to look back and see how changed I see myself, how much I have learned. For instance, I’ve learned that when you really get involved, people see it and always respond with positive feedback.

The reason why these months have gone by so fast is definitely because I have been so busy experiencing new things every day! At work, I have faced many challenges which have helped me to grow personally. I have experienced the opportunity to turn ideas into reality and I have improved my capacity to make decisions and take the leader role.

At this point you might be asking yourself: what about the Covid-19? Well, there is no doubt that going abroad during a pandemic makes all the adventure more complicated. Nevertheless, it does not ruin it at all, not to me. Indeed, during these months I have acquired the ability to see the bright side of things, to take the positive out of every situation. It is obvious that without the pandemic my experience would have been completely different but better? Honestly, I don’t know.

The pandemic has blocked me in Trani (even at Christmas!) but at the same time has pushed me closer to the people I have met. One might think that life here is quite calm but being honest, the city is incredibly alive even in pandemic times!

I have had the opportunity to get to know local young people who have shown me around and in a short time have become real friends. Moreover, I have shared meals and festivities with my friends’ families which, besides some extra kilos (they eat a lot and all the time!), they have given me unique memories for the rest of life! I have felt so welcomed here by the people surrounding me that I am starting to feel distress of having to leave them. I am more than lucky to live with a very nice German volunteer, to have found the friends I have and to work in an incredible working environment which I really enjoy. Altogether, they are now my Italian family.

Would I recommend the ESC Volunteering Project? By now I am sure you’ll know that my answer is yes. Of course, it is not easy going abroad for a long period, starting a new life in another country and working as a volunteer in a local project. But, what I like the most about ESC is how diverse it is. Each experience is different and I am sure there is more than one for you. Thus, from here I encourage you all to take a step forward and go for an adventure!

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