What do you do when your life is so static? You change it. I am Nadia, a 19-year old student in Venice, and I want to tell you about the turning point that was the AIESEC Volunteering experience I lived last winter. At the beginning, I was a bit skeptical: is it really such a revolutionary experience like everyone says? The answer is yes. I realized that just a few days after I landed in Tirana in the beginning of January.
I left Italy knowing nothing about Albania. I only knew about the stereotypes, but in six weeks I’ve learnt more than I expected, both about the country and about Europe. This happened thanks to the long, international café conversations where other volunteers and I shared our opinions and thoughts. I also discovered that coffee is the best drink to have conversations with- maybe that’s why Albanians, who drink coffee at all times, are so talkative.
I am very proud of the fact that I was able to bring back to Italy a different point of view about Albania and its dwellers, often subtly despised by western Europeans, although they are nice and helpful people who find themselves forced to leave their country, looking for a better life.
An example for this was my hosting family: the father lives and works in Greece in order to give a future to his six daughters.
Albania taught me to really appreciate the little things; I finally understood that being rich is not necessary to be happy. The most special moments were the most simple ones, such as when the family gathered in the evening, singing and dancing traditional songs together, or their joy in showing me homemade bread.
I learnt even more from the kids at the institute where I volunteered: a place where children and teens aged 6 to 18 can escape from their lives made of absolute poverty and often uncaring parents; despite their situation, they were always happy and friendly, while getting to know a new culture.
My main job was teaching English and organizing recreational activities, but what really makes me proud is that I was the only window onto the world that these kids had. Getting to know different realities is essential to them, in order to make them aware that “something” does exist outside their homes, something that they can conquer if they want to. Every time they showed interest towards my culture or the other volunteer’s, from Turkey, I felt extremely satisfied: without me being there they would have had a missing piece of the world, but no one wants to have an incomplete puzzle!
Leaving with AIESEC was for me a unique opportunity to acquire new skills, discover my strengths and work on my weaknesses, challenging myself every day; it has been a journey of discovery where I met plenty of people and I got to know myself better. I also was able to understand how the world works and how I can make it better.
Six weeks do not seem like a long time, but they are enough to change your life.