Anna Romanin is an Italian girl like many others. A second year student of cultural heritage at Ca ' Foscari University in Venice, last summer she decided to leave for 6 weeks and to go to Turkey, in Eskişehir, to participate in AIESEC’s Global Volunteer project. This is the her own experience.
Why did you decide to leave for a Global Volunteer project?
I have always been an insecure girl, I have always relied on the judgment that others had on me, but I also have always tried to improve my weakness. By taking part in this project I wanted to test myself and understand if I could have become the best version of myself.
Why do you think that this kind of volunteer experience abroad is important?
Because it gives you a chance to live a new culture and see life from a different point of view. All of a sudden you are there alone and you start to understand who you are and who you want to become. Plus these types of experiences give you the opportunity to see new things and open your mind.
What exactly was your project about?
My project was linked to goal No. 4 of the UN Agenda 2030 Sustainable development objectives: quality education. I taught English in an elementary school in a poor neighbourhood in Eskişehir. It was summer and the boys attended a sort of summer camp. In addition to the frontal lessons there were many more educational and gaming activities. In fact, most of the time I was lecturing in the classroom teaching the basic English vocabulary, while the rest of the time I was organizing playing activities, or educational courses, like ceramics art.
What was the first impression when you arrived in Turkey?
At first I was a scared, I wasn't sure what to expect, I didn't quite understand what kind of mentality the Turks had and, for what I had heard, I was expecting people to be closed and distant with me. What I found, instead, was a very safe country, given the high police presence, but also very multicultural. I have to say that in general Turkish people are very generous and they want to help you also for small things like giving you directions.One thing that struck me right away is that the Turks don't feel comfortable asking direct questions to get to know you better.
Did you have a hard time setting yourself up at first?
Luckily I was able to feel like at home, I'm one that fits right away, but this was possible especially thanks to my host, the lady who put me up for 6 weeks, and my buddy, the one I could call every time I had a difficulty, but in general all were very helpful. I had a kind of protection area around me, so I couldn’t feel lonely. Now I feel like I have a family living 2000 km away.
What was the most beautiful moment of your experience?
There were so many beautiful moments. If I had to pick one I think it would be the trip I should have done for 1week around Turkey since the school was closed. I say I should have because, unfortunately, it only lasted 2 days. I did not travel alone, but with two Algerian boys and a Portuguese girl and unfortunately after the first stop in Bursa, while we were waiting for the night bus to Izmir, the girl received a call from Portugal and discovered that her grandfather had passed away. She wanted to return to Portugal for the funeral and we decided to leave everything and help her reach in time the first flight that departed from Istanbul the next day. I would have never let her go alone, and the other guys agreed, too. In the end everyone cooperated: while she was looking for the flights, I was watching how to get to Istanbul and the boys were looking for a hotel for the night. I think it was one of the most beautiful moments because we strenghten a lot of relationships and managed to get to know each other better. I personally understood that union is strength.
And the hardest?
Being understood by children was very difficult because they often spoke to me in Turkish, thinking that I understood. Fortunately we found our own way to understand each other, through small words in English and very few words of Turkish that I had learned, as well as drawings, rather than making complete speeches.
The nice thing, anyway, is that children have always tried hard to make themselves understood and show me that they appreciated the work I did for them.
What was one of the teachings you drew from this experience?
I understood that Anna (me!) was placing so many limits. I was the first to doubt what I was doing. But I learned that I know how to handle it, I was my only limit in what I could and wanted to do.
How was the return to Italy?
A disaster! Very difficult, I struggled to detach myself from the other reality, and I was very afraid to lose the people I met in Turkey. I was also afraid of going back and losing all the improvements I had made on my person, I wanted to continue to be the Anna that was in Turkey. But after two months in Italy, I survived, I realized that I should have not be afraid, Turkey for me was a fertile ground, now I can only go forward.
After this experience, what do you think is the role of young people in the future and why?
Mamma mia, what a difficult question! I think our role will be to give energy and bring change to the world. Ours is a very fortunate generation, because it has had and is having a lot of possibilities to enrich itself at cultural level and to understand the world. I am therefore sure that it will bring so much innovation trying always to be as concrete as possible.
What do you want to say to people who are thinking about doing a similar experience?
Leave! The more you are undecided, the better you throw yourself. Nice or bad that this experience will be, surely you will come back changed.