The bus delivering me to Transylvania crosses almost all the country: from the capital in the southern plain of Wallachia to the heart of the country. A collection of landscapes rolls onto the bus window. The space outside the metropolis is a large plain crystallized by the ice interrupted only by oil fields and large industrial settlements; it might be confused with a steppe and in fact – I will discover during the next months – there is a Slavic part in the Romance language spoken in this land. The plain starts to finish with the first hills, a sort of messengers of the next mountains: the Carpathian. Growing the mountains, the architecture changes: the golden domes of the orthodox churches are substituted by the brown sloping roofs and by the Secession style. It is like to be in a different country. The journey is going to finish when the evening is coming, and the plain moon appears behind the fortress of Rupea which stands out the road. Five hours are passed when I arrived in Bucharest, and I must be patient. In fact, this country takes long time to move. Small villages, level crossings, fields with a family of deer and interrupted by rivers and woods divide Sighișoara from the town where I will spend the next six months. It may be spelt Cristuru Secuiesc, but it is pronounced Székelykeresztúr; this is a town in the middle of Romania, but everything here reminds to Hungary.
Why are you going there? Why did you come here in Romania? These are the two questions I often heard before and after I arrived in that town. There are lots of answers why I decided to attend to the European Volunteer Service: changing the routine, discovering a new country and living in it, meeting new people from other parts of Europe, taking part to an interesting project. Anyway, the two main motives for that decision were: self-challenging and being out of my comfort zone. The project was related to the dissemination of Astronomy with indoor and outside activities. I will write nothing more because there is a video describes it. However, I could say that the positive point of that experience was never being fossilised to the “task in the contract”: the hosting organisation supported the volunteer involving him in different and collateral projects to extend his potentialities and to help him to meet the local community. Reporting everything I did and experienced in Keresztúr will make this article like a novel, and this is not the aim of this piece. I could say that I learnt the rural local economy and I met the protagonist of those enterprises learning about the entrepreneurship. I met a rich culture, the problems and the expectations for the future of a community; I had the opportunity to find out the other countries of Europe meeting the other volunteers and participants of different projects.
The aim of this article is to promote the experience and the hosting association asked me to report all the feelings etc… on the other hands, I think that an EVS experience is personal: in fact, the feelings of the other volunteers are different experiences from mine, nevertheless we attended to the same time; and this is the same with the previous and the next ones. Therefore, I think is better to avoid describing my personal feelings, while, it is better to try describing objectively the good points of the EVS experience giving some tips.
For sure, the experience was a challenge: living in another country without speaking the neither the local nor the country language. There were sometimes good and bad days, but looking back, I am really happy to have spent my EVS in Transylvania. I think that three actors help to enjoy this kind of project: the volunteer himself, the mentor and the hosting organisation. My first suggestion is, if you want to know a culture and have a close contact with the local community and have the opportunity to know deeply the hosting country (and also yours), towns like Cristuru are a good place. They are neither too big nor too small. The big city and in particular the capital cities tend to be similar to the other cities of the continent and it is difficult to have a close contact with the local community (most of the time there is not one). A small town or a village could be an amazing experience, but it might lack of services or place to enjoy the free time.
In addition, a professional hosting organisation is important to make the EVS a good experience helping the volunteer in his activities and keeping him proactive with different projects. A good mentor is essential to support the volunteer during all the experience and to introduce him to the community. In my experience, I found both a professional association and a god mentor. Last but not least, in my opinion, the main actor to have a good experience is you, the volunteer. An EVS is – let me please to use a chemistry concept – a dynamic equilibrium: if you keep yourself open-minded, you can receive back a lot from the environment around you. However, you also need to contribute to the hosting community with your previous experiences, your enthusiasm, idea and so on. Basically, you cannot be an empty container which receive passively from the outside giving nothing back.
Thus, are you interested of this type of experience? Do you think you can give your contribution to develop a community? Would you like to extend your skills in a new way different from the traditional education (you will find out the “Non-formal education)? Well, create your profile in the European Solidarity Corps and I suggest you join the Youth Association From Transylvania. I wish you all the best!
Addenda: own a car can improve the experience in Romania. The public transportation is awful and a solution is hick-hiking.