Our EVS volunteers, Angelika (Austria), Barbara (Portugal), Jonathan (Netherlands) and Maeliss (France) are sharing their first EVS experiences. YMCA Romania will host them for 6 months, in the “Youth Power Space” project, through the European Voluntary Service, Erasmus+ Programme financed by the European Union.

How to survive the first weeks of EVS

On a sunny afternoon, two buses arrived in the city of Baia Mare. Three volunteers, all of distinct nationalities left their seats and stepped into a new country. Angelika from Austria was first. Barbara and Jonathan, respectively from Portugal and the Netherlands arrived simultaneously, after they unknowingly spend a long bus-ride together. This country was Romania, and would become the volunteers’ home for six month. Under the supervision of Alina Pop of YMCA, the three were led to their apartment. In a certain way, the first introduction to the apartment was quite scary. The volunteers were to live together in this place. The apartment was pretty decent, and offered enough space for the people that were supposed to live there, and those yet to arrive. Late in the night, after hours of fighting against sleep, a fourth volunteer, Maelis from France, was welcomed.

Our first impressions of Baia Mare were good. We did not really know what to expect as we walked through the city. Alina’s help proved very useful in the first days. We had to get used to a new language and adjust to Romanian customs. After hours of waiting, standing and sleeping in the emigration office. A few hours more did provide us with a bank account and made us finally able to call ourselves fully resident on Romanian territory.

A week in a strange house, with strange people, and without internet.

The first week brought us to acknowledge that our lives were not as they used to be. Shyness had to be overcome. Common interests and topics for conversation had to be found. What’s more, without access to internet in the apartment, communication with the home country was difficult. We learned to talk to each other, to play games and to laugh about our new lives.

During daytime we started our preparations for our voluntary work. During the first week we became a team. Objectives like building pyramids and constructing castles tied us together.  The creation of individual pieces of art taught us about ourselves. The discussion of sad stories led to philosophical discussions about life itself.

The second day featured a dinner with the people of the YMCA. All the persons we met would prove to be kind and  supportive for the weeks to follow. We met our mentors, and talked about the possibilities that Baia Mare and Maramureș could offer to us.

Sessions with the local volunteers brought us into contact with the teens of Baia Mare and its surroundings. We were received with great enthusiasm by these keen youngsters. They included us in their group and led us forward in our exploration of Romanian language and culture. One volunteer led us around in his city and taught us about the origins of its language.

Later during this first week, we faced young children in the new Hungarian school. Their enthusiasm knew no bounds. We learned to communicate without the use of words, since we knew neither Romanian or Hungarian, and they could barely speak English. Gestures and drawings helped us to get along with this class of the very young. Many more of these classes will follow.

Normal ‘business’ had also to be done. Everyone had to cook, everyone had to clean. Buying groceries led to questions and discussions; what store did we want to go to? Should a common budget be established? And… what do we want to eat this evening?

At last the weekend arrived. We could rely on our new Romanian friends to explorer the city and her history. We went to the Entographical museum and merged in Romanian culture. In addition, the Chestnut-festival offered us a unique insight in Romanian life and introduced us to the diversity of its cuisine. Besides the eating of chestnuts we drank boiled wine, and we enjoyed the traditional Hungarian kürtörskalács. We heard the young singers, heard Romanian voices and saw local dancers performing before our eyes.

As the days passed. We could experience how we grew into this new life. Our actions became increasingly independent as we found our own way in and around town. Already in the second weekend we visited Singhișhoara and Cluj as a coherent team.  After two weeks we remarked the great  first impression we received of Romania and its life. We have passed the starting phase and are ready to expand our EVS-experience, as we invite new volunteers in our group.

Tips for surviving your first weeks without internet:

  • Leave your phones and laptops and start talking to each other.
  • You can even ask questions to get to know each other.
  • If you are desperate asking questions, then you can try to play card games (dixit, games from each country).
  • Exploring the city together (finding new pathways by walking through private property (be careful with dogs)).
  • Find common interests by doing something.
  • Making lists (movies, music, places you want to visit).

If you are able to follow the instructions below: congratulations! You can live one week without internet. Or you just bought a pre-payed sim card.