How can one summarize ten months of volunteering in one single post? The answer is that you can’t. In spite of this, in this post I wanted to focus on some of the things that I have learned during my time in Slovenia.
To begin with, I have learned practical, little things of the daily life. I survived eating decent food without having to cook too much. I learned how to do tiktoks, how to lose as elegantly as possible in chess and how to recover some dignity after being hit a couple of times in the face with the ball while playing volleyball. I learned to check twice before booking something, and now I am able to prepare a suitcase for a day-trip in ten minutes.
But, of course, the truly important thing is what you learn about yourself. Coming to Slovenia and adapting to the calm rhythm here was like taking a break for breathing, for reflecting. I learned how to be on my own. I learned to be independent; even to deal with solitude, in a way. Also, I found out that there are no hurries. That maybe the future is unknown, that maybe I don’t have a specific plan, and that is OK. Maybe I don’t need it. I have time ahead of me for experiencing, for trying, for failing and trying again, for embracing whatever comes next. And that realization has given me a peace of mind.
In addition, you learn a lot about others. Children have taught me patience. They have taught me that giving your time to others without expecting anything in return is something very valuable. I also learned a lot about friendship. I have met so many different people since I have been here, with such different backgrounds. Little did I how much you can have in common with someone that differs so much from you at the same time.
I understood that some friendships come easily and that time is more relative than you might think. That you can know someone for two or three months and feel like you have known them forever, and that they also get to know you. Nevertheless, not all is plain sail. Some relationships demand more time, more steps, more effort to build, but the result is also worth-it. You will never have the same dynamic with everyone. You will find amazing people on your path, people with whom you really connect, and you will also realize that it’s not that easy to have a meaningful bond with everybody.
Volunteering for me has been, without doubt, about learning. I have the feeling that I carry so many new things inside of me that putting them into words feels impossible. However, I hope it might give you glimpse of what this kind of experience meant to me.