What's up: Reflecting on ESC journey
In this month’s What’s up student Column our former European Solidarity Corps Volunteer, Jennifer Campbell reflects on her own 3 month experience as a volunteer at EUSA Office in Ljubljana, Slovenia.
I first stumbled across the ESC volunteering opportunity when reading the monthly volunteer newsletter from LEAP Sports Scotland. Keen to get involved in some local volunteering experience, I would read the newsletter every month looking for opportunities. Little did I know I would stumble across such an amazing opportunity which would fall right at the time I was searching for the next step. Having been in full time work since graduating the previous summer, I was on the look for a new challenge. The chance to live abroad, explore a new country all while gaining experience working for an exciting NGO was too good of an opportunity to pass up. So I sent off my application with my fingers crossed and hoped for the best!
When I was informed that I had been successful in the application process and that I would soon be on my way to Slovenia in as little as 2 months, I couldn’t quite believe it. A new job, new country and new people had been exactly what I wanted; however when this all became a reality, I could feel the nerves kicking in. I had never left home for studies or work and I knew this would be a huge challenge for me. Luckily for me, from day one the EUSA team made me feel right at home - welcoming myself and the other volunteers with a pizza dinner to get to know each other before the first day in the office.
As I expected, moving away from home brought up its challenges but with every challenge came invaluable opportunities for growth and learning. The ESC experience allowed me to strengthen my ability to support myself in new environments, build close relationships and to experience the inner workings of an NGO in the world of Sport. Amongst all the traveling and events, some of the most memorable and fulfilling moments simply have come from the day-to-day tasks in the EUSA office working with the other volunteers. From different countries, cultures and backgrounds, we shared the same open mindset and sense of adventure. Without them, my ESC experience would not have been as rich with laughter and memories.
I particularly took a great deal away from the Volunteer camps that I attended. The camps were a fantastic opportunity to meet with other volunteers placed in Slovenia from all corners of Europe. The coordinators organized workshops that were based on topics such as modern society, mental health, personal growth and ESC project support. It was refreshing to explore all these topics with other young people in an honest, open and safe space.
Another part of my experience included volunteering at two LGBT organizations, Drustvo DIH and Legebitra. This gave me some insight into their missions, the programmes they run and the impact they have locally and all around Slovenia. It also allowed me to meet extremely welcoming people who added so much to my experience with their kindness, generosity and personalities. Every organization I worked with was so open and encouraging, giving me space to create and express ideas. Ljubljana is a fantastic city, full of many cultural events and festivals to enjoy.
Slovenia is an unbelievably beautiful country with an endless offering of stunning landscapes and an abundance of nature to explore. Overall, the most valuable part of this experience has been the opportunity to meet people from all over the world with different passions, ideas and cultures. I can not recommend this experience enough to anyone considering taking part in the ESC programme. My only wish is that I was aware of these opportunities sooner as a Scottish citizen so that I could have taken advantage of a longer placement when I still had the chance.
A common theme I noticed from all the young people on the ESC programme was that they all had an abundance of experience with different people and cultures from across Europe. It was so clear the immense value that these culture and language exchanges had for each of them and their own personal growth. I hope that the future will bring more opportunities like this for the youth in Scotland.
The author of this article Jennifer Campbell is a volunteer with the European University Sports Association as part of the European Solidarity Corps. She actively trains and plays for a women's football club in her hometown Glasgow.
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