By Ivana M.
I cannot know the exact month of your staying here, but for you it seems that things are changing for the worse. Whether you liked pierogi and Soplica or not, you had already got used to them or you had bought such bad a zapiekanka at Plac Nowy that you would be hesitant of eating it ever again. You have already seen that Poles don?t have siestas, but you are somehow managing to have your lunch in fifteen minutes. Okay, while standing. And, okay, while paying attention that all the kids from your class have their backpacks with them. And, okay, while two kids are attached to your leg. You already know your flatmates so well that you know you will stay friends forever, but you also know exactly what joke they are going to make or what topic they like to discuss (in the same way, with the exact same words over and over again). You are satisfied, there are no precise complaints but, BUT why do you feel like the embodiment of inadequate shoes on a never-ending rainy day?
That is because, young volunteer,
your honeymoon period is over.
As you have already known, read about and/or discussed during your pre-departure and on-arrival trainings (or maybe experienced had you been living abroad before), there are a few stages of living in a foreign country that everybody goes through. First stage is a honeymoon or touristic phase, which is pretty much self-explanatory. It is something you will always wish to feel and live over and over again. It is a sensation that will drag you to new adventures, to the unknown, out of your comfort zone. It is the time period straight after your coming to the country, when there are so many stimuli from everywhere, but the time period you enjoy a lot, no matter how overwhelming it might seem.
As I read somewhere, every single thing is new and exciting, even the smell of your morning coffee is different. But still, it is a great coffee that will prepare you for meeting ten new people that day, people who will amaze you with their willpower and personality, a coffee that you will share with your roommate from a country you know very little about, a coffee that will open your appetite for the lunch in the city, in a place recommended on a free tour. You won?t know how to use even the simplest transportation app so, obviously, you will get lost, but you won?t care, because you will end up in an amazing park.
But, just yesterday, you felt the amazing park is too far. If only you lived in a better neighborhood. That exactly matches your hometown street. If only you could make jokes in your own language. With your university friends. On different web pages and in different books, these thoughts during this period are called differently, but before your full or partial adaptation, you have to go through them and these are some of the key points you should mind in order to avoid the bumpy ride. Just kidding, you cannot avoid it, but some of these strategies could help you.
Skype. Definitely the most controversial strategy (most controversial=discussed four times in our flat). Whether you should speak to your family, friends, cousins and crazy former landlady when you are homesick or not and would the conversations make you feel better or even worse. I strongly represent the pro Skype side, not because I support everything presented by Scandinavians in suits (which I do), but because I think ?your people? can remind you of, for example, all the reasons you had to even apply for EVS.
Second, talking to people you know, love and miss is a safe haven and you shouldn?t refrain from it. Also, by knowing what is happening at home, you will feel more involved and closer to it. Opposite side of this ancient pro/contra Skype dispute uses the same argument to oppose long everyday Skype calls, saying it would only make you feel farther away and more nostalgic. As every Sophist, I will strongly defend my side, but not by all means. Of course, Skype conversations are not worth missing an ?80. party/ laser tag game/ hot air balloon ride/ making out in the movies. Finally, we achieved middle ground saying that it is up to you. Just keep in mind that no matter how much you love and trust people from back home, they are currently not going through the same phase as you are. But your roommate probably is and it is time for the two of you to get even closer anyway 🙂 So don?t hesitate to share your new emotions with your new friends.
Diary. If you didn?t start writing it already, this is a perfect opportunity. It doesn?t have to be super reflective, poetic and full with pages and pages of details. It could just be something to remind you that you are basically going through the experience of a lifetime. Use this rare opportunity both if you want to become a famous writer (because you will have loads of material for plotlines) and if you want to stay completely anonymous (because you are writing in a language almost nobody can understand here and your hidden talent will stay hidden for sure).
Travel. It sounds impossible to travel on a volunteers budget, but following the live more, have less motto will with no doubt lead you (if it hasn?t happened already) to people, pages and organizations with similar attitude. Crooked forests, mountains in autumn, Baltic Sea, famous film school and culture capitals are something you would have probably missed in any other (over)paid travel arrangement, but from your current base, they are closer and more approachable than ever.
Small projects. You are not a noob anymore ? you already know all the teachers, parents, advisors, coordinators, fitness instructors and pretzel selling ladies. It is finally time for you to show them what you?ve learned in that seminar in Italy two years ago (and you thought it was a skill you will never use!). Why not turning Thursdays into days with dress up topic? Everybody likes dressing up. European day of languages? Go for it. Do logistics for a picnic for all the members of the organization? Why not? Additional excitement makes you feel happier not only with your workplace and project but with yourself as well.
Mingle. Or as your coordinator probably calls it, integrate. Spend time with other volunteers, locals and tourists. Attend language exchange meetings, jam sessions, trips to the farm, workshops, creative writing gatherings, film screenings and days of open doors: just exit the flat and contents will start finding you. Don?t isolate yourself by sitting in front of that 17 inches screen or by any other means. You will thank me soon enough!
Yourself from the next phase of living abroad