Merhaba! I’m Izabela, 23 years old and I spent two months in Ankara, Turkey doing my EVS project. Was it worth it? Am I recommending EVS experience? You’re about to find out.

When anybody asks me, why Turkey, I always answer that it wasn’t like I chose Turkey but Turkey chose me. I’m during my gap year, so as it is commonly assumed it’s time for travelling. I hadn’t any specific country I want to visit, nor things I want to do. The only thing I was aware of was my will to travel abroad, no matter where. I found out about EVS projects by accident and applied for some random ones. My project, Meeting of Generations hosted by System & Generation was first to answer my application, so I was like – why not? Ok, I’m kidding, decision was the hardest part of my experience. I talked a lot with my friends, family, hosting and sending organisation. I was afraid of losing my job, taking a break of my volunteering in Poland and most of all that I’m doing it due to social pressure, not because I want it. Words aren’t enough to express how much support and kindness I got; people understood my fears and at the same time enabled my journey. So I took my stuff and flew to Turkey.

My project focused mostly on disabled people but it was a mix of everything. In addition to this activity, me and other volunteers were teaching English in one school, taking part in meetings with politics, hosting language exchange, working in the office and many many more one-shot actions.

What I really want to share with you is my experience of disabled people’s attitude, which I was happy to came across especially in the cafeteria I was working. Cafe Down is small cafeteria in the centre of Ankara. Almost all of staff has mental disabilities, not to mention nobody speaks English there so communication was a challenge. Many times we didn’t understand what they want us to do and they didn’t understand what we need. However, despite that everyone were so thrilled that we’re there. We weren’t able to give them much, just a little help in cleaning dishes or making tea, we couldn’t give them even a small talk but that didn’t matter. All we could give and all they needed was our time. Time spent together meant everything. How wonderful philosophy; everyone, no matter of age, religion, country, education is able to give and receive time and that’s enough.

Disabled people taught me that I don’t need anything more from people that are willing to see me. It’s like disability opens their eyes for this simple truth that I can’t see. That’s of course not everything I learned during my EVS. But what I find important is the fact that not everything I learned was so beautiful as the lesson above. I found out that what I considered my strength isn’t this strong as I thought. I found out about my new flaws. Everyone before my EVS told me that it would be the greatest experience in my entire life. Everyone said that travelling is so amazing. I blindly believed in all this stuff without any thought and that was my bad. During the journey bad things happened too. And it wasn’t like excitement all the time, I faced everyday’s life and even boredom there. It was my first real journey abroad and the first time I really felt like foreign somewhere, so it was a surprise to find out that there’s something beyond all this great adventures that people always talking about when giving you speech about their travels.

Okay, I’ve got probably little too deep into this but I really hope that my experience and words will be helpful for someone who’s not sure whether to make EVS or not. For me it was worth it, even if I learned there that I did it because of social pressure and travelling is not for me. Now I know that everyone is different and I don’t have to feel about something the same way most people feel. It’s a surprise that it took all of this for me to finally get to know that. Take care and see you somewhere somehow!

Text and pictures by Izabela

The project was organised within the framework of the European Solidarity Corps and financed by European Commission.