which way is up?

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On my long-term European Voluntary Service

The European Voluntary Service – now rebranded as the European Solidarity Corps – sends Europeans aged 18-30 to work or volunteer in their own country or abroad for a few weeks up to 12 months. After doing a short-term 5 weeks project in Cyprus I decided to apply for a long-term project in Wroclaw, Poland.


It has now been two months since I moved to Poland. This has been my experience.




I am a 25 year old Romanian woman. I’ve lived abroad before, specifically when I moved to Sweden to study Human Rights at Malmo University. Having lived with flatmates in an international context before, I felt pretty comfortable with my ability to adapt and flourish in a new, strange environment. I wasn’t entirely wrong.


Let’s start with the practical aspects: the ECS (European Solidarity Corps) will reinburse your travel expenses – from your home country to your project country and back), will provide food money and pocket money as well as a “student-type” accomodation. That practically means that you will not be living a lavish lifestyle unless you use your own savings or are good at budgeting – which, if you’re 18-30, is rather unlikely (sorry for generalizing). Onwards with practicalities, you WILL be sharing your flat and more than likely, your room. Now, this particular aspect can have its difficulties, depending on how well you get along with these people.


In my experience, both ESC projects have had “that” person. You know, the one who gets on your nerves and makes you re-evaluate this whole experience. The one who challenges your whole ability to control your emotions and reactions. The one who reminds you it’s illegal to hit another person, the one who makes you say things you’re not heard yourself say very often. This is one of the biggest challenges of an ESC project – and it can actually help both you and “that” person grow. Being self-aware means – in my understanding – looking at your reactions and emotions and trying to understand them and, perhaps, if necessary, tweak them a little bit to achieve better results. In such a project, you might be challenged to do just that every week.. Or every day.


From budgeting your income, learning how to cook, becoming responsible for the cleansiness of your WHOLE apartment, learning why you shouldn’t wash white clothes with colored clothes and also why you should ALWAYS lock your bathroom door, to budgeting your time, the ESC is full of new experiences. And not all of them are positive.


Sometimes you have to share your flat with a person who pushes your limits. Sometimes you hear the door open and you know it’s them and you internally cringe. Sometimes you don’t want to see anybody and sometimes you’re aching to see your friends back home – or your friends from around the world, if you’re a more international type of person. Sometimes you miss your mother’s cooking and sometimes you’re just not in the mood to clean the apartment. Sometimes you just wish you could speak your mother tongue – and you’re painfully reminded that you’re living in a country where they don’t speak your mother tongue.. Or English.


This is why the ESC offers language classes – mandatory classes. You can choose to treat this as an opportunity if there’s a particular language or culture you’ve been interested in exploring. In case you’ve been wondering, yes, Polish is terribly difficult. There’s so many dz, cz, sz, pr and w in EVERYTHING. Sometimes I look at a word and I wonder how the hell that’s a word and not something somebody uttered while having a seizure. However you can choose to see this as an inconvenience or as an opportunity to learn and expand your mind. Or as both 🙂


From expanding your mind to expanding your group of friends to expanding your list of visited countries and cities and expanding your set of experiences, the ESC is whatever you make of it. You can choose a project that advances your career, you can choose a project that is close to your heart although professionally irrelevant, you can try something new for a few weeks. You can fall in love with a culture, a country, a person. You can meet people who will be your friends forever, you can discover yourself in a new light. It’s all up to you.

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Go all the way

If you’re going to try, go all the way.

Otherwise, don’t even start.”


It’s been two weeks since I moved to Poland. I’m doing an EVS – European Voluntary Service program working in a primary school as a sort of a teaching assistant. The school’s structure involves a lot of freedom, both for the children and the teachers, which is great, but also a challenge. I am free to offer the children my own workshops, lessons, games and learning materials, which is something I have never truly done before. It’s exciting, but all this freedom also comes with the pressure of having to offer excellent materials. The school’s structure also involves the child’s freedom to reject my lessons if they get bored. Previous volunteers present both praise and negative comments. Some have used the free time to learn and better themselves while others have found the children’s rejection unbearable – and quit the program.

As for me, I have become relatively desensitized to rejection. I am fully unafraid of children’s rejection, but I do dearly want to create something that they will find useful and interesting. A shocker – I want to do well at my job.

The living situation is good as well – I share my room with what seems to be a wonderful Italian girl and another room is inhabited by an equally lovely Spanish dude. The energy is really nice between the three of us, but by October another person will be assigned to our apartment.  Not worried about it tho.

Overall there are 10 people doing this EVS and most of them want to go out like 4-5 times a week after work. I used to think I’m a social butterfly who needs communication and socializing but these days I’ve rather tapped into my inner hermit and more often than not I reject their invitations in favor of nice evenings spent alone on the balcony listening to music and thinking of life or watching classic movies. While I do ever so slightly worry about being perceived as a closed off person, I give everything I have when I do accept their invitations. Lately I prefer to socialize intensely for a few hours and then take the rest of the evening for myself and it feels like a perfect balance.

Sadly, losing my luggage means that all of my running gear is gone, which subsequently means that I have to improvise at-home workouts in my jeans or in my underwear if I am alone. It’s less than ideal but more than nothing. Because I am still adapting to this new life, I wake up too late to incorporate a workout and when I come home I feel too tired, but I push myself as much as I can and squeeze in 10-15 minutes. More than nothing, less than ideal. Working on it.

Another unfortunate effect of losing my luggage is losing my books. The only solution was allocating a significant chunk of my pocket money to buying new books. No regrets.

As for my love life, empty as the space between stars. Feeling okay about this whole thing, but it would be nice to meet my guy. THE guy. Wherever you are dude, I’m waiting for you.

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On gaining weight

I’m not sure how it happened. The drinking, the partying, the subsequent junk food, the chaotic sleep schedule?

The stress?

I am determined to undo the madness that I’ve imposed on my body. I started – once more – running regularly and I’ve started – once more – my push-up training.

Now the most annoying part must come – eating healthy. To be honest I would much rather work out a little more and eat that extra slice of pizza, but being on the wrong side of my twenties means making a little extra effort. It doesn’t help that I’m currently sharing my accomodation with the thinnest 18 year old I have ever seen.

Cheers to diet and exercise.


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Broken chair

And as, the days, go by
It makes you wonder why
You try so hard, so hard
To mend what’s bound to fall apart

Ooh maybe it’s time
To let it go

Ooh maybe it’s time, time, time
For anything at all

Time, time, time

To let it all fall
Where it may

And as your life goes on
You deal with what comes along
Some friends, they come and stay
Some leave and..

go their way.

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Biopsy. I’m not surprised at all that I ended up going to the hospital alone. It is, after all, just as I imagined it. I imagined a future where I would be alone and I am. It’s not distressing or frightening, I am only feeling the slight angst of a person who is facing their own mortality for the first time.

Biopsy. I’ve been fearing it and putting it off, but it feels so natural and neutral to be in this waiting room right now. Just another visit to the hospital, just preparing for minor surgery.

Afterwards i’ll go to the gym.

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Dear Mr. You

How strange it is to be writing to you under this particular set of circumstances. Time sure flew by. By the time I stopped feeling hurt by your disappearance, I met another man who hurt me by disappearing. Circle of life. I know in a few days this too shall pass, but right now i am feeling the brunt of it. Of all people, to be writing to you.. I won’t even qualify it. It was an instinct.

What can i say? He was like a whirlwind. Came out of nowhere, showed me a good time. Seemed a little distant and unimpressed the whole time. This type, the high-adrenaline type who’s lived it all before he met you, sure is hard to deal with – especially when you’ve spent the past 8 years being a fucking housewife and then two more pining over not being a housewife anymore. I’m basically living my teenage years in my late 20s, which is about as lame as it sounds.

So whatever new and exciting thing I’ve done with him was already meh for him. Not completely unlike my time with you – everything that seemed sweet and amazing for me had already lost its flavor for you. Of course this is just one aspect of a multifaceted situation, but it’s the most salient one. So I guess I’m whining over emotional pain. Clearly as I know that the sharpness of the pain will dull in a few days, I’m still struggling with it now. Coming off of the love drug sure is hard, especially after a few intense days of being with him and getting used to having him there. Damned chemicals forging addiction. Cuddling throughout the night, a double-edged sword. It brought me joy and it’s bringing me sorrow.

It’s not even a dramatic situation. There’s no hard feelings between us and I’m sure that were I to return to Malmo one day and were we both single, we’d just reprise our little pseudorelationship. The facts are, I’m leaving. I know what kind of work I want to do and none of the relevant institutions are in Sweden. He likes me, but not enough to make dramatic life changes to continue what we have going. So in a few days, the curtain will go down on our show. This is a bit like fearing a paper cut after going through open heart surgery without any kind of anaesthesia – i know I’ve been through worse and I know I’ll be fine. I’ll be better because of this experience, I’ve lived beautifully with him and learned. I did things I never expected I’d do and I grew. Overall I’m glad I met him and I’m glad he was in my life. It makes me excited when I think I will most likely meet other people and learn from them as well.

I just get a little emotional when an experience comes to an end. It’s human to do so, after all. I hate being emotional when rationally this termination is the best option but here I am. Torn between wanting to live the pain and feel the pain and at the same time, wanting to just shake it off as an unnecessary evil.

Addiction. The desire for human connection. The desire for human touch. Powerful weapons. Most of the time, we aim these at ourselves. I try to rise above them, float peacefully above emotional turbulence. But imagine getting high all day every day for three days. I’m torn between wanting to get off the ride and wanting to get another ticket. Torn between wanting to have as much of him as possible before we leave and fearing an overdose. At the same time, I know I am strong enough to deal with this pain.

And I’m a bit of a masochist.. I do this to myself.