Home away from home

Autor: Cristiana Sartore

I have been asked many times in the last two years why I volunteer, what is the scope that moves me and pushes me to go abroad for a long period. Sometimes it is hard for my friends at home to understand why I am doing this, especially why I am not looking for a “real” job in my home country, in order to have more stability and to be close to them and to my family. What they don’t see, is that there is a whole world to be explored, people to be met and cultures to be known. Voluntarism provides me with the opportunity to travel and gain more experience, skills and knowledge and it is useful to me as I would like to be a professional in the field of international cooperation. It broadens my horizons, shapes my perspective on many topics and, through all these experiences, I have now several places that I can call “home”. After university, I had the feeling that the only way to really understand the work environment I wanted to be in and to truly know the world and people who live on it, was to travel and work at the same time and voluntarism was the best way to combine those needs. Right after my master’s degree (literally two hours after being awarded with the certificate!) I jumped on a plane that took me to Bosnia and Herzegovina, where I volunteered for a whole year with an Italian NGO. I was living in Bihać, a small town at the border with Croatia. There I met many wonderful people, I learnt a lot, I grew as a person and I actually realized that I wanted to do that job. Certainly, it wasn’t a cup of tea all the time: I needed to adjust during the first months, winter was harsh, I was sharing my work and free time with other volunteers 24/7, I had to confront with a different culture… It took some effort, patience and deep understanding to go through all of this, but in the end it turned out to be one of the best years in my whole life and I definitely cried when I sat on the plain to go back home, the same one that took me there one year ago. I knew I wasn’t done with it: after few months I left again my home town to go to Prague for 5 months. I had a different kind of experience there, both because I was volunteering in an international office that deals with EU projects and also because Prague is an European capital city. It was different, but amazing as the previous one. I met wonderful people there as well, I acquired new skills and, from time to time, I feel the urge to go back and visit the amazing Prague and everyone there. Right now, I am a volunteer again! I am writing down my thoughts from Užice, Serbia, where I will live and work for ten months. So far, so good! I am thrilled to be back in the Balkans, people are welcoming and willing to know foreigners, I love local culture and traditions and I can’t wait to gain new skills and learn more. I am sharing this new experience with other 9 Italian volunteers, we make up a cool crew and the future perspective couldn’t be brighter: I am sure we will love being here, we will gain so much from this country and we’ll definitely cry on the flight back to Italy.

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