How to find yourself aboard
Hi, My name is Tsvetomira. All my life people in Bulgaria were calling me Tsve or Tsveti… and than I started travelling… Maybe some of you do not realize to what extent travelling (and especially living abroad) changes you. I have never been abroad until I was 23, except for three days on an organized bus trip to Greece. And then I went on a project for young journalists from my university in Indonesia for three weeks, all by myself. You can imagine of course how shocked my friends and my family were. But I went. I found the contacts of the Ministry of transportation and arranged an interview in Jakarta, for which I had to find accommodation and plane tickets by myself. It was the first time I travelled by plane and used Couchsurfing (online network where local people share their home with foreigners on a voluntary basis). While I was there, I wrote four articles about the problems of traffic in Jakarta; about the most polluted river in the world – Tsitarum; about religious diversity and religious tolerance. I met great people who helped me to achieve all that. I even learned Indonesian before going and practiced it there. Once you experience the touch of a new culture, this new self, which is so eager to say to everything “Challenge accepted”, no matter how new, unknown or scary it is, you never want to stop it, and you can never be your old self again. This is why I discovered the Erasmus + Youth Exchanges and Training courses. My first stop was in Palermo, Italy, where I participated in a project for Youth Entrepreneurship. Until then, I never practiced speaking English so much, so it was challenging for me. But the part that surprised me the most was that I had to basically change my name while I was there, because for the other participants it was really hard to say “Tsvetomira”, as the letter “Ц” (Ts) does not exist in their languages. So everybody started calling me Mira, which I always hated until then. But this was my rebranded self, which I carried around my next stops on exchanges in Turkey, Portugal and Spain. Short term projects were an amazing experience, but still there was something missing for me. I have always felt sorry I did not go for a semester abroad with the Erasmus + programme; I was secretly jealous of the stories my friend and colleagues were telling me. And then I went for one semester to the Jagiellonian University in Krakow, to finish my Master degree in European Studies. I found my new self again in Poland, written on the wall of a flat in the suburbs of Wroclaw (refer to the photo). This was the moment when I realized that it is not only important to find yourself abroad, but also to embrace it. When you go on different places, your “self” also changes. “Mira” found her new confirmation volunteering on an EVS project in Naples for 6 months. This was a life changing experience – not being said only as a cliché, but with an outcome I have never imagined. I met a good friend from Bosnia and Herzegovina, which came later on the Italian Civil Service project in Bulgaria. After her volunteering finished, she became my flatmate. A month after that, her friend she met in the project in Bulgaria came to visit her, and now this friend happens to be my boyfriend. I decided also to apply for the Civil Service project, which brought me to Uzice, Serbia. If I did not go volunteering abroad, I would have never known about “Corpi Civili di pace” (Italian Civil Service Peace Corps), I would have one boyfriend and one flatmate less, and I would not be writing this article. Here in Serbia I am back to Tsveta, which is a bit different interpretation of the original. Already with expanded vision, calmer about the challenges lying ahead of her for this year abroad. What are my expectations? Learn more, do more, teach more, give more, travel more. Stress less, be less negative, eat less ☺ At the end no matter where you go, no matter how people there call you, you are you. Improved, more experienced, and a better version of your own self. Movement is the key to progress, so just bring yourself around the world and see what happens. And trust me, the more you give on the way, the more you will get back at the end.