How to prepare yourself for volunteering abroad vs the reality
So, it’s really happening… I am going to live abroad for one year in Sweden. But how to prepare yourself for one year of ESC volunteering abroad?
These are the things which I can recommend to do:
- Find and follow the Instagram/Facebook accounts of your new city, region, cultural places, cafés, second hands, outlets… or any other places of your interest in the city to which you are moving. Try to find these useful places in advance before you will leave your home country. In my case, it gave me already the nice vibes of the new place and it saved my time – because when I arrived in Sweden, I was busy for the first weeks. And if I would know that second hand shops are so cool here and have things in such a great quality (not only clothes but basically everything useful for household) I would not pack so many things with me.
- Start to learn the new language at Duolingo or any other app. I’ve started two months before my arrival to Sweden and at least it helped me with pronunciation and during my first grocery shoppings.
- Think about a way how to save your memories during your European Solidarity Corps project. I’ve established a special Instagram account just for my year abroad and I’m trying to have one post per day. Sometimes it is in Czech, sometimes in English and the aim is not to have a professional account but just to collect small fragments of my stay. I know myself and I wouldn’t be able to write my thoughts to a physical diary, so this online form is for me the easiest way. Anyway, you can be as creative as you want by saving your memories: you can make videos, write articles or compose poems.
- Find out when are the elections in your home country and if you could do something to vote in them. Usually, it’s a lot of paperwork to get the voter permission/card so it’s better to start early. Maybe you will have to go to the capital city of your new country to vote in the embassy or maybe even make a trip to your home country. I’ve chosen the second option as one of my best friends had her wedding on the same weekend so it was a 2in1 trip for me.
- Before you will leave your home country, visit your doctors for a preventive health check. I’ve visited my general practitioner, dentist, ophthalmologist, gynecologist, allergist… now you maybe think that I’m hypochondriac but I’d rather visit the doctor as long as I’m still healthy and not when I’m already getting sick.
- Make sure that you have a bank account in EUR when you’re still in your home country. Usually, you can find some banks where you’re not paying any annual fee so opening the new euro account was not a problem for me. The reason is that sometimes it could be tricky to open a bank account in the country where you’re making your ESC project. For example, in Sweden, you have to have your Swedish personal number (you have to apply for it at the tax office and you will not have it immediately) and also the Swedish ID (which costs 40 EUR) to be able to open the bank account in Swedish krona. So I just told my coordinating organization that I want to receive my food and pocket money in euros to my euros account.
- Write the message to the previous volunteers. It’s really nice to hear some pieces of advice from people who already experienced the same place, job, and accommodation. Some of the questions I’ve asked: „Is there something what would you like to take with you from your home country but you forget about it during packaging? Is your room fully equipped or you had to buy some stuff after arriving? Is there anything you would do differently if you look back?“ If you’re still unsure, you can also ask your coordinating organization of course.
But of course, you can’t prepare yourself for everything. And it’s totally OK. My last protip: don’t pack with you the hiking shoes if the highest point of the region into which you are moving in has 377 meters. Verified for you.
This is me:
- My name is Andrea and I am 28 years old from Ostrava, Czech Republic.
- I am ESC volunteer at Globala Kronoberg in Växjö, Sweden, where I help with media and communication from September 2021 till August 2022.
- You can write me a message to my personal account @365dnivesvedsku to see my year in Sweden or to ask me any question about ESC.