Hej, hej! (See how advanced I am becoming in Swedish?)
The end of May was genuinely interesting as we took part in the on-arrival training in Stockholm. Yep, we travelled to the capital! How exciting… But what was this training about and why was it that important? Well, basically, one of the aims is to gather new volunteers together, so you end up befriending people who live all over the country. Great! Now you have friends you can no longer hang out with! But on the other hand, what a great excuse to travel! And maybe you will be provided with a bed… or a tent… or at least the best guided tour ever! The coin has always two sides…
But of course, the training is not only about socializing and making new friends, it should also enable you to communicate in a multicultural environment, gain information about your rights as a volunteer, likewise liabilities and maybe you will find out you have strengths, weaknesses and skills you did not even know about.
“It was so nice to see the group’s dynamic. As much as we grew up in different cultures, we always find something in common to talk about. And for me, once again, how borders and politics are not important, and communication is the key between people.”
– Bilgesu (Turkey)
How did we start our training? With meal… And why not, it is always better when you start conversations naturally! Like when you are wild-guessing what that strange thing in the bowl is or while laughing at each other for enormous portions of their helpings. And now… do you truly believe any icebreaker would be better? But do not worry, proper teambuilding activities came later, and we spent really nice afternoons outside, roasting on the sun, laughing and praying for fika. Oh yeah, fika, do not let me start with that… Is that a first word everyone learns in Sweden? Only here we realized how vital part in the lives of Swedes fika is.
Apart eating, which was, frankly, quite often, we shared our own experiences and expectations, our values. Throughout our stay we were encouraged to express ourselves in our own way, be as much creative as we wanted…
“The training reminded me what I really want to do in EVS. Made me inspired with other people’s ideas.”
– Efe (Turkey)
Trainers helped us to realize what role we play in EVS or ESC program and guided us to gain the most out of this experience.
“It was an amazing way of starting my journey as a volunteer, since it made me understand better about the programme, connect with people that are doing the same all over the country and feel like a part of the European Union.”
– Ana Patrícia (Portugal)
Yet in order to live happily in Sweden, first of all you have to understand Swedes. That wonderful training how to negotiate in a different culture probably will not help if you state that you do not like kannelbulle (a cinnamon bun). Swedes have a special day to celebrate this pastry, you will not survive long if violating their sweet pride! And therefore, we luckily gained insights into the Swedish history and culture during the training as well. We spent one wonderful afternoon in the centre, wandering around in Stockholms Medeltidsmuseum (Museum of Medieval Stockholm), Armémuseum (Army Museum) and Historiska Museet (The Swedish History Museum). Needless to say, it explained some things and traits that are nowadays rooted in the Swedish culture and society’s perception and it undoubtedly enriched our knowledge. Have you known that to some extent there had been gender equality already in medieval times? Naked Swedes rolling dices in shared bathrooms, or women and men both possessing the right to do some of the professions, and earning almost the same money. Of course, some other activities followed, and it is fair to say that even in a given year we will not be able to understand completely everything.
What I personally found precious was that we inspired each other to be more open to try new things and cherish seemingly unimportant things in our lives. We let the flow of spontaneity lead us and enjoy the here and now.
”It was a powerful week. I learned how to allow myself to dream big and the power of perception on and off itself. It has been the catalyst for a paradigm shift to start occurring inside me and the best way to put it is quote: ‘When nothing is certain, everything is possible’.”
– Yiangos (Cyprus)
“We have gathered together from many countries and ages. I was touched by individual’s openness in meeting each other and sharing presence and experiences. Sharing our humanness and reminding what we are here for. Connection and exploration.”
– Tjaša (Slovenia)
I am very grateful for thoughts my “co-volunteers” shared as learning how others perceived those four days made me think about it from different angles. The power of non-formal education is that even though you realize you are supposed to learn something, in the end you leave surprised as the outcome differs from person to person.
- repeat everything twice if you want to be as cool as Swedes; like “hej, hej” (hi, hi) or “tack, tack (så mycket)” (thanks, thanks (very much))
- never ever question fika, survival rule no 1, who knows what might happen if you skip one or two, rather do not try your luck
- a bit of socializing never killed anyone
- already looking forward to the mid-term meeting; not that I would like to have only a couple of last months as a volunteer left
If you have any questions regarding to volunteering or any other program in scope of Erasmus+, do not hesitate to contact us, you know where to find us.