Izabella Eck. Photo: Mana Kaasik
What is the European Solidarity Corps?
The European Solidarity Corps (ESC) helps young people take part in projects that benefit communities, either abroad or in their own country, though most opportunities through the ESC are cross-border volunteering activities. These projects are an excellent opportunity to help where needed, learn new skills, spend time abroad, maybe even learn a language – and definitely return with unforgettable memories.
The ESC provides a range of support services for participants, to ensure not only that you make the most out of your experience, but also that you learn as much as you can. On-arrival training is one of these events for participants in long-term activities that give continuous guidance and support throughout the journey. It helps you to adapt to cultural and personal challenges, learn about your rights and obligations, develop intercultural communication skills and get to know other participants.
Training in Pärnu
This month I had the chance to spend five days in Pärnu for my on-arrival training. The participation was optional, accommodation, food and travel expenses were covered. All together there were 16 volunteers from 14 countries, all of them working in different cities in Estonia. Most of them work in Tallinn with children and people with mental or physical disabilities.
On the first couple of days we mainly talked about ourselves, our projects and how we ended up volunteering in Estonia. Most participants saw volunteering as an opportunity to travel, learn a language and to do something useful for the community.
Later, we spent our days learning more about Estonian culture and people. We shared our own experiences and did social research about the topic. We started every day with an Estonian language course and learning traditional dances. The coordinators taught us how to deal with cultural shock and being homesick. The training was also a great opportunity to make friends from different parts of the country, and we even had a chance to spend a day with our tutors from our hosting organisations.
I didn’t have any expectations about this training, but it turned out to be useful and also enjoyable. Meeting all these people made me realise that I’m not alone in this country and after these five days I felt more at home. We were able to talk about our difficulties, expectations and plans for the future. We have learnt how to deal with our emotions, how to make the most out of our projects and the time here. We have already started planning to visit each other, so I hope we will meet again soon!