Stowarzyszenie Projektów Międzynarodowych „INPRO”

Expect the Unexpected

Expect the Unexpected

Written by Aleksandra Dimcheva

It is a chilly September evening in Rzeszow, Poland, and one of the last ones I am going to spend in the country before going back to Bulgaria. Hearing the passing train outside the hostel which sound slowly disappears in the distance got me thinking about the past two months — the time of my volunteering program at INPRO (International Projects Association).

If somebody told me last year that I would spend summer 2020 participating in a European Solidarity Corps project, I would take that statement really skeptically. Firstly, because I did not know at all how this program works and secondly, because I had totally different plans for this summer. Yet, here I am and I am reflecting on the adventure I experienced called “Youth and the City 2020”.

I came to Rzeszow with little knowledge about the Polish culture, cuisine, lifestyle, and zero expectations about the people I am going to meet here. Even though during the project I was with an open mind and taking everything as it comes, I had two occasions when I was completely mind-blown from what I was experiencing.

The first one took place on the second day of my arrival. That was the time when I met some of the most amazing and interesting international people here who turned out to be fellow participants in the project — the boys from Pakistan. At that moment I got to know how some non-Europeans feel when I tell them that I am from Bulgaria — a complete confusion in terms of where it is located and what language we speak. Yes, that is how I was with Pakistan because, back then, never had I met Pakistani people in my life.

Currently, I am proud to say that I know far more things about their culture, I tried their cuisine, I learned some of their traditional dances and I am even up to date with their politics. Oh, and I also sang songs in Urdu.

Even though “Youth and the City 2020” improved many skills in me such as teamwork, time management, and leadership, what I mostly take from this experience is the people. In my opinion, what matters at the end of the day is the friendships, the shared moments, and the exchanged knowledge.

That is why the second very precious to me occasion on the project “Youth and the City 2020” was also connected with people. That was the moment after attending an event organized by INPRO when I found myself playing Jenga and talking to people from Ukraine, Poland, Spain, Vietnam, Morocco, Pakistan, and Jamaica in a local pub. Despite having been in an international atmosphere before, I would have never imagined that I would meet in the same place people who come from so different parts of the world. It was, indeed, one of the best experiences ever.

In conclusion, I would say that yes, I had no expectations about what a European Solidarity Corps project had in store for me. Yet, they got exceeded.

The train outside the hostel is not audible anymore. However, I am glad I got to hear it because now I know that changing my plans for summer 2020 was worth it.