Almost two months after the project, I can say that my main goals about this short-term EVS were accomplished: I faced new challenges in many aspects (cultural, personal, communicative, etc.) getting out of my comfort zone. Thus, I had the opportunity to discover other cultures, know more about their traditions and history and meet new people not only in Macedonia but also during my trips around the Balkans.
Furthermore, with this Erasmus+ program, I had the chance to increase my intercultural awareness, improve my language skills in English, learn the Macedonian language and acquire new things, like playing Floorball, which is a type of floor hockey with five field players, developed in the 1960s and 1970s in Sweden.
Regarding the cultural heritage, Bitola is the opposite of Europe, which is richer, and the few monuments that the city has look abandoned. In terms of habits, they are completely different from us: less open-minded towards new and different things. However, I met some Macedonians and I can say that they were really kind and good-hearted.
During my stay, I had the chance to develop new ideas, participate in and lead workshops about personal and professional development, communication and leadership. Thus, one of the tasks for the Portuguese volunteers (Beatriz Viegas, Diva Carvalho and me) was to teach our language to the community of Bitola while sharing our heritage and culture. It was, for sure, what I enjoyed the most. Actually, we were not expecting to have a large number of people showing up in our first lesson. For our surprise, we had to split the class in two, so we held Portuguese lessons twice a week. Some of the students were language teachers, which made the lessons more interactive and interesting for all of us.
Since it was our first time teaching Portuguese to foreigners, it allowed us to learn teaching techniques, including time management as well as organizational, interactive and evaluation skills. We developed our creativity in order to prepare an interesting approach towards our students and keep them motivated. At the end of the lessons, we received good feedback from them, who encouraged us to continue with this work. Hence, I will return to my lovely country even more proud of our culture and I’m looking forward to teach Portuguese to foreigners again.
As I mentioned before, we were lucky to have made some travels through the Balkans and we visited other countries. Sofia, in Bulgaria, was our first destination outside Macedonia. There, the Square of Religious Tolerance gave me a strong vision about how to respect and accept differences and be more tolerant. Nowadays, despite all the religious conflicts, it is good to know that these values still exist and were put in practice in the past.
In terms of communication, I had to deal with different languages (English, Macedonian and Portuguese within my national group), present our projects to different audiences, which require different skills in speaking. Also, we had to take initiative, be active, learn about project management, action planning, teamwork and cooperation (all these are valuable experiences to my personal and professional development).
Thanks to this EVS, I learned and experienced a lot of things that I will bring with me for the future, such as the concept behind the SFERA Art Attack event (I found it a very good way to interpret and express ourselves, using art as a vehicle; the best idea to “cleanse” our mind sometimes).
Finally, I found out that an EVS is about learning how to learn and improve – ourselves as human beings and as team workers – because this is how you can succeed when you want to be part of an international group. You must know how to be responsible, organized, how to find new ways to motivate yourself, be aware of your strengths and weaknesses, collect outcomes and change a lot of times, always improving in order to reach the goals. It was, for sure, a great experience that I strongly recommend to everyone if you are curious about this big world outside our comfortable small box. This is a unique opportunity to discover ourselves and change something in our world. For me, it was so exciting to leave Portugal and, for the first time, move to a foreign country which I didn’t know anything about, not even the language. However, I made it and I’m glad to say it!