I am Shahrzad from Turkey. I am 23 years old. I was a European Voluntary Service volunteer in Sfera Macedonia in Bitola, Macedonia for 2 months.
After I finished my bachelor degree in Istanbul, Turkey, I decided to volunteer. Then I started to work as an educator of entrepreneurship in Istanbul. After that, I decided to get some international experience. I prefer to choose the project instead of the country because I think that the project is more important than the country where you will do the EVS. So, I was very happy and excited when Sfera Macedonia sent me an e-mail of acceptance.
In the beginning, I didn’t really know what to expect. I just knew that being able to say I changed something in the world, in the lives of others, I was here for it.
The first week was more like an orientation week. I arrived Bitola and met with Belinda, my lovely roommate, Diva, Beatriz who are lovely Portuguese volunteers, integrated into another short term EVS program in Sfera Macedonia and the rest of Sfera Macedonia organization team, Milcho, Imma, and Mende.
I visited around Bitola and the Old Turkish Bazaar to compare similarities between Turkish and Macedonian culture. I was trying to analyze the Turkish culture in Bitola based on my visits, which meant walking around a lot to get to know the city!
During the 2 months, I was glad to take part in plenty of events. Sfera Macedonia organized very useful youth development workshops for local youth. I took part in these workshops. My working schedule was fixed from 10:00 to 15:00, and every morning we were meeting with Imma and Milcho to review our weekly works. Besides all these, I participated in the other activities that were organized by Sfera Macedonia such as Sfera art attack, Sfera floorball, intercultural night, movie nights, game nights and cleaning action days. Also, I had the opportunity to organize some cultural activities such as Turkish chai time and Turkish Day.
Moreover, I received Macedonian lessons, which turned out to be really useful to communicate to the community.
To experience a new culture is always an adventure. To learn a new language and taste new food, to see a different way of youth work, to get to know new people… All of that has motivated me a lot. I was encouraged to step out of my comfort zone and to throw myself in at the deep end. I learned a lot in these 2 months, like how to teach the next generation, how to organize youth events, and how to be open-minded and include everyone. With some challenges and difficulties, but also with laughter and all the banter, it was a 2 months which I was privileged to be a part of.
I could say that I have developed several types of skills, namely organizational and social skills. Organizational skills thanks to all the workshops organized, that improved my time management and creativity skills, in order to create the flyers, organize the information and to teach the interested people that showed up at our activities. Social skills because we had to deal with, as well as to interact with people with different places and perspectives, which required from us, the role of facilitator.
EVS is not only about working and projects. Due to our schedule flexibility, together with the EVS volunteers from Portugal, we had the chance to visit several places in Macedonia, with the help of Sfera Macedonia. While here we visited the capital, Skopje, as well as Ohrid, Struga, Prilep, and Bitola (including the surroundings). Besides Macedonia, we had the chance to visit foreign cities, such as Athens and Thessaloniki in Greece.