Mare’s Blog

English by speaking
November 24, 2021
Art Attack of December 2021
December 20, 2021

For the past three months, I have been in Bitola. I cannot tell you how much my perspective of the world and myself have changed in the past three months. Before I tell you more about my experience let me introduce myself.


My name is Marit but everybody calls me Mare. I am from the Netherlands and I am 19-years old. Deciding to come to Bitola for 8 months is one of the scariest things I did. The only thing I could hope for is that the experience would change me for the better. I never thought that I would go for the project that SFERA offered me. It is so much outside of my comfort zone. The project that I am currently doing is about teaching people about Microsoft Office. Before I got here I already knew how Microsoft Office worked only with teaching I had no experience. In school, subjects were taught to me, not the other way around. Further, there was my fear of speaking in front of a group of people. This is a fear I  have had my whole life. Having this fear was holding me back, so I need to overcome this fear. Or at least not let it hold me back.



The quote below pushed me to accept the volunteer position in SFERA. Definitely, my life and work in Bitola would be outside of my comfort zone. But if that is the place where life starts I will start to live. It is not that I never did things outside of my comfort zone, but it is easier to live inside of your comfort zone. To start life, you need to push yourself to learn and experience the most. Something worth taking a risk for.

“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”

~ Neale Donald Walsch ~

Now three months later I can tell you that the fear of speaking in front of people has not disappeared. But I did learn how to manage my nerves. I am calmer when speaking in front of people and more confident. How I managed that was just by speaking more in front of a group of people. It also helps to care less. The perfect tip doesn’t exist, the only that will help is to practise. How scary this may sound. What did help me is to talk with people about this fear and see why you are scared. Especially the why part is important to tackle the fear. One of the things that helped me improve was to reflect. This can be hard if you had the feeling it went very bad. I know you would rather banish the bad memory. But reflecting will help you improve, so you do not make the same mistake over and over again. It is really the most import part in the learning process.

“It is only a mistake if you don´t learn from it.”

~ Jayne Ann Krentz ~

After reflecting on my first lesson I found out things I could improve. In the next lesson, I changed some things. I also talked slower and with shorter sentences. The lesson went not perfect but it definitely improved.



Not all the days were easy. Some days are harder than other. What helped me was meeting with my friends. It is amazing how easy it is to make friends. Before coming to North-Macedonia I never thought how closed Dutch people actually are. I hope that when I go back to the Netherlands I will take the hospitality of North Macedonia with me.


I am so grateful for all the people that I already met and hopefully will meet. The past three months wouldn’t be the same without them. The best memories I have are the ones with my new friends.

The friends I made also thought me a lot about their culture. Before coming to North Macedonia, I only knew the country excited. Now I know so much more. In school, I learned a lot about the history of the world but now I found out how little I actually know about the world. I also found out that my view of history is not always in line with what other people have learned. Which version is true, I cannot tell you.

Further, I find the Macedonian culture truly fascinating You can learn about culture but really experience it is so much different but so much better. There are so many holidays that I never heard of. I also learned a lot about Dutch culture. Did may sound a little weird, but let me explain.

Culture has a lot of influence on people. It creates a certain way of thinking and approaching. It was only when I came here and saw how different things went, that I realized how strange some things about Dutch culture are. It also showed me what an effect culture can have on an entire society.



In North Macedonia, people are much more relaxed and less stressed. They love to socialize and chat all day long. It bears much less resemblance to Dutch orderliness and effectiveness. Because the Dutch plan everything, we are less spontaneous. Dutch are less likely to stick around because it doesn’t fit into their schedule. Spontaneous appointments are a less common in the Netherlands. This makes it more harder to make friends. The orderliness also ensures that things are arranged quickly. If a job can be done by one person, chances are that only one person will do the job. Here it’s a different story. Four people can work on a job that is “meant to be” for one person. This makes it more fun, but it also ensures that less can be done in one day. It is also much less commonly asked somebody “how they are doing” in the Netherlands. We will only ask if we are genuinely interested. There are of course exceptions to this. In Dutch we ask much fewer things out politely and we are more direct. That is also because talking directly increases efficiency, something the Dutch are unconsciously very serious about.

“If culture was a house, then language was the key to the front door, to all the rooms inside.”

~Khaled Hosseini ~

It surprised me how much the way I think is influenced by my culture. Furthermore, speaking more English has also changed the way I think. In English, I am more likely to ask “How are you?”. I think differently when speaking English. Once I learned how language can change the way you think. But experiencing it is different but it has so much more impact.

My experience in SFERA, so far, is also worth telling. Working for SFERA is so much more than doing my project. I am involved in many events and projects.  This made the past three months really diverse and interesting. Furthermore, the people that work in SFERA and with SFERA are nice. Lastly the freedom SFERA offered is nice. It was something I needed to get used to. Now I am glad that they let me do my own thing without constant supervision.

I am so glad that I will be here for another 5 more months. I cannot wait for what the future holds for me.

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