Mare’s Blog

Macedonia through EVS – Umut Blog
Mony´s blog
Macedonia through EVS – Umut Blog
Mony´s blog

For the past three months, I have been in Bitola. I cannot tell you how much my perspective of the world and myself has 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 was 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 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, but 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 needed to overcome it, or at least not let it hold me back.

The quote below pushed me to accept the volunteer position at 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 your comfort zone. To start life, you need to push yourself to learn and experience the most. It is 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. I managed to do that 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 thing that will help is practice. How scary this may sound! What did help me was to talk with people about this fear and see why I was 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 difficult if you have a strong suspicion that something went horribly wrong. I know you would rather banish the bad memory. However, reflecting will help you improve so that you do not repeat the same mistake. It is really the most important part of 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 things I could improve on. In the next lesson, I changed some things. I also talked slower and with shorter sentences. The lesson was not perfect, but it definitely improved.

Not all the days were easy. Some days are harder than others. 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 about 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 have met and will hopefully meet. The past three months wouldn’t have been the same without them. The best memories I have are the ones with my new friends.

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

Further, I find the Macedonian culture truly fascinating. You can learn about culture, but really experiencing it is so much different but so much better. There are so many holidays that I have never heard of. I also learned a lot about Dutch culture. It 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 things. It was only when I came here and saw how different things were 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 people are less likely to stick around because it doesn’t fit into their schedule. Spontaneous appointments are less common in the Netherlands. This makes it 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’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 of 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 politely and are more direct. That is also because talking directly increases efficiency, something the Dutch are unconsciously very serious about.

“If culture were 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, and 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 offers 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 five more months. I cannot wait for what the future holds for me.