My coordinator Diana Paade from my coordinating organisation Tallinna Spordi ja Noorsoamet gives me every month a questionnaire about my European Voluntary Service. Here is the first one:
How would you describe your first 1,5 months of voluntary service? Which situations / events have been most significant for me and why?
My first 1,5 months were turbulent in terms of my mental health. I felt pretty fragile during the first weeks. Unstable, disoriented and anxious… as if I wouldn’t belong here. It was a strange period. When I was in Germany I thought that I would feel highly thrilled and over the moon when I arrive in Tallinn. But I felt the quite opposite in the beginning since I felt most of the time insecure about myself.. Everything was foreign, I didn’t know the people and thus, I was occasionally overthinking my behaviours. However, after attending the on-arrival training by the end of September in Viimsi and talking about Estonian mentality as well as talking to locals about certain behaviours, I stopped wondering what deeds might be right or wrong.
Overall, I would summarize especially the first month as an acclimatization period. I needed to get used to the new environment. But I would say that since I am since October in the so-called “Honeymoon Phase”. This October I went to a bunch of concert and met new people!!!
What are the positive aspects that you see in the experience of my voluntary life?
Let me just tell you shortly something about my time at highschool. The only thing I was focusing on during my A-levels was studying. I was often frustrated because I didn’t get the grades I wanted to have. All the time I put myself under pressure. The expectations I had for myself were too high. I compared myself to others and felt more frustrated when my classmates told me that they are pretty good at school although they actually didn’t give a damn about grades. It just happened that they were good at school. Gladly, everything went well in the end.
Honestly, I was kinda anti-social. I went to some concerts, but I didn’t go out partying. I wasn’t really socializing with people. And I didn’t take care of myself. I had panic attacks and anxiety. Yeah, a lot of messy things were happening during that time.
So, I really see the European Voluntary Service as a kind of liberation. It’s like I am a bird that left this high-school cage and is free now.
Positive aspects are…
- living independently
- having finally the time and resources to do the things I desire for a long time to do (like reading a lot of book and singing, etc.)
- learning a lot about myself and other people
- having the time to face my fears and insecurities
- meeting a bunch of nice people
- learning a lot about Estonia and Estonian language
What kind of challenges did you have and how you dealt with them?
I had to deal with some inconvenient moods like anxiety and insecurity.
I already felt that way in high school, because I was always thinking that I am weird and not good enough. Hence, especially when interacting in a group I behaved very awkwardly and strangely. I was seeking conversations only to find approval because I couldn’t approve and praise myself. Sometimes I couldn’t even listen properly what a person was saying because my mind was full with negative thoughts. It’s like I have in front of myself a grey cloud which numbed my positive thoughts. What helped me was to tell myself that I am good enough. Ever since I watched a speech by Marisa Peer, I try to nurture my brain with positive thoughts. And now I feel mentally more balanced and stable. I mean, I still do the things I mentioned before, but it just takes time to change certain behaviours… Now and then I feel slightly anxious, but I don’t punish myself anymore for feeling that way. Instead, I accept this sensation and not giving so much attention to the anxiety.
What I am struggling more is to live with other people together. I was relentless and I expected people to do sth for me which shouldn’t be expected. I am of course not having it all. I am a human being full of flaws and yesterday my flatmate told me that having a messy room actually depicts your mental state and I was hugely surprised and enlightened by that statement. It’s difficult to live in a dorm where you have barely personal space. I am causing problems I didn’t want to cause. Generally, the dorm is too small, so I am also looking for a single room in Tallinn.
What have I done on my own initiative?
Tallinn is a city where a bunch of Estonian-speaking, Russian-speaking and English-speaking people live. I could easily survive by speaking English. But I want to learn Estonian which means automatically that I have to actively put some effort to learn Estonian. Daily I use the Speakly app to learn Estonian words and I am always looking for Estonian-speaking events, because that impacts my language learning hugely – plus – I get in contact with locals. Since I live and know a lot of European volunteers, it’s really easy and comfortable to stay in this international bubble, which is for some people a great thing, but being in that community is for me personally not suitable because I prefer to spend time with locals to improve my Estonian (I don’t want to sound arrogant or so, there are a lot of volunteers that I really like and enjoy seeing them, it’s just that I have other priorities for my EVS.)
I also go twice a week to a choir, once a month to WAF Kool and I soon will also go to a vocal coach. Next month I will start a handicraft club in my youth centre and last week I organised a cultural day about Croatia and cooked with the kids two Croatian dishes (Funfact: my family is Croatian, but I live in Germany since I am two and a half years old.).
What have I learned about myself in personal life and at work?
- I am enough
- Accepting the life I am living (I am still learning that, it’s hard to achieve acceptance)
- Being more aware of my flaws
- Change my bad behaviours (I have to be more considerate, say more thanks and please, actively listen to people, clean and tidy up more, not expect people to do sth for me, be more patient)
- my future is just not predictable. I won’t have a 9/5 job, I still don’t know which profession I will have and it’s just okay to not know that. I am tired of thinking about by future so I…
- …do what makes me happy and feel lively!
What are my plans for the next month?
- work on presentation series about the riot grrrl movement
- initiate kuunstiring
- exercise more
- spend less time on social media
- read more
- sing during workdays
- study Estonian
- spend one time in a week on my blog
- go to more concerts
I guess I need to find priorities because there are too many things I would like to do and I have to stop doing the bad things in order to do more the good, more valuable things. You should try doing that, too!
How would I describe my relationship with my mentor and tutor, other friends and colleagues?
Great. I really get well with my tutor and colleagues. They help me when I have questions about my work and it’s all good. The relationship with my mentor is also really good and I hope to see her more regularly, if possible. She is experienced in mentoring and hence, she gives me a lot of good advice about volunteering and socializing: She also helped me to understand the Estonian mentality better.
How have you adopted the new cultural situation? Which cultural differences have surprised you?
Recently, I have been going out a lot and hence I got in touch with a lot of Estonians. It’s no secret that Estonians are more colder but people are individuals which means that I have met also a lot of nice Estonians. Personally, I think you shouldn’t generalize people overall. About the cold mentality: I have learned that when Estonians act coldly it doesn’t mean they hate you, it actually doesn’t mean anything. To be honest, I feel like that Estonians are more helpful here. Everyone is somehow connected to each other and I really feel this community-vibe. Everyone knows more or less each other!
It’s already snowy in Tallinn.