Pre-Departure Reflection Blog dei volontari

14/04/2022 Laila Serroukh

“What am I doing?” This is a question that I’ve buried deep inside of myself during my ESC experience. While I hadn’t been so sure of something in a while, and the certainty and excitement of participating in such a project remains to this day, this question still intriguingly remains and is more relevant than ever. 

 The end of this experience is approaching, and despite having extended it, the time will come when I will have to say goodbye to everything. This was always a given – accepting to participate in an ESC program is agreeing to the terms and acknowledging that it will come to end. However, the state of mind of young Europeans who sign this contract is one that is naturally ignorant of what is ahead of them, not fully realizing its implications. 6 months ago, this was me, and the only thing I could think about was my eagerness to experience another culture, do something exciting, and perhaps find a path in my directionless life.

I can say that these expectations were at least partially met. Living in another country with a new language and different customs allowed me to immerse myself in a culture that was different from the ones I knew. This is expected and probably one of the main catalysts that pushes young Europeans to take advantage of this opportunity. Doing something exciting was also met, as the novelty of such an experience is thrilling and pushed me out of my comfort zone to do a lot of things I would be reluctant to do prior. This was particularly the case at the beginning of my ESC journey, when the excitement to make the most out of my situation was sky high. Over time, though, this euphoria turned into realism. Everything sank in and this new environment became a part of my routine: being 6 months into my job, having made connections and friendships that are now a part of my daily life, or having seen enough of the region for it to feel like a home rather than a place to visit. The energy, while still positive, has changed and has ignited a new dilemma: the psychological difficulty of leaving.

The version of me that hadn’t arrived yet in Italy did not wrap my head around the fact that living here for more than half a year would mean growing a part of myself into the picture of where I’ve landed, but also integrating this place into my inner core. Thinking about it now, it is almost absurd of me to have thought that I would come here, have a good time, do what I had to do, and then leave and return to my old life, because this premise fallaciously separates this experience from my life. In reality, these 8 months are an immense part of my life, filled with different moments of happiness and sadness, filled with laughs and fears, with professional development and personal relationships, with self-reflection, fights and reconciliations, with independent living and autonomous decision making, with love and hate, with finding meaning and understanding self-worth… I could not possibly just return to my “old life” now. This is a difficult lesson I have learned, putting a lot of the future plans I had back into perspective. While the hope of finding a path to my directionless life was met, as my days for the past 6 months have been full of meaning – finding my place into the puzzle of society – I also know that I will be tossed back into the brutal reality when the time comes. Who knows what that will be like. Until then, I continue to live my life here in Trentino in an experience that will have taught me lessons that I would have not imagined, lessons that are a part of my development as an individual and as a global citizen. For that, I continue to be grateful everyday for the opportunity I have been given as an ESC volunteer, for everyone I’ve crossed paths with, and for the unforgettable moments I’ve had the chance to live.