A year of experiences, friendships and growth - the story of my ESC Blog dei volontari

29/06/2021 Flóra Fábián

I’m Flóra Fábián, a Hungarian girl who came straight out of the nest of her parents and the safety of high school, freshly graduated, at 18,  while being still very much a little girl, a kiddo, to take on an adventure and go to live in the South of Italy for a year to do volunteering.

It’s difficult to summarize a year in a few lines. A year that was so full of memories, experiences, people and learning opportunities - and every blogpost you’ll read on this blog will probably tell you the same clichés that are somehow true for me as much as it must’ve been true for the others. Because yes, I practically grew up during this experience, maybe I would still not consider myself a real adult, but I’m definitely not the same clueless little girl anymore that I used to be at the beginning, I’ve changed and developed in so many different ways. Yes, I learned a lot about myself, about others, about life. Through living abroad and in such an international environment, I couldn’t avoid meeting many people, both locals and other volunteers like me, from different cultures, and this experience has given me the opportunity to open up my view to the world more.

So I don’t want to repeat all of these things that everyone will tell you about ESC, about volunteering, about living abroad for a year. What I will tell you is how I feel now. I got home a few days ago, I’m happy to see my family, but I’m sad. I’m sad because a huge chapter of my life just ended, one of the most beautiful chapters I’ve ever had and I have to mourn and cope with the fact that what I left in Molfetta I’ll never have again the same way as I did just yesterday. That a lot of people I got to know and I hold dear I won’t be near again, only for short visits. I’m sad because I need to let go of this year and move on with my life, but this year has been so amazing that I’m not ready for that.

But all of this sadness stems from a heart that’s so-so full and the fact that I had a beautiful experience. That I did really live to the fullest. So in reality I am so so grateful to have had this opportunity to live in Molfetta for a week less than a full year because it has given me so much that I can’t even begin to express, and I’m so so thankful to all the people that have been by my side during these months, because they were what mattered the most to me and what made this year so amazing. Even though I would give anything right now to still have a month more to spend in Italy, in the end all of this way so beautiful exactly because it ended. Because now it’s time for me to open up a new chapter in my life, where I step into as a lot more confident, capable and strong person then the one I had been a year ago. The experiences, and especially the hardships, all of this emotional rollercoaster-ride that sometimes has been this project for me, made me who I am today, and I trust a lot more to be able to find my place wherever life takes me after this, and I’m excited where that will be, to learn new things, to restart my life in Hungary from scratch the way I want it.

This year was about a lot of amazing friendships that I don’t want to and I don’t have to let go of, about people who were there through thick and thin, in the best and the worst moments. It was about getting integrated in the Southern-Italian culture, learning about the local traditions, the society through meeting people from the place. It was about becoming independent: learning how to live with others (which is not always easy, but I can say that I’ve been so lucky to have found my very best friends in the girls I shared my apartment with), to lead a household, to clean, to take responsability and to learn how to cook. Due to Covid especially during the times we couldn’t go out much and do many plans, and due to the special groups I found myself in, as a community fun avctivity, we cooked a lot - together or alone, for each other, for ourselves, we tried both new recipes and we also made others try the cuisine of our countries. So as I lived in Italy, rightfully this year for me was a lot about food and eating and enjoying different meals together with my friends. The year was also about adapting and flexibility for me - as my volunteer work was, much because of Covid, not exactly how I imagined, but adapting to a situation that was not ideal at all, I allowed myself to enjoy this year completely despite being put in uncomfortable situations and feeling useless at times. It was also about learning to be proactive and to take initiative in every field of my live, in my project and in my relationships as well. And lastly, this year was about happiness, about enjoying the moment, taking advantage of every moment of freedom we had in this very limited period of time we found ourselves, having a lot of fun together, eating, drinking, lauging, travelling when we could but mostly just being together.

If you’re thinking about following my lead, dear reader, to do a volunteering project, don’t hesitate - just do it. If you have the right mindset, you can make the best of your experience despite any global pandemic, or despite sometimes having a less than ideal project like me. Whoever you are, wherever you come from, even if everything will most definitely not be perfect, you will learn and grow from doing a year outside, but most probably you will enjoy it a lot. I envy you a bit - as this amazing experience is still ahead of you. So trust me, go ahead and take the leap, it will be worth it.