Anja in Bremen // Final Report

Happiness is not having what you want, but loving what you have.

If a person had to spend some time with me and talk to me the chances that I would cite quotes are extremely high. Everyone who gets to know me a bit better knows how huge quote lover I am. Therefore, if I would be asked to summarize biggest lessons during my one-year volunteering experience in Bremen it would probably be clothed in this short words of wisdom.

Actually, when I look back at my life I think that I was always living life in that way – being attentive and grateful for the things I am surrounded with, cherishing each moment and a person I stumbled upon, while wearing a bright smile on my face. However, during this volunteering period this philosophy really became more real and lived through.

I still remember how one year ago, while coming to Bremen, I had a desire to expand my experiences – get to know myself, other people and the world more. Now, I know that my heartbeats were dancing on so many different occasions, that my eyes were soaking so many different sights, that my thoughts touched so many different aspects I wasn’t aware before, that my emotions got out from the comfort shade and stepped into the sun, uncovered.

I knew I would grow by coming here, and now looking back it’s truly inspiring to see how…

First it started with small things – I had to adjust to those mundane, banal things – from the products in the supermarkets, transportation system, bike lanes, unpredictable and gloomy weather conditions. At the beginning I really felt like a child – learning all these things I was learning in the country I was born again, cause they were slightly different.

Then it started with small decisions that I was making and the opportunities that I was accepting – contacting people on eBay Kleinanzeigen in my broken German, trying to make home out of house where I just moved in, contacting different organizations and individuals to join us on versatile events, being tour guide on numerous Bremen tours to participants of the projects even when the temperature was below 0 degrees.

After that came time where I opened myself to feel, not think that much – I was becoming close with some people, while getting more distant from other. Some people were like branches who broke when I tried to lean on them, just to show me that there were other people – other branches that kept me and didn’t let me fall on the ground in those moments. I realized how blessed I was with the people I met during this experience. Some of them showed me new levels of depth and intimacy, and I’m sure that our lives will be intertwined till the days we die. Some people carry my favourite eyes, some of them my favourite smiles, and some my favourite hugs so far.

Towards the end of my volunteering I was more opened to experience things I haven’t before – I slept in a tent, learned how to paint a wall, do graffiti, how to garden, how to kayak, how to properly clean the bathroom. I tried to play drums, screamed in the city, had the best kiosk party ever, went on a spontaneous swimming in the lake on Monday evening, read Hungarian poem out loud (and then was shared on an Instagram story and seen by more than 1500 Hungarians), packed myself in one backpack for a 5-day trip, cut my own hair, fixed the seat of my bike, slept in a random person’s flat in Stockholm, held a 7-weeks-old baby.

Of course, all these things were followed by numerous realizations – I learned to trust the process, to sometimes just do things instead of overthinking about them, to be vulnerable and show emotions, to let myself be rejected or make a mistake. I realized how amazing and strong the community of people can be. How important it is to be surrounded by people (friends, colleagues) who will always be there for you and encourage you no matter what. I learned how to live and pack minimally, how to seize every day – especially if it’s sunny because you never know when the rainy clouds would come. But even to enjoy in those rainy clouds, because sometimes they are all you will have. I also realized that my German got way better after finishing 15 min German youtube video where I didn’t have to put subtitles on.

As I said in my first volunteering report – life is so random – the place where you were born, the circumstances that shaped you that you didn’t choose. Yes, but apart from that life is also a choice. Choice that you make every single day. Choice to live it authentically and meaningfully. To try, to fail, to learn, and no matter what – to carry on.

And indeed – coming to Bremen was my first try to live life as I want and how I feel. Now I can say that I have never been more fulfilled and satisfied. So far, I have visited more countries than I’ve had birthdays, I lived with people from 8 different countries, (co)organized 8 different events in a year (including human library that was my biggest wish to organise since I was 19), got a chance to be a beginner trainer on the training course, met more than 300 people, was inspired by many of them.

Being born in Balkans (the west to the east, and the east to the west), with its complex and tragic history, at the very young age I became more sensitive to social categories, their implications and therefore – their absurdness. Being born in Balkans I am a person with dual citizenship and therefore two passports – one non-EU, the other one EU. In that administrative paradox I’ve realized a lot about power dynamics, privileges, social discrimination and so on. That same paradox enabled me to have a clearer picture of what I want to do in my life in order to live it meaningfully – by using my privileges to help others.

And with that thought I want to conclude this “last” report.

Thanks to everyone who shared a smile, a hug, a conversation, a part of them with me during this time. It really became part of who I am today.

Thank you, I am happy.


Anja is hosted by NaturKultur e.V. on our project financed by the European Solidarity Corps and Jugend für Europa.