I started writing this report long before I left Bremen. It was a way for me to reflect on my past year and contemplate my future. Being surrounded by international people from all over the world, you learn to let people go. This especially applies to ESC volunteering – normally, volunteers commit for a year (or even less) and then return to their home countries. Over a year, you meet a lot of people who become your friends, but you also say goodbye to the majority of them, hoping to see them again one day. However, this time it was different. Almost all the volunteers whose projects were ending around the same time as mine stayed in Germany and Bremen. Out of 6 volunteers, only 2 planned to return home. I was one of them. The other 4 were staying in Bremen; they didn’t even move to other cities in the country. This hit differently. So here I am, one of the 25% of volunteers going home.
I continued writing this report while still being in Germany and Bremen, even though my project ended a couple of weeks ago. But let’s go back to the beginning of September for some context: my project is ending in a month, everyone except one volunteer is staying. And I’m planning to leave. But talking to these volunteers who are part of the 75%, I keep asking myself, “Am I making a mistake? Should I stay as well?” However, I keep going back to the thought of leaving. And then I talk to them again, and the question “to stay or not to stay” remains unanswered. It was a time full of anxiety and “what if” questions. Until I made a decision – I bought tickets to fly back home. Suddenly, everything fell into place. Now, I have around three weeks to enjoy my last days in Bremen, surrounded by all these lovely people. Finally, I found peace in myself (until it was broken one week after).
It all started with me buying a ticket to Moscow, continued with me planning a family reunion in Saint Petersburg (although my family lives 800 km away from it), and ended with me disappointing my grandmother by saying that I’m not coming back home right now.
I was enjoying my last month in Germany until I received a very tempting but at the same time confusing offer to stay here for one more year. And then it all started again – the back-and-forth thoughts. I had to answer fast, and it was even worse: at that point, it was completely up to me. If before I was leaving because I hadn’t found a nice opportunity in Germany that would provide me with everything I needed to live in Germany without just surviving (like accommodation, for instance). Then after I had this nice opportunity, but I also had a ticket to go back. And only 12 hours to make a decision that would also affect my life (sounds dramatic, but it’s true!).
Since I am writing this report while still in Germany with an expired visa (that in theory was extended), you know what my decision was. Therefore, this text won’t be as sad as it could have been if the tables were turned the other way around. Nonetheless, there were still sad moments. When one out of six volunteers went home. When my apartment became no longer mine, and I started being a guest there. When I cancelled my ticket to Moscow (although I wanted to see family but couldn’t due to the visa issues). When I went over this year and realized that it’s gone, without me even noticing how fast it passed. But then these sad moments turn into happy memories that I come back to from time to time.
I found out what I want to do next. I learned new skills that will be useful in my future career path. I created small projects with kids at work. I spoke only German at work (unless I was talking to you, Tamara). I visited five countries in a month. I visited 27 cities in total. I went to four concerts of my favourite musicians. I went to Rolland Garros and saw a guy with whom I used to play as a kid competing against top tennis players. I bought an analogue camera to capture the most precious moments. I argued in German (like when they lost my film, for example). I lost a bag with a gift for my family on a FlixBus in Italy. I found it thanks to a new friend from Couchsurfing. I used Couchsurfing and stayed at random people’s houses. I started surfing and skateboarding. I slept in a tent. I caught a green wave. I watched sunrises and sunsets. I wandered around the cities, listening to their noises. I enjoyed every minute of this year, even when I faced problems or felt down.
But this year is not only about me. It’s also about the volunteers and people in general. I met so many incredible people from all over the world that I can’t even count the number of them. I learned so much about different cultures. Together, we shared our best moments of this year. Together, we organized a whole bunch of various activities, whether it was parties, workshops, or board game nights. Together, we did graffiti on a wall. Together, we watched over 20 movies on a projector. Together, we cooked an endless variety of international dishes. Together, we travelled. Together, we spent hours complaining about Deutsche Bahn. Together, we survived the cold when the heating was off and it was freezing outside. Together, we helped each other out. Together, we experienced ups and downs. We were there for each other every time, at any hour. And now, although the year has officially ended, I know that I have friends all over the world whom I can reach out to at any time.
A lot of good and positive things happened over this year, and they will forever be with me. They are stored in my brain. And when the days pass, and I start forgetting about these days, I will open my phone and look at the photos. Everything’s captured, and nothing will be forgotten. Thank you to everyone who was there; you truly made my year. See you soon!
From Bremen with love,