Aura in Bremen // 1st Report

Hey, you! Thinking about volunteering? It can be quite challenging, so ponder it well first. There will be awesome moments, but it all depends on your predisposition, mental strength, and the qualities you already bring with you. It will not be a piece of cake, yet a constant fight for respect and for your rights. ESC is a learning curve. Never lineal or regular. You will be exhaustedly destroyed but also full of motivation. The question remains: will you give up or fight? Freezing is not an answer. 

This experience is not at all what I expected. However, the harshness of the process will push you. Then, you have two options: either you take advantage of the push to propel you as a motivating drive, or the pressure will crash you. To be honest, it is a never-ending circle, alternating between the two only according to your energy.

My expectations about this ESC were so different back when I started. I desperately had to run away from an unsafe living situation. Therefore, I wished this opportunity would provide a sense of belonging within the community while taking an active part in contributing to it. I dreamt of human respect, open-mindedness, bidirectional solidarity, and a youth engaged in change and development. Lastly, I also had selfish urges, such as moving into a LGBTQ+-friendly city and further enriching my knowledge from my studies in language, translating, and teaching. 

Nevertheless, my dreams and goals had to be reshaped accordingly. Did I expect a thriving, socially involved, solidary, and cohesive community? Yes, but I found out that within this ESC program, leisure-oriented individuals will thrive as if this were an Erasmus year abroad. ESC is part of the Erasmus+ program, but I truly hoped the volunteering community here would not approach it as a sabbatic year where the main conversation topic is always how many capital cities have you already been to. 

From my point of view, it is not traveling and partying that promotes open-mindedness and respect for others and their cultures, but actively learning and soaking it as a sponge. We all are young and free, but I find that, at the end of the day, it is our responsibility as proactive citizens to be more selfless and change the future for the better.

Like a foreigner within foreigners, I struggled, and I feel alienated not only from the volunteering community but also from the German one. Honestly, the absolute lack of language support does not pave the way for personal success if you work with only German-speaking kids. Whether it is due to the lack of flexibility of the working schedule to take a free German course or simply because my organization does not provide support for my intermediate level.

These circumstances made my project in Hort an uphill struggle, where the language barrier is an almost unquerable obstacle to proper interaction with the kids. I feel so tied up, because I did manage to achieve some level of connection, respect, and trust with my lovely, creative kids in Hort, but it is still disheartening to live through the constant language barrier while being able to understand how I am not considered equal to coworkers or other volunteers with better language skills. 

Maybe you are lucky and have access to mentoring and support all along the process, but again: be ready for “being supported figuring it out by yourself”. 

Indepence is an awesome skill, but how realistic is it in a foreign environment with a foreign language and a foreign country? 

To conclude, if I had to give a piece of advice to myself back at the beginning, I’d say: “do not trust others so much, but only yourself”. 

Lots of love, 


Aura is hosted by Freie Waldorfschule Bremen on our project co-funded by the European Union.