Klara in Bremen // 1st Report

My first four months in Bremen showed me how quickly time can pass. I started the project with a fresh high school diploma in my pocket, 12 years of school behind me and a routine I was desperate to break out of. Although there were many reasons to go straight to university, as it was the standard expected path, I followed my instinct and decided to take a year to broaden my horizons and get to know myself and my desires. So far, I have to say that I couldn’t have made a better decision.

As the Germans like to say: “Aller Anfang ist schwer”. Although I grew up speaking German, the first few weeks in Bremen were so different from my life in Brussels. How do you manage to live alone? What do you have to think about when living in a shared flat? What do you have to take care of? The constant bad weather and darkness were also a burden at first, as was the fact that I had to build everything from scratch: a routine, a circle of friends, familiarity with the city and work and much more.

On the other hand, it’s so exciting to be a blank slate. My work at the leisure centre at Stiftung Friedehorst (affectionately known as “Freizi”) has had the biggest impact on me so far. The Freizi is a place for people with disabilities where leisure activities, events, parties etc. are organised. Every day I am overwhelmed by the positivity of the people, their attitude to life despite severe strokes of fate and I am fascinated by how they navigate everyday life. I am also inspired by my colleagues – their love for their job is really encouraging. From my first day at work, I felt like I was in good hands and surrounded by patience, understanding, consideration, friendship and motivation. The Freizi gave me the opportunity to experience a variety of things. Apart from various workshops, a rock star competition, a festival of lights, a Turkish evening, a typical North German “Kohl Tour” and the “Six Days” bike race, I have now been in charge of the “Kochgruppe” for a few weeks. A lot of creativity and socialising is required, which on the one hand draws me out of my comfort zone, but on the other hand also teaches me a lot.

What also helped me in the first few weeks was the volunteering community in Bremen, which is so large, diverse and international. I was lucky enough to get to know many people and make friends with them – even though our backgrounds, cultures and habits are worlds apart. It was a bit unusual at first, partly because most of the other volunteers are a couple of years older and have therefore already gained a completely different foothold in life, and yet it has proved to me that a friendship can flourish precisely because of such differences. Even though we could be more ambitious, we have already experienced many things together, such as trips all over northern Germany, numerous visits to the Freimarkt and Christmas market, relaxed evenings in bars, restaurants or in one of NaturKultur’s three volunteer accommodations or exploring the city. The volunteer community is a large network that stretches across the whole of Germany and is further expanded through seminars. My one-week On-Arrival Training in Hamburg in October also brought me many valuable friendships throughout Germany, and with them the motivation to travel more.

The last few months have taught me a lot, but primarily gratitude. Gratitude for the little things in life, such as the sunshine, for a motivated Hausmeister, but also gratitude for friendships, for the different people I have been able to get to know, for a harmonious “Wohngemeinschaft”, for all the opportunities I get here, and also gratitude for myself, because new beginnings are not always easy. I’m looking forward to the next few months with anticipation. My biggest goal is to travel more and gain new experiences while I still have time. I would also like to gain more insights into the work at Friedehorst, especially in pedagogical and nursing areas. I’m looking forward to getting to know the city better, developing deeper friendships and working towards my future. Even though I’m still pretty much a blank slate, the canvas is already filling up and I’m optimistic about how it will fill up over the next few months 🙂

Klara is hosted by Friedehorst Teilhabe Leben gGmbH on our project co-funded by the European Union.