Here it comes Adrienn, one of the first volunteers in our EVS project. Below she is talking about her experience in our lovely Shipka in a short term. If you want to know more, just have a break and enjoy the reading.
Who are you and where are you from?
– My name is Adrienn Gyalus and I’m from Hungary. I spent 2 months (from 15 of September to 15th of November, 2016) in Shipka and I was 28 at that time.
Why did you decide to join this project?
– To be fair, initially this project was a second choice in my mind, because I also applied for a long-term project in bird conservation, which was my main interest. But I haven’t heard from them, and on the other hand, I found Tatyana really sympathetic from Skype interview, and as she explained more details, the Shipka project was warming up to me. I had the gut feeling not to wait for the other project, also because it might be good to try out something new.
What did you learn in your EVS? / What was your benefit?
– Since it was a short term project, I had limited opportunity to delve deep into some well-defined subject, like learning Bulgarian fluently or get an in-depth knowledge on permaculture. So, for me, it was worth in the long run for the soft skills rather than the hard skills (although, I could make a hot compost even today, as I remember the process well!). It was a first time I spent a longer time abroad, and have a sensible conversation with people, or even doing everyday tasks was a demanding – but also rewarding – challenge. Also getting used to the customs and quirks of a foreign country – it was not too as culture shock as I expected, but still different enough. (Cyrillic, cyrillic everywhere!) Maybe it was a bit harder because it was the first EVS project for Tatyana, too, so some things had to be established first. Not to complain, though: it pushed me to take more initiative and be more inventive. Overall, the EVS helped me to become more independent and confident, I got more fluent in English, and I also learnt to work together with different kind of people.
What were the best memories?
– Too many to count! I got to know so many lovely people. I really liked the compost pile building and active garden work which we did for as long as we could (both by Tatyana and Hristo – our “landlord”). The hikings with Sintija (the other project partner girl from Latvia) to collect material and inspiration for the nature trail, and the one time we totally got lost, but it was an adventure. The painting of Chitalishte. That little festival at the end with all the healthy, tasty local food and beautiful crafts. Even the small things like finding a book from a Hungarian author in the library (Alexander Petõfi). And, of course, the friendly white-throated dipper, a bird species of mountain wates which I’ve seen for the time, at the stream of the town!
What were the downsides? / What did you regret in hindsight?
– I have to admit there were big bumps on the road, and when I was in physical or mental distress, I couldn’t always handle it well and I burdened people around me with crying, bad mood or straight up tantrums. I should’ve put myself together and I apologize for this.
What were you the most proud of? / And what could you have done better?
– The idea for a nature trail in the mountains was already in the planned EVS program, but without any details. It was first overwhelming to figure out what to do, but I think I managed to come up with concepts and work them out. I spent a lot of time to get familiar with the forest, to observe the plants and animals, and read the materials Tatyana gave and search for other sources; and in the end, I finally felt it was worth the effort! Although… now that I’m a bit more experienced (see last question), maybe it would be good to go back and review the material. On the other hand, in retrospect, I should have taken more initiative when there was nothing “official” to do. Also, I could have been more adventurous – like Sintija -, and travel more in the vicinity.
Would you do that again?
– Definitely! In fact, this project inspired me to volunteer in an another place in Bulgaria (this time, in Poda Nature Reserve). I even planned to visit Shipka after that, which I unfortunately couldn’t do, but I hope I will come back for one more time.
How is your life now? What are you doing? Does the EVS has an impact?
– I am a research assistant at the Institute of Ecology and Botany, which is kind of a dream job for me. So you could say, my life is on track (knocking on wood). I can’t say for sure to which extent EVS formed the person I am today, but I’m sure the fact that I can easily work with the foreign colleagues has to do with the fact that I gained the first real life English practice during the EVS.