To be a volunteer – Lena from Germany

Lena from Germany, here she is!
Take some time for a break, read and enjoy.

Original document here and a copy under the photo gallery.



“Hey there, I am Lena from Germany. From June 2018 to December 2018 I was part of the EVS project in Shipka. Afterwards, I stayed in Sofia for an internship and took language classes in Bulgarian.

Now I am 24 years old and I live in Kiel which is located in the north of Germany. There, I study sociology and political science in a master programme. So, how has EVS changed my life?


Let’s start with why I decided to join the project.

After handing in my bachelor thesis, I really had enough from staying on the theoretical level of working and at the same time I didn’t feel ready to start a real job in my field – EVS seemed to be the perfect opportunity to do something practical, learn new skills and gain some life experience. I had always interest in a life on the countryside, learning about gardens and regional development so the project sounded perfect to me. At the same time, I am in relationship with a Bulgarian and an EVS in Bulgaria was a really good option for us.


What did I learn during EVS?

As everybody would say after a stay in a different environment, I learned a lot about myself, my personality and my strategies to deal with new and sometimes difficult situations. Living and working together with people from different backgrounds, I understood how different perceptions can be and how to still work it out together. I would also say that I learned to be a lot more proactive during my stay in Bulgaria than before and that a lot of things can only be achieved with open communication, a lot of patience and persistence. Besides form that, I learned some Bulgarian (at least a basic level), how to make fig and cherry jam, how to make fire in the oven to heat the house and what it means to eat seasonal food. 

My benefit from the stay in Shipka was that I was able to discover Bulgaria from a rural and a city life perspective and that I got a deep insight into Bulgarian culture and language which is very unique. Just on the first weekend of my stay, the rose festival in Kazanlak took place and I was able to learn about the traditional rose picking and rose oil production. Sometimes they show the rose valley in documentary movies and when I see the landscape and the golden towers of Shipka monastery I feel very connected to the place. 


Bild 1 Rose picking in the rose valley


As a detriment I would mention that a lot of times I was not able to realize my ideas for the project because of the circumstances, such as my lack of language skills and the missing network and guidance. Because when I arrived I would have needed some more support for orientation. From my point of view, establishing ourselves as a team and arranging ourselves with the changing situations, especially the changing of housing situations, was a big part of my stay. 

My favourite memory from Shipka is to have my coffee on the balcony of the first house that I lived in with Adel, the French volunteer. The view from there was amazing as I was able to see the whole valley and the mountain “Sredna Gora”. In the night I was also watching the stars from there and enjoyed the silence of the village life – except from barking dogs of course. These were magic moments that stayed in my mind. Of course, there are many more.


Bild 2 View over Shipka from the balcony


What did change till now? As I am studying “the society”, I am often comparing Germany and Bulgaria when speaking about politics and social problems. I realized a lot of times that Germany is treated as a role model to Bulgaria and that Bulgarians often have the impression that everything in Germany is working just fine. Actually, this is not true and in a lot of cases I think Bulgaria doesn’t have to hide. One thing I really don’t like in Germany is that it is really hard to find seasonal and regional vegetables and fruits here because all year around products are imported from the Netherlands or Spain. When I first moved to Kiel, I found a permaculture centre where a group of people are learning and practicing permacultural principles in an urban gardening project and I would love to join their activities once I have more freetime.

Would I do it again? Yes, definitely. EVS was a really enriching experience, I learned a lot, met so many interesting people and I would totally take the same decisions again. I can see that the project really developed in a positive way and that makes me really happy. From time to time I see what is happening in Shipka, that you are working on really cool projects and publish interesting posts about your life there. So I am really proud of what the team of open mind achieved and I will always keep Shipka and its people in my heart.”

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