Today in our magazine we are going to interview Sofía-Delioma Hernández Asensio, a young Spanish woman who decided two years ago to participate in a European Voluntary Service project in Poland, the same country where she had her first work experience.
Good morning Sofia! Tell our readers a little about yourself.
Hello, my name is Sofia I am 25 years old and I am from Miguelturra (Ciudad Real, Spain). In 2018 I took part in a European Voluntary Service (now European Solidarity Corps) project in Poland and then I stayed to work there for a year. Now I’m back home.
Why did you decide to do a European volunteering experience?
I was finishing my studies (Languages, Literature and Culture and then a master’s degree in language teaching) and I wanted to have an international experience. I wanted to get out of Spain and take gap year.
What was your project about?
I was in the education department of the Wiatrak Foundation, in Bydgoszcz. We did a little of everything: we presented our countries in schools, institutes and universities, we organised events for children, for elders, people with disabilities, we gave ideas, we proposed activities and we updated the entity’s website.
Was it useful for you as a learning experience?
Yes, I learned a lot, although now I’m sure I won’t be able to say it all. Of course I learned to manage money better (normally I am a bit of a disaster for this), that things that are normal in your culture may not be normal in others, to travel cheap … I would never imagine that it is possible to travel with little money, I left to London with 100 euros (all inclusive) for example.
Then you stay to work there. Why?
I thought that in Spain I would not have opportunities because I did not have work experience. There I started looking for work and found my opportunity: working in a technical service of a company. I had no idea about computers, but thanks to knowing English and Spanish, I was trained and I learned a lot.
I stayed there to work 1 year and 4 months.
And how did you make the decision to return to Spain?
With the lock-down I began to rethink my life. At first I came in August for a few weeks and I realised that I already wanted to do something different, not even return to Spain, just something different. I started looking for work in other countries, but I realised that my body and mind were asking me to return home. It was what I needed, so I packed up my things and went back.
How was the return?
Very hard at first. I was totally independent and on my return I had to go back to my parents’ house. I am worried about my future and so are they. However, I still recommend going home when we feel that it is what is needed. What is the worst that can happen? In the end you are home.
We take this opportunity to ask you how you see your future. Can you imagine it in Spain or in another country?
I imagine that I will have other experiences abroad, but always returning to Spain. I like to travel and have “cultural immersion” experiences and for this, living there is much better than just going on vacation.
At the same time I want to go back, I like Spain. Especially its weather and the warmth of the people.
What do you take away from all this time away from home, in another country, surrounded by people of different cultures?
That in life you have to be very flexible! A friend told me “flexibility is intelligence” and I think he is right. The more flexible you are, the better you handle things. You have to adapt to other people’s differences, even if the other person doesn’t want to. In this process you will surely learn something and it is worthwhile.
There are people who take into consideration the possibility of having experiences like yours, but end up dismissing it out of fear. What do you advise?
Just go! Do not think about everything that can happen until you are already gone, you will have time to feel fear hahaha
The worst thing that can happen is having to go home and get back to where you started. It’s not that bad.
And how to choose where to go?
If you are going to volunteer, look at the project before the country.
You are going to be collaborating and it is important that you like what you are going to do because in the end that is how you are going to invest most of your time. Also think about your future, find a project where you can get experience in your professional field.
Finally, be clear if you prefer a city or a town. Take stock and decide what is best for you.
If you want to work, it depends a lot on what you are looking for. I was clear that I wanted a first professional experience, I did not look much in what sector, but a multinational seemed a good option.
In northern European countries there are many opportunities for young people who have no experience and can even get a job indefinitely (in fact, I had it). In Spain this is very difficult to achieve.
If you want to look for work, you can also find it in the Facebook groups of the cities where you plan to go. Sounds like a useful trick to me.
Thank you very much for your time Sofia, we hope that your interview will encourage more young people to participate in European projects and get to know, first hand, Europe, its people and culture.
Interview and translation by: Miriana Squillaci