We’ve been talking about becoming a Global Citizen for quite a long time now. We’ve been trying to explain you what being a Global Citizen really means and feels like but we think that there’s no better way to accomplish our task then directly ask to those who used to be ordinary students from Milan’s universities – probably just like you – and that found the courage to step out of their comfort zone and decided to go on a 6-weeks volunteering internship.
This story is about Flavia, a 21-years-old international relations student at Milan University. She just got back from a seven-weeks education – internship in Budapest. Here’s what she said about her experience.
Can you describe your Global Citizen experience abroad?
I decided to volunteer with AIESEC to follow my passion for teaching. It would have been my very first volunteer experience so I didn’t really know what to expect but…turned out it was one of the best decisions of my life! My destination was Budapest, Hungary, and I stayed there for 7 weeks. The project was about teaching in a primary school and helping out during classes.
I also stayed with 3 different host families; all of them welcomed me as if I had always been part of their family! We did a lot of things together, like afternoon walks, day trips or sightseeings, and this gave me the chance to really fell in love with Hungarian culture and habits. One the things that made a big difference in my journey was, however being part of the big AIESEC net. My local committee in Budapest helped me since the very first moment and when I met up with the other volunteers or interns we became like a big family.. Moreover, living in Budapest is incredible, the city can be so breathtaking and I would spend so many hours exploring the streets and the neighborhoods, because in every corner there’s something beautiful and unexpected to find. Of course, I had my lows too, as I wasn’t living in my own house I had to respect the home rules and the family, I had to quickly learn how to manage my way around the city and be ready to pull off some hungarian conversation in shops or taxis. But the effort I made to overcome these difficulties was very worth all the adventures I lived in just 7 amazing weeks!
Which project were you working on?
My project was about “Spread your culture and teach English” and it was part of the Magellan Project of AIESEC BCE. I was working in the school every day from Monday to Friday, from around 8 am to 4 pm or 3 pm, depending on my private class schedule. I could help the kids with their homework or with their tests during classes, play with them in the schoolyard in the afternoon and with some of them I held special private lessons. It was amazing to see how kids could show their affection and love without speaking a word of English. I also took part in regular school activities like sport or singing competitions, teachers meeting, the final class picture and so on. The whole staff was helpful and when they realized that i really wanted to work, they started giving me more responsibilities: I really felt like I was part of the school team. The kids also asked me to talk about Italy, teach them some Italian and even sing the national anthem; they were so curious and passionate about these topics that I’m sure that in the end they saw me as a dear friend and not a weird foreigner!
What was your first cultural shock?
I think my first cultural shock was a reversed one, like in a positive sense. I immediately noticed that Hungarian people in general are quiet and so respectful in all the situations. Of course there are exceptions but I wasn’t so annoyed.What’s more, Budapest is a very modern and multicultural city, but if i have to be sincere, I have to say my biggest real cultural shock was when in the school canteen I was served pasta with marmalade and grits on as a side dish to my soup lunch. I still have nightmares about it!
What have you learnt from this experience?
I have learnt a lot of things about myself. I realized that I can stand in front of a classroom and still be able to handle all the questions or manage a lesson on my own. I felt more like a grown up than never before, like I was finally challenging myself with real responsibilities and real feedbacks. I learnt that we don’t need to speak the same language or come from the same country to show love and affection, if we are open minded enough to accept our differences. I really felt like people around the world are more similar than we expect and we understood this because we were always ready to talk about the places where we come from and our habits, without judging each other but accepting it as part of the intercultural exchange. I arrived in Budapest as a stranger, but i trusted this city and its people and in such a short time i had a new home and friends who are more like a family to me!
Why would you recommend this experience?
I would recommend this experience to all the people who want to challenge themselves, who want to have an impact on a community and spread respect and enthusiasm. It takes some courage to start a journey like this and immerse yourself in a new environment but the jump is worth the fall!!
What we learnt from Flavia’s experience in Budapest is that becoming a Global Citizen it’s more than a working experience abroad and more than volunteering. Is letting yourself become international and more and more opened to new cultures!
That’s all from Budapest, next time we’re gonna move to the other side of the world with Aurora and her experience in the beautiful and sunny Argentina!