Traveling abroad can enrich someone in a thousand ways. We can learn a new language, work in different domains we’ve never tried before, discover need food and more globally a new culture. But to me, the most enriching experiences come from the people you meet. This week, I had the chance to meet so many new people who made me grow emotionally and humanly.
When you do an ESC project, on-arrival training is organized for the volunteers of one or several countries. Created by the SALTO organization, my on-arrival training happened in Lviv between the 9 and 13 of November in the Patriarshyi hotel. We were 25 volunteers coming from Ukraine, Belarus, and Moldavia, all staying in the same place, spending our days together as part of a formation on different subjects: team-building, the development of our personal projects, project management, how to handle conflicts…Sharing experience as intense as this one with people participating in the same kind of projects as you, living the same thing, creates immediate and strong bonds.
Through this training week, I met people from many different countries: the United Kingdom, Germany, Denmark, Estonia, Luxembourg, and many French people. I was pretty amazed by the number of French et German people but considering this is a European project it made sense that these two nationalities were the most represented.
To be perfectly honest this isn’t the training that brought us closer together. Yes, making activities together, mostly in small groups changing regularly allowed us to get to know each other better and to be more comfortable with one another. But the activities that most brought us together were to evenings we spent out in the city center of Lviv. Beyond allowing us to discover original bars or restaurants, it allowed getting to know each other in a more informal way. Drinking a beer in the bar where the inventor of BDSM was born or in one held by Ukrainian nationalists asking for a password to get into the location, we share moments of happiness and laughing, only thinking of having fun and enjoying those moments together.
Some mornings were more difficult than others, especially at the end of the week, but we were all enjoying it and being able to create bond through it. We had the chance to spend an afternoon in the city center on Tuesday. Walking in the street, climbing up the city hall tower to admire the landscape, discovering a nice café hiding in a narrow street, eating in a restaurant altogether…
Because they wanted to extend the pleasure, some volunteers from Moldavia decided to stay a little bit longer and booked an Airbnb. We all went out again, spending the afternoon in the Cat Café where we had to chance to enjoy a nice hot drink surrounded by cute cats. The last evening, we were supposed to go to a football game (Ukraine VS Denmark). Sadly because of poor time-management skills and uber issues we didn’t make it in time for the game. We stayed in a mall, we ate in a Georgian restaurant, then we had to say goodbye. Goodbye because through this experience I became intimately convinced I created friendships that will last in time. We all said it several times during the training, how happy we were to be able to create a group of friends so easily, to have the same idea of what it meant to do such a trip and that will to discover, share, travel and meet new people.
We all hope we will all see each other again during the mid-term. I know some volunteers plan on coming back to Lviv in the next months, and I decided I would go to Odesa and Chisinau to visit and spend time with them. I also know that if one day I decide to join them in any place of the world, I would only need a phone call for them to welcome me, the same way I would welcome them anywhere I am, either it is in Lviv or in France.
Beyond that, day-by-day life here is full of meetings. I discover so many new people, all ready to organize events with us, volunteers. We also get stopped a lot in the street by people hearing us speak English. They want to know where we come from, why we are in Lviv, how long we are staying. The secret is to not be afraid of going toward others. Accepting to go out when you are proposed activities, even if they sometimes are original. Not hesitate to send a message to that person who told us that they “would love to grab coffee with you sometimes”. Sometimes, they say it to be polite, but they can also really mean it and insisting to see them can lead to real friendships.
I realize how lucky I am to have the opportunity to meet people from diverse horizons, so open-minded with the same will to discover and share. I can’t wait to share new moments with them and to know who I am going to meet in the next months and see where it will lead me in the next years.