The summer is approaching and many volunteers who arrived in autumn are now leaving, taking their new experiences home with them. A volunteer from Turkey, Kübra, has reflected on her EVS project in a most delightful way! Sağ ol Kübra! Türkiye`de görüşmek üzere!
Who are you, Kübra?
First of all, I would like to say “Tervist!” to the person who is reading these lines. I’m Kübra from Turkey. I have been volunteering in Keila Kool for 9.5 months. I graduated from university last year. These are the kind of things anybody can learn about me easily but other things are really hard to put into words and I can assure you I’m spending much time discovering who I am and what I want because we humans are like a river that is ever-changing. There are some differences even between the last year me and the current me. If I were to say something about the current me: I’m more optimistic about the future thanks to EVS.
How did you hear about EVS?
I always dreamt of living abroad but I was just a student who didn’t have enough money and experience so I started to check all the opportunities in Europe and found EVS which is the most unique one for people like me. EVS provides a lot of new opportunities, like making new friends from different countries, learning a different foreign language, gaining an amazing experience and exploring many different places. The most surprising part is that all these opportunities are totally for free.
Why did you choose Keila Kool for your EVS project?
I studied primary school teaching at university so I was always following the education news and I knew that Estonia is the rising star of Education World because Estonia did a great job in PISA results. I started to research about Estonia and I was really impressed how a small country can achieve all these developments in a very short time. Then one day, my sending organization made an announcement about an EVS opportunity in a small and sweet Estonian city Keila which is where I currently live. So, it was a great chance to observe and explore the Education System of Estonia. Even though I wasn’t hopeful about being accepted at first, a miracle happened and my EVS journey started in Keila Kool where there are amazing people!
What were your expectations about the project before it started?
I had many expectations that created disappointment for me in the beginning. I wanted to organize many events for example but had a language barrier which was really harsh for me. I didn`t feel able to express my feelings nor share my thoughts in English and the second thing was that all the teachers in Keila Kool had their own plans already made, so it was hard to find things for me to do in the beginning but my tutor made a new plan and this plan mostly worked out well.
What kind of difficulties did you need to overcome during the project?
Darkness and language!
How did you overcome them?
Darkness was one of the hardest challenges for me to overcome. I was kind of in a shock after not seeing the Sun for days. I felt really intimidated by Estonian winter but even then didn’t know it was going be dark almost all winter! I didn’t have any idea how to overcome this challenge and I asked the people who were used to the situation and tried all the suggestions in my life – like lighting candles, meditation, meeting up with friends, trying to be as social as possible… The suggestions made my life in Estonia for sure easier.
The second challenge was language with which I struggled mostly but the plan created by my tutor was my lucky chance, because according to my plan I had to give English speaking lessons to children who were eager to speak English. So, I would like to say that I can speak English better than in the beginning of this experience because of the beautiful children who I worked with.
What would be your recommendations for future EVS volunteers?
Don’t mind all the rumor about Estonians. Before coming to Estonia, I had read many opinions about Estonians, so when I came here, I expected to meet just cold people but all the people whom I have met were very friendly and willing to help to me. So, I prefer not to define Estonians as cold people but I would like to say they are really modest, so if you are not a loud and dramatic person you are going to love Estonians?
(If you were to say “Smile” to an Estonian without a reason, that could be hard for them for sure.) 🙂
About darkness…Well, It’s going to be hard for sure if you come from a Mediterranean country but the best way to get rid of the depression of Estonian darkness is being as social as possible. Even though I was often at home during the winter, I can say that when I met with friends or joined an activity, I was feeling the sigh of relief. I got much advice from my Estonian friends but this advice was perhaps the most useful one?
Last but not least – language! This is a thing I deeply regret because I was feeling so shy about my English and didn’t want to talk with anybody in the beginning, even though everybody was really friendly. So, my suggestion is: Don’t hesitate to socialize. How can you improve yourself any otherwise? And the second tip about language, maybe you came here for improving your English but don’t forget you are going to live in Estonia and everybody is not able to speak English. So, if you learn Estonian at least on a basic level, your life is going to be much easier and you are going to see happy Estonians because when they see a foreigner trying to speak Estonian, they want to help you and this really makes them happy.
What did you learn during EVS that you perhaps would have not learned without EVS experience?
I know that if I really want to do something there are no obstacles, except the ones in my mind. Especially in the winter time, it was really hard to put up with living alone in the cold and dark but I would say that when I figured out that I’m dramatizing this winter thing too much, I started to clear my mind and have fun with the beautiful Estonian winter – because I learned that some people really love these dark times and it’s the most beautiful time of the year for them. Unfortunately, by the time I discovered it, it was already the end of the winter. So, I guess the most important thing that I learned from my EVS experience is not to be so dramatic if I want to achieve something.
What was your nicest EVS moment, or perhaps the funniest moment?
I had many funny moments in Estonia but I want to tell you about my very first moment in Estonia. My tutor came to meet me at the airport and I was really excited about it. Then, when I was exiting the airport gate and saw a very tall Estonian man holding a paper on which it was written Kübra-Keila Kool, I waved my hand and attempted to hug like a Turkish person (we, Turkish people hug each other 2 or even 3 times when we meet) but my tutor hugged me just once in a very Estonian way and I said to myself: Welcome to Estonia Kübra. So, the cultural shock started from the very first day for me.
How can you use your EVS experience in the future?
I learned a lot of things from the teachers in my school but the two most important things that I learned, were how to be organized and use different educational programs in the classroom. So, I guess being organized is going to help me a lot in my work life and the educational programs that I learned from the teachers are going to make my work easier in the classroom.
Let`s imagine that you are back in Turkey. What would you tell your friends, family and others in Turkey about Estonia and Estonians?
Firstly, I should tell them where Estonia is. Even though Estonia is getting more famous because of the technological developments with each passing day, it’s still so underrated in my opinion. So, I’m going to spread the word about Estonia for sure because I really love everything about the Estonian culture. I’m going to tell them about all the dances and songs and I’m planning to be back with Kalev chocolates, so I’m going to make them taste how high-quality Estonian chocolates are and lastly tell them about how Estonian people are helpful and peaceful.
What is the biggest cultural difference between Estonia and Turkey? What is the biggest cultural similarity?
We Turkish people are really connected to our traditions like Estonians. I love how Estonians respect their traditions and are preparing for laulupidu (a huge singing festival) months in advance. We also love our traditional dances and music and perform them especially on 23rd of April, on Children’s Day, and on 19th of May, on Youth and Sports Day, and I think it is the most similar aspect of the two cultures.
The biggest cultural difference is family concept because in Turkey we have more closer relationships with our family members and we always try to be in contact with each other but here people love their privacy, so Estonians love to lead their lives independently.
Tell us something about Turkey! A fun fact and/ or something that Estonians should know about Turkey.
Well, Estonians know Antalya very well because of its resorts but you should know that Antalya is not the only city in Turkey! J You should come and explore the different sides of Turkey. To be honest, it can be hard to find English speaking people there but we are so friendly and you are going to be in love with the different natural and historical beauties, the different sides of Turkey, like İzmir, Mardin, Nevşehir and at the same time surprised to see how much variety our nation has!
Edit: EVS (European Voluntary Service) is now called VS but we decided to use EVS for this story as this was title of the service when it started.