The adventure of my lifetime is going on. I have been living in the Netherlands for ten months. How I have got it? Because of the astonishing international project at Humanitas DMH with coordinating from Rock Solid Foundation. If somebody does not know what I am talking about, it calls European Volunteering Service (EVS) Programme. My field here is social work. I help with social activities for people with mental and light physical disabilities.
Today I want to tell you about my feelings during the mentioned time, the work and its features, the Netherlands and the Dutch things, and my free time. Let’s do it – one by one.
1. Can’t Stop the Feeling!
After all this time in the Netherlands, I feel it as my second home. I adapted for a rainy weather, smiling people, the local food, the language, etc. I am a part of this all already.
I even forgot how to leave in Ukraine for a while. This how Erasmus impacts on me.
I know it will be hard to leave the working place, the project, the country. But you always need to move forward. It is just one step in the life – the unforgettable step.
Erasmus volunteering projects are good not only for having fun and traveling, but also for professional development and/or personal reflection. If you want to take a gap year before, during or after studying, you should consider this opportunity.
I chose my project because of the both reasons. I can see my progress with a different kind of skills. Communication, foreign languages training (English and Dutch), time management, social and learning competences, and even cooking. It all helps for my personal development as well. To be responsible, to be honest (first of all with yourself), to be cheerful and open-minded – the characteristics which you can obtain only after a fundamental self-reflection.
Every day I have intensive communication or social interaction with colleagues and clients of the hosting organisation, and everything does not go with your mother tongue – so you can add intercultural nuances to the mentioned processes. Also you learn how to understand people and their needs better, how to be patient in crisis situations and handle any extraordinary conflict moments, how not to be late for your train or bus, because you have the appointment which is fixed in your agenda.
But not only me try to learn new things during the project. My clients also learn a lot. For instance, how to deal with intercultural communication and cultural awareness. I speak Dutch not so perfect as I wish, that is why they use English, sign and body languages to get in contact with me. We do not have any barriers. We cook all together, walk around the village (Odijk), enjoy with all kind of board games, and watching World Cup 2018. By the way, my heart is with Croatia these days.
3. The Netherlands and Dutch Things
Dutch (people) are still nice and smiling. They know how to work hardly and how to have a real fun. When you work with them you are able to immerse only in a friendly atmosphere. Positive and sincere are their main characteristics. They always keep you in smile (it motivates really a lot), and try to be straightforward with you (you can get all the truth about your work outcomes directly and always in person, even if it is a negative thing).
At the same time you have your own responsibilities where only you can deal with. Dutch are friendly for any help but not to do all stuff for you. They can recognise it immediately. Always be sincere and straightforward, all people appreciate it in the Netherlands.
How they have fun? Just gather together, drink a few bottles of beer, and speak about all stuff what is important and not really important. They do really great national celebrations and related festivals. The King's Day (Koningsdag) on 27th of April (by the way, it is a day when almost everybody is totally orange) and the Liberation Day () on 5th of May are the best examples. For a few days people just going crazy – dancing, singing, jumping, drinking all beer and eating all French fries in the country. I was a part of that in April and May, and I would like to repeat it once again. Geweldig!
Let’s speak about Dutch food. I think it is an important part of any culture. In general, Dutch cuisine is very strict. Just check two really typical Dutch meals – stamppot and erwtensoep, you will probably understand what I mean now. For Dutch it is very tasty, of course. But if you are a foreigner, you could find it a bit specific. Also they have bami and nasi – the meals from the former colonies. We cook them often at work. They are different, and tasty. Dutch really like them. Actually, everything is interesting here.
4. Free Time and I
We are 14 international volunteers here, we do not allow to miss each other any minute on the project. Do we have any parties? Yes, of course. Sometimes even too many. De Glind is our main location for all kind of fun. If you see people from De Glind, just run away and do not stop, otherwise, you will be involved in the craziest parties in your life ever. I must confess, I like it.
Do we travel around the Netherlands and Europe? Yes, we do. For example, I have already traveled to Belgium, Germany, Spain. But you even can do more if you want to. Mainly I travel in the Netherlands, especially to the seaside (Zandvoort, Katwijk and Scheveningen). The North Sea is cold (even in summer) but beautiful at the same time.
Also, if you travel in the Netherlands, I would like to recommend you to visit Den Bosch (because of the interesting architecture style), Zaanse Schans (because of the mills), Leiden (because everything is amazing there), and Nijmegen (because it is a student city with all related things). I enjoyed myself with all of these places. Hopefully, you will enjoy too.
You can get more information about all my time in the Netherlands on my Instagram – @tarasyvukha
It is really not much time to the end of the project – the last day is 25th of August. I already can imagine my feelings for the last days on the project and the last hours in the Netherlands. It has become a sweet home for me as you know. But it will be a great moment, because, after all, you have got the new friends around the world, you have gained the life-needed skills and a bit of work experience, you have learned how to work in intercultural environment, and how to melt Ukrainian hearts with amazing people from Humanitas DMH and Rock Solid Foundation. Yes, I can state it today.
Nevertheless, we need to move on. I still have two months for my final conclusions about the true life in EVS.
Taras Syvukha, Kharkiv