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Volunteering in the Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen, Germany

I’m doing my EVS in Erfurt, central Germany and work at Landeszentrale für politische Bildung Thüringen (State Center for Political Education of Thuringia). I work in the publications department and deal mainly with books. This is a fairly complex process. To begin with, you need to find the author, usually teachers and scientists from leading universities in Germany, and reach out to them. After discussing the conditions, we sign a contract and start to wait for a manuscript. The text of the book must be easy to read, so we try to make it as “readable” as possible while proofreading. After the text is finished we prepare a cover and illustrations. As the regulation of intellectual property right in Germany is very strictly, each image must be purchased, in online archive for example, or you have to buy rights directly from the owner. The next step is to send all the files to the chosen printing house and to edit the almost finished book. All publications are more or less connected with political issues and target a wide audience. I described in detail all the stages, because I deal with all of them directly. Day to day :) For almost three months, I managed to complete two books (one of them must be released soon), and I was also engaged in work on other books. There are other tasks as well. Sending ordered books to readers, meeting guests, sending emails and other small activities.

 

 

Our team is small, but productive :). There is my supervisor, other volunteer from France, and me. The secretary or other employees of the organization can also help us sometimes. Three of us have often meetings with the authors. As other volunteer makes films, we record short interviews about future publications and publish them later on the website of the organization. Due to this, we have been twice to Berlin, Leipzig and some small towns in Thuringia, we´ll also go to Innsbruck soon. As volunteers we are also invited to meetings with other organizations or companies to discuss the future cooperation. We´ve already visited social ministry and advertising agencies, who will help us in organizing election campaign next year. This is a very interesting experience for me, as I can get to know how it happens at the official level in another country. Also, thanks to constant emailing I get new skills of business communication in German, which is also very useful.

 

 

What I like in Germany is a "flat hierarchy". Though you can have a boss, but he is neither god nor king, and you are free in making decisions and developing new ideas. So from the very first days I was allowed to make decisions on very different issues: do we have to buy such a book, do we need to change the cover or rewrite the annotation, would it be interesting to release a book on such a topic. Initially, such questions caused discomfort, as I couldn't easily make a decision because of lack of information. But later, it has become easier and I can offer my own ideas and express my thoughts without any fear. :)

In general, this project gives me the opportunity to develop independence and creativity, to improve the skills of professional communication both verbally and in writing, to engage in interesting projects, and simply expand my horizons, as I have to read a lot in a foreign literature.

 

 

As for the language, I do not have problems with that. I studied German at school and graduated from the University with a degree in German philology, so there was no language barrier at the beginning. Now I feel that it's becoming easier to communicate, and I get less tired of constant communication. However, I do not have the opportunity to attend courses. In Erfurt, courses for high level, B2/C1 or C2, are only available for students, and I'm no longer a student, so I can not attend it. But according to what I learned from a representative of the National Agency, courses are mandatory, if the volunteer does not speak the language which is needed for the work. What is not my case.

Living conditions are normal. Not a hotel, of course, but I have everything I need. I live in one building with another volunteer, so I always have help if needed. Also, the organization is always ready to help when there are any problems not connected with the work directly.

 

 

In my free time, I mostly had some rest or was taking care of my small household. Though Erfurt is the largest city in Thuringia, but it's not a student town and not a metropolis, so cultural life here is very calm and often targets the older public. But I still hope to find some occupation for me here. Sometimes I meet other volunteers/trainees, who are currently working in Erfurt or take part in their events. As I have friends in Germany, I have guests sometimes or go to visit them during the weekends.

 

 

So, I travel, both for work and for personal purposes. Just three weeks after Easter, that I managed to celebrated in Ukraine by the way, I visited Munich and Berlin twice, as well as Jena, Göttingen, Wörlitz, and May holidays I'll spend in Mannheim. I also was in Stuttgart for the EVS onboarding training, and several times visited Weimar and Leipzig. I also plan to visit neighbour countries.

 

At the moment, volunteering has given me the opportunity to get to know the life in another country from inside. It was always interesting for me, how it is like to live in those cities, you visit as a tourist. Because everything seems so extraordinary and fabulous. But I really enjoy the life in Germany at the moment and can't wait to know what happens next!

 

Ivanna Zhuravchak, 23 years old, Ivano-Frankivsk