Concordia - The Power of Volunteering: How Lea’s Experience in Saint-Quentin Transformed Her Life

The Power of Volunteering: How Lea’s Experience in Saint-Quentin Transformed Her Life

We are excited to present an insightful interview with Lea, an Austrian volunteer in Saint-Quentin, who shares her transformative experience during her volunteering project and how it has impacted various aspects of her life.


Linguistic skills

My interest in languages started at school, when I had English, French and Spanish as subjects. These lessons were always part of what I really enjoyed doing. Learning new languages in general is something I like very much.

One of the main reasons why I chose to go to France was because I really wanted to improve my French. Mainly during the month of November (my first one in France) my language skills were a bit rusty. Fortunately, that quickly changed. Eight months later, I can now say that it was a success. I learned a lot of new vocabulary and phrases related to school topics and free time.

Lea and her friend, sharing a picnic in a park


Speaking has also simply become much more fluent and confident. As one of my main tasks in school was to help teachers with teaching the German language, I got much better at explaining things in French. I feel like for natives it is always a challenge to explain why you say something a certain way in your mother tongue. With some student exchanges between Germany and France, I also did some translating, which helped me to further evaluate my language skills.


A group of volunteers in the snow

Whereas in school I learned French mainly with grammar exercises, vocabulary tests, exercises in the book etc., here I was able to put it into practice. Almost everything I learned here in terms of language, I learned directly in practical application. My mistakes were usually corrected directly, and missing vocabulary was filled in by the conversation partner. This allowed me to really improve my pronunciation and also to just speak. Most of the time you are afraid to really speak a language at the beginning, maybe because of fear of making mistakes or because you want to speak perfectly. Through this stay here I was able to get rid of that perfectionism, I just had to speak and that was exactly what I needed.




Personal and social impact

A selfie of Lea and some friends

I was able to improve my organizational skills a lot during this stay. I had to put together the lessons for the students myself and then also carry them out and plan and implement some projects too. I was also able to develop these skills by planning a trip to Vienna with the students and generally organizing my numerous trips during this time.

It was important here to be able to concentrate on many different things at the same time and not to lose the overview or forget anything. This also taught me to set priorities and to pursue my goals over a longer period of time and to work for them.

I became a lot more independent here, as I had to organize my whole life on my own somehow. If you’re not used to that, it’s a big change at the beginning. For me, the unknown here was also a challenge. I generally tend to get homesick and the thought that I knew nothing and no one here and was virtually on my own was very unsettling. I’m proud of myself for having overcome that.

My stay abroad has made me more confident and self-assured. I have also developed more openness and tolerance in all areas of life and approach other people with an open mind. Putting myself in other people’s shoes and giving appropriate and helpful advice is something I have become really good at. On the other hand, I also confide in other people more and we overcome difficulties together.

I have also really learned to listen more to myself and my body and to actively do something for my health. The cooking skills I learned during my education in school have come in very handy here and I have also started to exercise regularly and go for walks. Just generally things that are good for me. I got to know myself much better here and I also stand up for myself and my opinions.

Through this stay abroad, I have learned to deal with things more calmly and to become more spontaneous.  I have become much more flexible and adaptable through this volunteering placement and have learned to do my work and plan projects independently even without instructions from my tutor or other teachers.



Cultural awareness and expression

Group picture of volunteers

I usually solved problems together with other volunteers in the group and also worked out activities with them. Cultural differences had to be overcome, which was not easy at times, but we were able to learn a lot from each other and exchange experiences and knowledge.

People from different countries and cultures lived together in my shared flat, which was challenging at times. But it was also totally interesting to learn what life is like in Ghana, for example. Cultural differences should be accepted without judgement. One has to be open and curious and also show willingness to learn from each other. Such experiences also make it possible to question and discard prejudices and stereotypes.


Group picture of volunteers

During my eight months in France, I was able to integrate relatively well into the culture there and learn a lot about it. I also had the opportunity to travel around France and meet many new people from all over the world. Among other things, this was also possible through my work as a translator. For example, I accompanied teachers from Erfurt to Maroilles and learned something about cheese in France. Through my trip to Latvia, I was also able to learn things about Latvian culture and the people there.

In general, I have become more open, spontaneous and independent through all the travelling, I also often had to overcome myself. Furthermore, I appreciate my home in Austria much more now !



Do you wish to know more about the European Solidarity Corps? Find informations here

Publié le lundi 18 septembre 2023 à 11:11:26

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