In this article I will reflect on my year in Prague and share the journey as an ESC volunteer in the INEX-SDA office. Even though it is a bit of a cliché for an article like this, I am astonished with how quickly the year passed. I feel I barely settled in, and it is already time to leave. Before starting my ESC project I had dreamed about it for years, so it feels somehow unreal that now this unique experience is behind me. When I first arrived to the Czech Republic, my expectations were quite general. I hoped to meet new people, learn new things and visit new places. In the end all of these wishes came true, but a lot of unexpected things happened as well.

The first weeks in my new position I was getting to know the organization and what my tasks would be. I immediately got the impression that the project was well planned and organized. I felt the processes were clear and the support of the experienced staff members made the busy time ahead seem less intimidating. During the spring and early summer my main responsibilities were related to placing international volunteers on the Czech workcamps, as well as communication with the volunteers and their organizations. I also participated in events, representing INEX-SDA with other volunteers, and did presentations in local schools, telling young people about our activities.

The workcamp season was fast paced, but it was engaging and fun to keep track of the various tasks. I learned a lot about the fascinating and creative local projects, and got to interact with international people. Visiting our workcamps for monitoring visits was especially interesting because it was a unique first-hand experience on how the projects were going, and a chance to see the practical outcome of my work. I also led workshops on these camps, which was challenging but gave me a chance to interact more directly with the groups of international volunteers.

The culmination of the summer season was leading my own workcamp in the small village of Kyselka near the beautiful city of Karlovy Vary. The area was green and hilly and the week there was a nice break from the overwhelming summer heat of Prague. The tasks of renovating and painting the small cabins were fun, and the local community was very happy with the results of our work. I also had a chance to practice more Czech than in Prague because most locals did not know English, and I feel I improved quite a bit.

As the summer ended, so did the workcamps. I enjoyed the change of pace, but there were new tasks ahead, mainly related to collecting various statistics and evaluating the season. This was an opportunity to develop my technological skills, and the end result was really rewarding because it was possible to see the concrete results of our work. It was also fun to read the experiences of the many volunteers who had a special time at our workcamps.

My last task of the year was also the most challenging. Every ESC volunteer has a possibility to conduct a mini-project, and mine was to plan a celebration for the International Volunteer Day in the beginning of December. Organizing such a large event required a lot of flexibility and creative cooperation. We had a great team and a lot of help, but lack of time, changing plans and general stress made the planning chaotic at times. I was really happy that the celebration was successful in the end, and afterwards we compiled everything we learned into a manual to help plan next year’s event. After the event I was pretty exhausted, but luckily the holidays were coming up and after a few weeks of family and good food I had energy for my last weeks in the office. They were spent preparing for the next volunteer, who I hope will get as much out of the position as I did.

In conclusion, a lot happened during the year, and there was never a dull moment. I think the main benefit of the ESC programme for me personally was being able to recognize my strengths as well as the things I need to improve in both in my professional and personal life. I gained valuable practical experience for my future, and I spent a lot of time out of my comfort zone. Looking back, I am grateful to have had this opportunity and I feel more prepared for my next adventures.