Self development through language
If you remember correctly, one of my early expectations was to learn the Czech language. And it was one of my personal goals. I am someone who likes languages and enjoys learning them for fun, often in an informal way.
With this personal goal I also had my ups and downs. I remember my first contact with the languages, for me it really was an alien language. But soon I managed to learn the basics and was able to finally understand what the cashier was telling me, “máte applikce lidle plus?” to which you should answer “némam”.
Also during the summertime I did not give it much time, and started to have self doubt: Why do you want to learn this language, only spoken by 11 million people. My flatmates were trying to teach me a few words but it was hard for me to distinguish the different syllables and therefore to repeat the words. One of my flatmates even told me that I just wasn’t made for the language, and a couple of Czech people told me that this is the second hardest language to learn after Chinese.
I was seriously considering giving up on this personal goal, even if I was using this goal as a way that I can stick to a particular self development goal. I also had a lot of fun learning about the slangs of the language, for example when Czech people tell you to go to hell they tell you to go to the forest “hajé”. I found this particularly funny because one end of the C metro line is “háje” meaning that whenever the metro is riding this direction there are hundreds of people going to “hell” every day.
Surprisingly when I came back from my vacation where I was not in contact with the language at all, I realized that I actually was able to understand texts that were on billboards or menu in a restaurant and so on. This gave me a boost in confidence and I started talking in the language more and more. I am still far from mastering it, but I still have made huge progress since the beginning.
And started to talk more and more even for simple and basic conversations. And one of the biggest compliments I received was from my flatmate who said “I feel like I am talking with a dumb 3 year old kid who just learned how to speak”, it might sound weird but for me this counts as a success.
I also was lucky in my Czech path to find a friend who was actively learning French and who was willing to teach me some Czech in exchange for some French. Now that I know that I will not be staying in the Czech Republic I do not want to keep learning the language for some time, but I know that this is one of the things I will come back to at some point in my life.
The work at INEX
For me evolving in INEX was my first real job experience, even though this is voluntary work. And I have to say that it went fine. INEX is a non hierarchical environment and I value this atmosphere. Also as an NGO we have a lot of active members which are often involved with INEX, this is an amazing opportunity to get to know people.
A lot of educational events are organised by the NGO. At those events we often have members of partner organisations that attend them, it enables me to meet so many different people that I have been exchanging emails with during the whole placement procedure.
I soon got my first responsibilities and it enabled me to better understand how to effectively manage a project from start to finish. I am sure that I will be able to take all those lessons back to Belgium, it does not matter exactly what I will be doing in my future.
We also have an amazing happiness manager in the office, if you want to know who that is check the section contact of our website.
There are a lot of differences among INEX sections and the different projects that we run are not so connected one to another. So by working in this environment you can learn from various sources.
It is a safe space where I was able to make mistakes and to learn some lessons the hard way.
Doom of the expat, all your friends will be gone after some time. Also the fact that this is hard for you to connect with locals. Fortunately I had some at my work and in my flat.
The difficulty of maintaining friendships and relations with friends and family while being abroad. But in the end nothing changed. The feeling that everything changed so much for you but when you go back home it is like nothing really changed.
You need to put much more effort into building friendships. It is hard to know if some friends are real friends and or just people passing by in your life.
At the beginning of the year, I was told that one ESC volunteer out of two decides to stay in Prague. Our last volunteer stayed, and I decided not to.
I feel like this year I learned so much about myself and that I never experienced such personal development before. In a way, getting lost in a foreign country helped me to find myself.
We often hear the story of people going abroad and seeing this a life changing experience but they often do not elaborate on this. For me what I realised is that I have good skills for adaptation, that I am more able to talk to others and less afraid of looking ridiculous.
It also pushed me to be more proactive in my social life, which is something I value a lot. Most adults struggle to make friends, here I had to and I did pretty well. I hope I will keep using this skill in my future wherever I will land.
I also truly believe in the international field as an amazing way to challenge all the ideas that you have about something and what you consider as normal or not. I am also truly convinced that travelling far from home is one of the best ways to experience growth. My plans for the future are still blurry but I know for sure that I would like to keep being involved in the international field and maybe keep providing volunteering opportunities to youngsters around the world.