I already knew the organisation from volunteering experience with my Finnish sending organisation and had been looking for a position that would help me develop my future career. It was also a huge plus for me that the position was in Czechia, as I had studied in the country and had some friends there from before.
My expectations of the position were quite high because it looked so good on paper. I expected to develop my administrative skills and to learn more about the practical aspects of international volunteering. I also hoped to meet lots of new people and get a chance to travel around Central Europe a bit.
I arrived in the Czech Republic on a cloudy day in early February and spent the first few days settling into my new room in a suburb of Prague. On my first days in the INEX office, I started training with my coordinator Nikol and got a general overview of my year in the project and my main tasks and responsibilities.
However, I barely had time to unpack my luggage, because at the end of the week I had to travel to Switzerland for a training that would prepare me for my role as an incoming placement officer. The training was a great opportunity to meet other ESC volunteers in similar positions from all over the world and I learned more knowledge about the practical processes related to my future tasks.
After returning to Prague, we started preparing for the upcoming workcamp season. My new colleagues at INEX were well prepared and supportive, and although there was a lot to take in, the learning process went smoothly for the most part. In the following weeks, I met with everyone in the office to learn more about their roles and tasks in the organisation. It was exciting to learn more about the numerous creative, fun and impactful projects INEX is involved in.
I had learned some Czech before, but using it in everyday life was very hard at first. In Prague, the locals are used to foreigners and easily switch to English to help me when I try to practise. My mentor Francesco helped me find a conversation group where I could practise with other expats, and after a couple of awkward sessions I felt a bit more confident.
About a month after starting my project, I headed to my On-arrival training in the beautiful historic city of Olomouc, where I met all the volunteers who had started an ESC project in the Czech Republic around the same time as me. It was fun to hear about the variety of projects in the different parts of the country. During the training, I also finally got to exercise my rusty language skills, helping the newer volunteers to interact with the locals as we explored the city.
As the season had started the week I was away, I returned to Prague to find that the flow of applications for the summer’s workcamps had started. The first few days dealing with them were definitely a challenge, but I feel I am starting to get the hang of it and I am looking forward to how much more I will learn during the adventure that will be in the coming months.