Hi, I’m Sarah, 18 y/o from Münster, Germany and I’m currently living in London spending a gap year after I finished my A-levels in 2020. As I couldn’t imagine studying nonstop after 8 years of school – not to mention that I didn’t have and still don’t have a clue what to do after this year – I searched for over a year for environmental and social opportunities all over the world and long story short, ended up at the German YMCA in London thanks to some criss-cross relations and word-of-mouth recommendations. I was truly relieved and could hardly believe that I was offered a placement.

I arrived in lockdown London and went straight into isolation until I passed a Covid test. Due to the Covid restrictions, the sightseeing spots around London were empty of tourists, which made strolling and getting to know the city very much enjoyable. I even bought a bike on eBay buy and sell (well…I had to learn first hand that it’s not quite the same as the German eBay Kleinanzeigen when eBay told me that my account was suspended) and cycled to loads of parks from Richmond Park through to Greenwich Park and many more. For a long time, before I came here, I wanted to learn the piano and to continue playing handball. What I had in mind came true and made me feel more independent. Even though I’ve been doing handball training for only two weeks now, I noticed that it lightens my mood and strengthens my confidence as it is something I already know and is like a shelter from everything new by which I’m surrounded.

Especially related to work I’m confronted with a lot of new challenges. Our colleagues are working on furlough and partly from home, which is why we have the office for ourselves and are free but also responsible for how we spend the time. On one day, I would wish for continuous contact to receive more feedback and insights and on the next, I’m happy about managing my own workday. Oftentimes, I have to step out of my comfort zone which is both interesting and enriching on the one hand, but difficult, overwhelming, and not less strenuous on the other. As we’re able to look into various fields of work and take part in activities for people of all age groups from toddlers to retirees and are volunteering in different organisations and charities, we meet new people all the time. That means to concentrate on listening for hours and to overcome the hurdle of talking to other people in English and articulating oneself not to sound rude but polite. And that with the limited amount of vocabulary I’m based on. Thanks to loads of nice and polite people, I don’t have to worry about it too much because they make me feel included and welcome even when I’m making all kinds of mistakes. In general, I’d like to emphasize that I’m genuinely impressed by how many kind people I have already met.

This is why I’m glad that I’ve got the chance to participate in the ESC volunteering project:

You’re getting supported but still, a lot of things you will figure out for yourself as you’re diving into situations you’ve never been in before. And I know that I wouldn’t have taken these steps out of my comfort zone to expand my horizon if I wasn’t here or without the support of my volunteer mates.

By Sarah