First Impressions of the EVS in Santiago de Compostela

When I first arrived in Santiago I was a little bit nervous. I didn't knew exactly what awaited me, so it was in some kind the moment of truth, the moment where my choice to participate in an EVS project for seven months got real. A lot of questions shot threw my head, like "What will the city be like?", "How are the other volunteers?", "Who are these people from the Hosting Organization I only know threw Email contact?", "Whats my flat like?", "Whats the work about?" or "I don't even know Spanish, will I get along?"..
Now after two months, I know the answers to all of these questions that appeared to me some seconds after I climbed out of my plane. So I can say the city is beautiful and I love the galician lifestyle, the other volunteers, as well as the people from the Hosting Organization are really kind, the flats are nice as long as we keep them clean and I really like my work here .
As I think, that these are questions and sorrows that every volunteer sees himself confronted with at some point in the beginning of his volunteering service, I wanted to collect in this post the first impressions of some of my co-volunteers to show the young people, interested in doing an EVS that it's completely normal to have sorrows, but  you will surpass them and have a great time.

Pavlo Kelbas (Ukraine):

I arrived on my volunteering project in Spain in the middle of the night, I got picked up at the airport and it was hard for me to understand anything the people of my hosting organization told me. The following morning I had an excursion threw Santiago de Compostela and I realized that the city is even more beautiful than I imagined. This amazing architecture and its combinations were overwhelming. The Spanish people I met were very kind and friendly, which is something  I really missed in my country. For me everything was new and interesting, as it's the first time I get the possibility to travel in Europe and experience European culture. Of course I had a cultural shock in the first days, but after a few days I overcame

it. During my first week in Spain, I had already the opportunity to see the ocean, which I've never seen before. Another new thing, that was at first very strange for me, was siesta, means the fact, that all the Spanish people are resting and all the shops are closed for an hour or two in the middle of the day, from 14.00 to 16.00 or from 15.00 to 17.00. 

The first days working in Os Tilos were hard for me. I didn`t understand anything, neither the children, nor their games. Furthermore I couldn't even understand the staff, so I had a huge communication barrier to surpass, but everyone tried to help me and explain what was required of me. Up until now I became friend with the children at work and I'm beginning to understand them and the staff a little bit as well.

This is a great experience that was necessary in my life. I`m very glad that I chose to go as a volunteer for a year to Spain and I'm looking forward to what will happen next.

Alexandra Marquet (Belgium)

When I arrived in Santiago, I was very surprised by two things. First of all, the nature is so green and not dry as we could expect from the landscapes in Spain. Then, there are not only a lot of churches as we can imagine but also a lot of pubs and places for eating tapas. 

Santiago has a good and very peaceful atmosohere. The pilgrims give an additional charm to the city. It’s very funny to see them arrive in the city. All of them seem so happy because they  finally did it ! 

I was the first volunteer arriving  in my flat, so it was a little bit strange to be alone in the flat. 
Fortunately there were volunteers in the other flat and they welcomed me very well.  And the adventure in Santiago started .. :)

Jakob Weidenauer (Austria)

October 4th 2017. Vienna Airport. It was time to go. Next stop Madrid, Final destination: Santiago de Compostela.

When I got onto the plane I did not understand a word of Spanish! It really felt strange to leave but on the other hand I was sure that I can do this. So this journey has finally started.
My first days in Santiago have been great, spending time with the other volunteers or just exploring the historical city of Santiago. I love it! Some weeks ago we have been on a trip to Ribiera where we visited a vinery and the “Grand Canyon” before we enjoyed the thermal baths in Ourense when it got dark. Amazing trip!

So far, I have really enjoyed being a volunteer in Santiago and my understanding of Spanish gets better every day. My speaking will take some time but we are getting there! Although it took a bit to get used to the new surroundings I can finally say that I settled in very well!

Shannon Barbier (Luxembourg)

I landed during the night at the Santiago Airport, where the coordinator of the project picked us up and  drove to Santiago. The first impression that I got from Santiago was a city without good parking occasions and a lot small one-way streets. We drove around for at least 20 minutes until we found a place to drop the car. When we finally found a solution, I was able to see the apartment I would live in during the following months for the first time. 

During my first week I had a lot of time to visit the city and honestly I fell in love with what I saw. For me the cathedral was overwhelming, especially at night. The entire old town made me feel comfortable and I still love to go there for a walk or to enjoy the divers bar culture of Spain. In Santiago there are so many bars that one could say that it was build around bars. The drinks are nice, but the tapas are the convincing thing: Almost every bar offers you a plate of tapas with your drink! Soon all the volunteers, me included, found a nice place to meet and enjoy tapas in the evening. My first impression of Santiago was that it is a nice city, a great place and now after almost 2 months I can say that I still think like this.

However, not only Santiago but the whole galician region is great! I already visited the beach and some other places in Galicia and I loved it. A Coruña is another city, situated next to the sea in the north of Galicia. I went there for my Birthday and I really enjoyed it. It's a big city with a nice beach and it was a pleasure to walk from the "Torré de Hercules" to "Monte de San Pedro". Even though it's a far walk, it is totally worth it, because you can see all over the city (and the sea of course).
On an other day during my project here, some of us visited the Ribeira Sacra and the thermal baths in Ourense. This natural spa is great for relaxing and due to the fact that we were there during the night,  it even was way more fascinating. 

After all I can say that I am lucky to be here because I found new friends with whom I can enjoy and discover all the great things Galicia has to offer. And of course because the weather is still good although it should be raining all the time which makes Santiago even more beautiful.

Ecem Sagiroglu (Turkey)

Hi, my name is Ecem and I’m from Turkey. When I got the message,  that I'm accepted for an EVS, the first thing I did was doing some researches about the city I would head to. To be honest, I was not very impressed after typing "Santiago de Compostela" in Google. Furthermore, it wasn't an easy journey to come here from Turkey, because there were no direct flights and the transit flights were incredibly long. When I finally landed at the Santiago airport, my coordinator Victor, one of my co-volunteers Despoina and a Turkish ex-volunteer Ezgi welcomed me. The rest of the volunteers stayed at our flat with friends, hanging out, and later that night, all of us went to one bar where we stayed until the early morning. Galician local artists were playing their own traditional music, which was very interesting and which I appreciated very much.

The old town of Santiago is really beautiful. I noticed this already when I was walking around at night, but it was really exciting to see the cathedral in the morning. October and November passed generally good despite the rain which I didn't expected in those quantities. In my hosting organization  Os Tilos, we perform a variety of different activities every week. The goal is on the one hand to offer the children the best possible environment to develop themselves, but on the other hand  to put  the volunteers in a position of responsibility, leading them to gain new experiences and growing as persons. My co-volunteers are very warm, but still it's hard to live in the same house with people you do not know. At least we are trying to recognize each other since the first day. Living together is achieved through respect for each other and I am fortunate that every volunteer is making an effort on respect. 

There are wonderful parks in the city and we are lucky that the kitchen of our house has a very nice view on one of them, the "parque de Belvis". Moreover, the galician landscape is very beautiful, especially on sunny days. Despite the fact that we all have a difficult time getting used to the new language and culture during this first few months, it is an incredible experience and I do not understand how time passes that fast. 


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