DECEMBER 29. 2021.

A Dream in Sarajevo

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Kevin Topi

ROUTE WB6 Exchange Program is my first volunteering experience abroad. I have been looking for a long time to have a regional volunteering experience, but I didn't find any responsible program up till now. Reading the reviews of some similar programs I was skeptical about how all this experience would work out and I didn't know what to expect. I just had the confidence in the person who recommended this program, and that was enough to take this path. Very soon, from the beginning of the process, it started to feel like the right decision to make. During the selection phase, I was supported by the RYCO's team and I had ongoing communication with them. That was very important to me because I could feel that they did care about me and were serious with their program. Their professionalism is also demonstrated in the partners that they chose to conduct the program with.

I had a friendly interview with the host organization. We were transparent with one another regarding the objectives and goals that we wanted to achieve from this exchange, and I immediately felt the synergy we had together. Therefore, volunteered for the organization NARKO-NE, in Sarajevo, Bosnia, and Herzegovina.

When arrived in Sarajevo, the weather was very cold but on contrary, the greeting from the NARKO-Ne team was very warm. I felt very much welcomed in their organization. From the first day up until my last one everyone from the organization was kind to me and ready to help. I was curious to learn more about Bosnia and Herzegovina, so I was asking questions all the time, and they were very kind and patient to give me answers. The work in NARKO-NE was intense and challenging, but not stressful. Each day after getting back to my accommodation I felt accomplished with my engagement during the day.

My volunteering hours consisted mostly of conducting research and stretching my creative and critical thinking skills on organizing and implementing leisure time activities for young people. So I was satisfied because I could express my potential and learn on the meanwhile practical knowledge that I believe will be useful to me in the future.

Some of the skills that I felt like I have acquired and improved during this volunteering experience, besides research, creative and critical thinking, are communication skills, which I felt are improved a lot, both written and verbal, interpersonal communication, communicating in a group and discussing ideas with the team, and public speaking.

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An important take-away lesson that I learned from being part of a large project, is the importance of teamwork. I discovered that I cannot do everything on my own and that a good team is a key to success.

The organization had carefully planned my accommodation close to their offices and close to the cultural center of Sarajevo. My hostel was in the Old Town, so during my free time, it was easy for me to go out and explore the city. The advantage of living in a hostel is that there are always curious persons which want to go out to discover new things and with whom to discuss and share opinions. So, I was able to learn more about their culture and history while also listening to the perspective of people who visited Bosnia and Herzegovina from abroad.

The first weekend that I spent in Sarajevo, I visited Sarajevo Brewery, a historical beer factory, and when I went inside, I saw many people happy, singing, dancing, and having a great time with their loved ones. The days went on, and finally, the first rays of the sun come out and I saw Sarajevo in a different light. Sarajevo appeared to be a lively and quiet city.

During this journey, I meet a lot of amazing people with whom I share a bond of friendship and gratitude. Thanks to them I had experienced a lot of emotions, and the hardest ones were when I had to say goodbye. The time went fast, now all of this seems just a dream, but in Sarajevo, I found a home where to return.

The views expressed in this story are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the ROUTE WB6 project, the project consortium members or the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Norway which supports the project. The author is solely responsible for the validity and accuracy of the information presented in this story.