At first, I was introduced to the youth exchange projects some 10 years ago - just before my country joined the EU. But then, unfortunately, I was dragged away from the context, for the same everyday reasons that drive a lot of people away from it I guess - I had to start my university studies, find a normal job - to be able to support myself and so on.
The projects were amazing, I met a lot of cool young people from many different countries and fields of interest. The projects I participated in were in the spheres of music, culture and multiethnic relations, which fascinated me back then, and I still find very interesting now - a little more than 10 years later, in my early 30s.
I learned a lot from these short - term projects. Lessons that I still can remember and were great in supporting and directing my personal point of view throughout the years and with all the different beginnings and endeavors in my life so far, just to mention a few - not to be so self-centered, to appreciate other's opinions and their talents and backgrounds, and to let everybody's experience get to you and be your teacher for the times to come.
So fast- forward, a relative of mine who brought me to my first youth exchanges and projects, pointed my attention and gave me the coordinates of my future sending organization - the Centre of European Initiatives in Stara Zagora, Bulgaria, and that’s how I started the process of application.
As we can learn from the publicly available information on the official EVS online pages, this program is available and aimed towards young people from the ages of 18 to 30, so I was thinking to myself: " -Oh, gosh, what if I am too old for this, or what if my previous deeds and experience aren't applicable for the purposes of this program?!?! Have I missed the last train?!" And now that I arrived here, in Prilep, I'm glad that I have decided to apply despite my inner doubts, because it was a great inspiration and motivation for me, to find out, going through this process, that my request was approved, and the wonderful opportunity of volunteering and everything that it goes with was granted to me. And as I'm speaking of everything that goes with it, I want to be more particular and mention all the young, kind and interesting people that I have and will meet in this period, the opportunity to explore and to be more self- sufficient and independent than in my own and well - known environment.
I have been given a great deal of hope about my own future, and if I'm allowed to go back to the lessons learned, I really hope to be able to find myself and my own niche, own ambitions and plans about the future, by participating in this project which is aimed towards a common and not a personal objective, and by working with all the people - young and a little bit older, with whom I will be able to make a connection with in the near future.
For the town of Prilep itself, well for now all I could state is the obvious, not a very big place by any stretch of the imagination, not to forget that this opinion falls within the frame of my own comparisons. What really caught my attention was the plentiful number of young people, that I've seen hanging out at the central square, the fresh air in the town and the calm environment on the otherwise, seemingly busy streets. These were the factors, that caught my attention, due to the fact that in my own home country for example, the small to medium size towns suffer from a shortage of young people in their populace, If I dare stating my opinion, due to the visible centralization of infrastructure and economy to the bigger cities. This being noticed, made a very good impression for me personally.
To add up, I've met probably all the modern features of a town, which on the other hand coexist with the historical feats of the preserved architecture in the central area, which represent the older commerce, culture and way of life.
Here, I think is the place to mention that my home country and the Republic of Macedonia are very similar culturally, linguistically and ethnically, so I knew in advance pretty much what I was to expect, and let's not forget that these were only my first impressions.
I'm sure that very soon, as part of this project I will meet a lot more of the local young people and will learn about their way of thinking, their hopes, dreams and particular needs - and on my side will be able to introduce them to the advantages that the youth programs have to offer and in cooperation with the Youth Information and Counseling Center – Info SEGA and the Coalition of Youth Organizations "SEGA" in the town of Prilep, to help promote and draw their attention towards the European Voluntary Service (EVS) as a way to expand their views and develop their future.
Written by: Velin Nedkov - a volunteer from Bulgaria