I’m Praveen from India. Like many individuals from India who wish to travel abroad but have limited known opportunities. I found myself lucky when I got selected by FSL India for an intercultural project to stay in Berlin, Germany for a year as a volunteer. In Berlin I share the flat with individuals from Denmark, Turkey and Georgia. I can say we are a fun group staying together in a shared flat. It’s been a month in Berlin and I’m experiencing, exploring and learning unique stuff.
Soon after landing in Berlin our hosting organization conducted an orientation for all the volunteers. Initially it was online because many of us (volunteers) had to undergo a 5 days quarantine. The orientation comprised of language briefing, activities to help get to know each other, picnic in a park, plan to represent /showcase our talents or skills, empowerment and overview about area of work, information related with host organization, rules pertaining to traffic, information on the number of holidays we get, medical care, legal compliance, various brainstorming session, visiting a flea market, going out together and eating and a lot more fun moments.
During a particular activity in the orientation, all the volunteers were asked their views on a given statement by either accepting or not accepting the statement. I always had a feeling about why things cannot be neutral, so I raised my voice and said that I’m neutral because I neither accept nor reject the statement. To my surprise the resource person actually considered my words and agreed on it. After which many other volunteers came and stood with me. That was really an overwhelming feeling for me at the time since I really felt that I’ve been heard and that my choice means something.
The whole orientation gave me the opportunity to know about various individuals from various countries. I learned about the co-volunteers’ life, challenges and way of living. And had the opportunity to reflect on how I’m presenting myself and what co-volunteers felt about me during the orientation.
There are also a few things I would like to share that I have observed, experienced and explored so far through my stay here in Berlin!
The traffic and transportation system here are well organized and always functioning well. The weather here is sunny outside and cold inside, which I now love and am getting used to. The cooking and eating patterns here vary a bit from India. There are many varieties of bread available in Germany. In my flat we all cook and have food together every week. My flatmates love Indian food and I too like their dishes. Until now I haven’t seen mosquitoes or ants in my flat. Here, everything needs to be planned proactively which I feel is not very common in India. I’ve seen that dogs are treated well and rules pertaining to them are quite strict.
In Berlin I got the opportunity to meet a German and Indian family and got to know about their life experience in Berlin. The German family shared that they love and wait for the summer because they really enjoy getting tanned under the sun on their balcony and that during the winter it gets very cold and sometimes we can witness snow as well.
I got a chance to visit an Indian temple although I’m not really a devotee kind of person. I went to the Ganesha Temple in Berlin which is really good and the trustees were really kind and welcoming. I visited the temple during the festival of Navratri and was lucky enough to witness the silver jubilee marriage festival.
I also enjoyed the Berlin light festival very much. During this festival, famous buildings were lit up beautifully and lots of people visited it. People in Berlin love to celebrate and enjoy Friday and Saturday nights after a long week.
There is a lot more for me to explore and experience and I look forward to it all!!
-Praveen B (Outbound Volunteer)