Marina Dimitriou, 24 years old from Greece. ESC at the Bureau Information Jeunesse of Hendaye
Why did you decide to do an ESC? What did you learn after this experience?
I arrived in France on September 2020 after half a year of lockdown, social distancing, online classes and a summer without visiting the sea. My main motives for spending a year abroad was to improve my French and to better learn how to work with young people. Even though I didn’t fully achieve these goals, this experience taught me many different things and helped me discover myself. It made me understand the importance of community engagement and associative work, the value of relationships while it also helped me mature as a person both socially and professionally.
What was it like to live in the Basque country?
After coming to Hendaye I found myself in a completely new country, and it wasn’t France. It was the Basque country, a place I didn’t know existed prior to my arrival. Here people speak three languages, love cider and are proud of their culture. I never felt particularly proud of my culture or origins, so meeting people whose culture is so closely connected to their identity was very eye- opening for me and made me appreciate more my own cultural background. Basque country has incredible nature. It was my first time living so close to nature and I loved it. I even hiked a mountain for the first time. My life was now a lot more active. I used to spend days without leaving the house and now I was using my bike every day. Even during quarantine. I wanted to enjoy my year abroad and so I tried to participate in anything that interested me. I joined a water polo team and competed in the Basque championship, I was spending my evenings in a bicycle association learning how to fix bikes and I also explored my interest in ecology, learning how I can lead a more sustainable lifestyle.
What was the most important thing for you after this experience?
The most important part of my experience however was the people. I had the chance to meet other volunteers from nearby regions and to be part of a great friend group. I was lucky to have an amazing roommate and project partner with who I had a lot of fun and many long kitchen conversations. Meeting so many people from different nationalities was such an incredible experience. It was wonderful to see how all of us struggled and developed during our projects and I was inspired by each and every one of them.