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From Portugal to Kocani

My name is Maria Luís Metrogos and I’m from Setúbal, Portugal and I’m currently doing EVS – a six month project, in Kocani Macedonia. After finishing my college degree in Social Work, and always been active in volunteer work – whether it was related to animals or social causes – I decided to apply for an EVS Project. I first learnt about EVS in College – during a lecture where I had the opportunity to hear about some past volunteers experiences – and, luckily, the place where I did my first internship, is a sending and hosting association for EVS Volunteers so I got even more information about it.

After finishing college I felt it was the best moment, the best time to apply because it’s the time in your life where you’re just “stuck” with choices, you can start looking for a job – even though you feel unprepared and nowadays it’s actually really difficult to find specially something related to your studies, you can start your PGD or, in my case, I could do volunteer work and gain experience in my area and actually be doing
something I always wanted to – one my dreams, to help others.Although this is not my first time in Macedonia (I had been here last here at a Youth Exchange) my experience here in Kocani has been very different then last time. The first 2 or 3 days were a little bit depressing, without much information or guidance, but after then you start to adjust and adapt to your “new life” in a small city. The city is really small and there is not a lot going on so sometimes it can get frustrating or you can easily fall into the same routine every single day, going to the same places, going through the same paths so when you find something new or interesting it is really exciting.

My biggest problems have been related to the weather, I’m not used to this kind of weather the cold and the snow have been a bit challenging but now I’m used to it. My biggest struggles are the lack of sun and day light, it’s crazy for me going weeks and weeks without sun or daylight, and how early in the day the sun – when there is sun – goes down, at 15:30/16:00 it’s already dark and that has been physically hard to deal with because has soon has it becomes dark your body feels it and, in your mind, it’s suddenly night. The stray and abandoned animals on the street are a reality here and it’s really hard to deal with that, I try to always have food with me to give to all the dogs and cats that I see but I can’t help but to feel useless because I feel like it’s not enough. Other struggles are related to role of women and the way they are treated, I feel like women here are not equal to men they are not treated in the same way and, in my mind is someone who is a defender of equal rights, gender equality and overall a believer in respect and freedom, that doesn't make any sense. It’s also hard for me to see young women/girls feeling like they need to be and look like all the other girls to fit in or how they just settle with this reality. I was amazed by the kindness of some people, I was lucky to have met the most amazing people that have been making my experience and my life a lot better, I feel like I learnt from them every single day and, most of all, I feel loved and welcomed into their lives. For now I can’t even begin to think of returning home, I can’t do that yet because I cannot imagine being away from these amazing persons I was lucky to meet I wish I have the chance to help them in any way that I can knowing that whatever I’ll do will never be enough to show my gratitude towards them and to show them how truly special they are to me.

Maria Luís Metrogos