Report about my ESC in Jena

I would start saying that this year has been the best time of my life. Time ago, I had the idea to live abroad, and I really think that European Solidarity Corps is a big opportunity to do it.
Before starting my ESC, I had many doubts about how could have been this year and I sent many emails to my hosting and sending organization. I remember that I asked many questions because I wanted to have everything in order, and I felt so afraid to change my lifestyle completely. However, they gave me much trust through the emails, and I have to say that everything was as they told me.
When I arrived in Jena, I thought that it was the perfect city to stay for a year. Jena is a small city that you probably do not meet, at least that you live in Germany. Despite this, it is a place where you can find whatever you want. The fact that it is in the middle of nature helps to find peace there where you go but, you can also find full of places to drink or eat something in the city centre. Also, for me this city has something special in the different seasons of the year. In the winter, you can walk around different markets while you smell hot wine and cinnamon and, in the summer, you can sit down in terraces or taking a bath in the river.
The fact to share my ESC with other volunteers has been the best of this year. They have been the support that I needed in any time and it also helps me to grow as a person. I have learned many things about them that I would lack time to explain… I only know that I have a new family from now on, and we will meet soon together again.
About my hosting project, I was so excited to be in a Montessori kindergarten for a year, but I have to say that I imagined this volunteering service in a different way. Kita Munketal receives Spanish volunteers every year and there is a new request from the last year. You must have an Early Years Education degree. I want to say that because I think that this service can change a lot if you have knowledges in education. Also, it is an offer that Barcelona University brings during the last year of your studies. It means that the volunteer, who will come to Jena, he or she will be so motivated to learn how works the education in Germany or aspects about alternative educations. For this reason, I think that they should take care of the volunteers who want to learn Montessori method when
they start the volunteering. From my own experience, I missed someone who would teach me Montessori pedagogy when I came to the kindergarten. I was insisting on learning how works Montessori material, and we started to do it at the end of the year. I think that it could be so positive to learn it from the beginning of the year. In this way, my time here would be more useful, and it would help me to intervene better with children because it was a new educational methodology for me. For this reason, I feel that I have learned more specific aspects at the end of year than the rest. Anyway, I want to say thanks to Beate and Claudia. They were the teachers who taught me all the materials that we had in Kita Munketal, and it was a pleasure to learn while children were playing with Montessori materials.
About Kita Munketal management, there were many moments which I did not feel the spirit of volunteering and the kindergarten did not have so much flexibility with me. In my opinion, they should know that we are working as volunteers and there were cases when they were not so much empathic. For example; asking for holidays because the other workers were doing a training, not returning those days even if it were Corona time, making extra hours to finish two days before my EVS, not letting me go home early even if there was no work or going to the doctor to be sicked one day. I know that they only were trying to follow their rules, but this made me feel unequal to the other volunteers because they had so much flexibility in these matters. Suzanne wanted to treat me as part of Montessori team, but I think that there are aspects to improve. By way of example, she uses to hold meetings with all the teachers. However, I never had a meeting with her. Maybe, it can be an aspect to consider for the next year. In this way, the volunteer could feel with more confidence to talk about their feelings and concerns.
About the language, I lived moments in my kindergarten when I felt lost because I did not speak German language, and they do not speak English, so it was so difficult to communicate with my work team when I started. Despite this, all the teachers on my floor were good to me and tried to understand me as they could. Svetla always talked to me in German, but after some months, she tried to speak with me in English. I was so grateful when she tried it because she told me that she had studied this language years ago. As a volunteer, I consider it is so helpful to have a person who you can go in specific moments. I was not with Clara daily, but she could solve me many moments when I was
not sure about my tasks. Although, I also think that it could be good to meet her more often because she does not have much free time and we had to talk things over quickly. In this way, I would recommend arrange more meetings during the year. Another thing that was sometimes difficult for me was asking the same topic to the boss, to the tutor and the person who is working with you since it caused some misunderstandings when you are not so good in a language. During my year, I was so proud to share it with Beate. She treated me with a lot of patience, still not speaking German. Also, she never took away my authority with the children and she always considered my ideas. I think that she is a great teacher and I will use some educational strategies from her in my professional future. I also have very good memories of Yvonne. For me, it was more difficult to understand her, but she always treated me with a smile.
As Montessori volunteer, I think that you can feel so useful working with the children because you are bringing your own culture to another. In this way, you can feel so proud when they say some words or sing songs in Spanish. It is also nice to share this with other German teachers since they can learn from you too. I did not have any problem with people who were working with me in my floor. However, at the same time, there were some moments that I did not feel so much included in the team such as in the breaks. I used to have lunch with Jahasiel, while other teachers were eating together. I know that existed a big language barrier, and they work in German, but I would like to have some conversation with people who could speak English.
In Montessori Kita Munketal, they have been receiving volunteers since 2014 and they want to have people from Spain and Nicaragua every year. Because of that, I think they should promote Spanish in a general way, not only with your own group. As a suggestion, they could plan more Spanish events or activities in the kindergarten. It was a difficult year because of Co-vid 19 but they could propose it in a future. I believe it would be so positive for kids to learn the language dynamically. I do not to want to finish my report without having mentioned Jana. I did not have the opportunity to work with her, but I really think that she is the person most qualified to deal with volunteers. You can be very lucky if you share the year with her because she has strategies to talk with people who do not speak German and you can feel relaxed with her.
About Eurowerkstatt, it is the perfect organisation to do an EVS. With this team, you will have a very warm welcome and the orientation month is a super plus to meet them. I am so happy that Eszter could be our tutor during this year because she is the perfect person to do this job. You can always contact her when you have a problem, and she will understand you with much empathy. I also liked that she was available to everything, and she was in when we proposed a plan.
It was a pleasure,
Raquel Vives Utrilla