For Giedrius Stonis, from Lithuania, his volunteering placement in Cardiff was an opportunity of a lifetime and his first time travelling abroad. From spreadsheets to seagulls, this experience has enabled him to improve IT skills, increase cultural awareness and help a community in Wales.
The idea of volunteering abroad always sounded appealing, but he did not know where to begin. Coming from a rural and disadvantaged part of Lithuania, Giedrius was unsure about the opportunities available to him.
Thanks to European Voluntary Service (EVS) volunteers in his local community library, he was able to find out about the initiative and quickly located a placement in the UK with Language Academy Wales. Volunteering experiences like this can now be supported by the European Solidarity Corps, which funds opportunities for young people to volunteer or work in projects in their own country or abroad, benefiting communities and people around Europe.
The 26 year-old adds:
“I never had the chance to travel before or experience a new culture. Therefore, I challenged myself to apply for a placement and experience something new.”
It was his first time travelling outside of Lithuania, so naturally he was anxious at the start. Despite that, Giedrius said, the experience was overwhelmingly positive. He had the opportunity to learn about a new culture and work on projects that could benefit the local community in which he lived.
“I really feel as though I am doing something useful and making a contribution on my placement.”
His placement as part of the CARE (Community Activities and Rewarding Experiences) project, run by Language Academy Wales, lasted 10 months, where Giedrius got involved in activities with other volunteers from Italy, Moldova and Lithuanian.
They took part in a range of office-based tasks and supported other projects run by the organisation, which aim to help unemployed young people in the local community through training and non-formal education.
During his experience, Giedrius received training to improve his abilities in Excel and his soft skills such as leadership and management, problem solving, effective communication and customer care. By sharing his ideas and experiences from Lithuania, the placement also provided colleagues in Wales with an insight into good practices from abroad.
I have always been quite a shy person so travelling and settling in to a new country and cultural environment have really built up my confidence. Although the placement has definitely been a challenge, now I feel more independent and much more comfortable being away from home.
The British way of life
Giedrius got to grips with the British way of life and enjoyed his placement in Cardiff.
“There was a good opportunity for me to discover multicultural lifestyle in Wales and England, see native and foreign people’s lifestyles, and habits (good or not). Of course, see castles, greedy seagulls, improve my English, see people from Spain, Italy, France, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Turkey, Moldova, Yemen, Saudi Arabia, Poland and much more”.
His competences, professionalism, self-confidence and commitment to self-development have significantly increased thanks to the experience with Language Academy Wales.
“Today I can say that Europe has become small to me as my native country, Lithuania”, he said.