A weltwärts volunteer experience leaves its mark. The volunteers return from their year abroad with a big bag full of impressions and experiences – and need to reflect on what to do next. Where will their path lead them now? How should they apply all their new-found skills? Vincent Gstettenbauer and Nina Wiedemann completed a volunteering assignment in India with their sending organisation Deutsch-Indische Zusammenarbeit e.V. Once they returned, they stayed involved in various ways.
A grey, cloudy sky, concrete buildings at the airport and deserted streets, with the temperature at a wet and cold 5 degrees Celsius. Is that all I can expect just a few hours after returning to Germany – after having made such close and family-like friendships with such hospitable people in India during my eight months there? Or is it my friends who collect me from the airport terminal, faces beaming?
Expectations. Of my own. And from others.
The first days and weeks after returning were crucial in terms of what I would take away from my volunteering and keep for the future, how I would view it in the context of my future life in Germany and how intensively I would get involved in development issues. Like most of the volunteers, I started my volunteer service straight after finishing secondary school. Since not everyone begins an apprenticeship or a degree immediately on returning from their volunteer service, the question of ‘What now?’ arises.
In the immediate period after my return I found things in my own country strange. At the same time, I was pretty unsure about where I stood in relation to the life I had led before going weltwärts. When I tried to reintegrate, friends and family were the most important providers of support for me. They gave me the feeling I was needed and often supported me when I had to make difficult decisions. Nevertheless, family and friends cannot really gauge how difficult it can be to find your rightful place in Germany again.
Discussing problems, experiences, perspectives and opportunities with returnees often helps to generate new ideas and has a great re-balancing and inspiring effect.
When I was doing volunteer service, there was usually a clearly defined task structure which I could identify with within a short while. Now I am suddenly alone and confronted with challenges and decisions that will determine the course my life will take into the future. This is precisely where the network with other volunteers and the exchange organisation proves its worth: Discussing problems, experiences, perspectives and opportunities with returnees often helps to generate new ideas and has a great re-balancing and inspiring effect.
The goal is that we, meaning the former volunteers, use our critical insight and our desire to act in order to heighten our fellow human beings’ awareness of development issues and to make our contribution to turning the world into a better place.
Sharing experiences − actively engaging in development work.
The extent to which one’s own pre-weltwärts life and its characteristics later align with the experiences gained in the volunteer service, and what conclusions one draws for oneself from that, ultimately however always remains a purely individual decision. Contradictions are, of course, inevitable. But if anyone thinks that once you get back from your volunteer service that it’s all over and done with, they are hugely mistaken. The weltwärts programme sees itself as a global learning and exchange programme and also aims to harness the spirit and experience of active volunteers to foster a commitment to development work in Germany. The goal is that we, meaning the former volunteers, use our critical insight and our desire to act in order to heighten our fellow human beings’ awareness of development issues and to make our contribution to turning the world into a better place.
written by Nina Wiedemann and Vincent Gstettenbauer