By Ameet Gohel from AFS Vadodara Chapter

“It was indeed a great honour and pleasant surprise for me when I got selected for Volunteer exchange program with AFS Intercultural Programs between India & Turkey “ADAM” from September 28th to October 5th 2017.

Participation in an exchange program is not a one-time event, but the beginning of an exchange of ideas that continues throughout your life. There’s a great big world out there and the time to discover it is now. Experiencing a new culture can help you better understand yourself and the world around you.

(Photo Above: During the visit to Turkey)

“No matter what the cultural differences between people are, the fundamental nature of all humans is the same. All humans understand the importance of tolerance and acceptance in a community, and we all understand the gestures of respect and compassion we make to each other even if we come from vastly different backgrounds. This has become very clear to me through the lasting and close friendships that I have formed with my friends, my family, and many other members of my community in ADANA, Turkey.”

Well, 4 volunteers got selected from India, namely – Mr. Bankim Mehta, Mr. Kaushal Pandya, Mr. Yagnesh Vyas and I were hosted by Mr. Gurkan Ozkoc, Mr. Alper Unaldi, Mr. Kudret Yilmaz and Mr. Cem Hakan respectively for a week. All of us have had an amazing, nerve breaking, mind blowing and life time experience that can’t be described by meager words but has to be lived only.

Once abroad we have faced an adjustment period referred to as “culture shock.” Everything is unfamiliar; from weather, landscape and language to food, fashion, values, and customs.

However, with the help of our great enthusiastic and amazing host brothers, we’ve been able to experience the best ever 7 km long trekking experience for about 3 hours, apart from visiting Cappadocia – a historical region in central Anatolia that defined a region of exceptional natural wonders, characterized by fairy chimneys & a unique historical and cultural heritage. Swimming experience in Mediterranean Sea too was breath taking and would surely be amongst the unforgettable experiences, we had delicious and mouth-watering typical Turkish brunch at EVA Sisters home – cheese (beyz, peynir, kasar etc.) butter, olives, eggs, tomatoes, cucumbers, jam, honey, and kaymak, sucuk, pastirma, borek, simit, pogaca etc.      

Our suggestions to the fellow volunteers who wish to undergo this beneficial and great volunteer exchange program is ‘Plunge into your host culture & wrestle with the differences, keep an open mind, get to know others at your host community or organization, never isolate yourself and learn as much as you can about your host culture.’    

I’m really grateful to AFS Intercultural Programs India for giving us such a magnificent and significant volunteer exchange opportunity. We would propose them to continue doing such exchange programs in future that will definitely keep our volunteers motivated and on the toes for contributing to the community.”