International Volunteering: Mariana’s experience

Starting in the last year, Mariana ventured to participate in a new volunteer experience. In September 2018 she left for a six-month adventure at Baia Mare, Romania to take part in the international volunteering project “Rural Camps”, promoted by the association Team 4 Youth. Here is his testimony of this unique experience.


I arrived in Romania without knowing anything. I had the desire to experience new things and meet people so the destination didn’t matter much to me, just wanted to visit a country that I never visited before. The rest would be a surprise.

When I told my family and friends from Portugal They kept coming with the same jokes repeatedly- “You’ll come back just with the cloths on your body or maybe not even”, “Coming to visit you? Just if I want to get robbed”, “Be careful or you’ll turn gypsy”. So, yes, in Portugal there is a huge stereotype of associating Romania and people living in this country to gypsies. Gypsies are also known as Romani people or Roma people, an ethnic group that are traditionally itinerant and exist across the world in multiple communities, and should not be confused with Romanians, people whose nationality is from Romania). Romania also has a population of gypsies, but the country is much more than this In Portugal there are also multiple Romani communities.

I can say that I got robbed alright because I met wonderful romani kids that stole my hearth.

They moved us with the way they expressed their happiness to see us every day, it moved our hearts and boost our motivations. They would join every time on the way home, never letting us feeling alone in any moment, they enjoyed our company and went the extra mile for making us, the volunteers, feeling welcomed in the community.


Well, I did it. Baia Mare is great because of this fact – the people. The most traditional region of Romania, Maramureș, is the best to get to know the country and the food will not ever let you down. A warm “placinta” or “covrigi” exactly what you will need to keep your stomach happy and a “sarmale” with with sour cream that you’ll eventually learn how to make and will be your favorite meal to prepare with your friends in a big table. It is a meal that will take a lot of effort to prepare but with the right team is worth it.

When it’s not too cold it is worth it to go for a ride in the steam train, not so far from Baia Mare and to see the lakes around, such as Lacul Albastru or Firiza or go for a hike in the mountains. During the winter there is no better place to go to ski or tubbing in Cavnic.

At first Baia Mare looked like a dead city to me. Nice, calm but without much to do. Maybe for a youngster it is not the best option if you love to party. That’s why every time I had the chance I traveled in the best way possible – hitchhiking. In Romania it is common to do it because of the past of soviet communism where cars were not available to the common people, so people would give me a ride every time I asked in the street so they would give ride every time. Now they just continue with this habit. The Romanians usually give 5 lei (approximately 1€) for each 100km but if you share your stories it can be pretty much free. In my experience I never payed, instead I made friends on the road and learned very nice stories to tell later.

I visited pretty much all Romania and found out her beauty.

If you are coming don’t miss Sibiu and Sighisoara for their colorful buildings. The Transfagarasan road for the nature. Cluj for the nightlife and amazing squares. Oradea and Arad for the night lights. Hunedoara and Sinaia for their castles. Bucharest for the history. Salina Turda for her wonder. Brasov for its beautiful vibe. And Baia Mare because of the mountains. Don’t miss anything.

I didn’t and even got a chance to visit the countries around as it’s much easier to do it from Romania than from Portugal in the other point of Europe.

So after having traveled a lot I discovered that I see a home in Baia Mare and in the friends I made.

Team for Youth and EVS in general stimulate youngsters to develop themselves through voluntary work, international mobility and non-formal education, in a multicultural environment.

The volunteer experience with Team for Youth made me grow up, believe more in myself, learn and be inspired by the people around me. This people that I now call family.

Testimony written by Mariana Rei, a young Portuguese and international volunteer that took part of a volunteering project in the context of the European Voluntary Service of the Erasmus+ programme.

You can check this testimony in the website of Team 4 Youth both in Portuguese and in English.

If you you are looking for a similar volunteering experience and living in Portugal, check the second phase of the Rural Camps project here.

Some photos of Mariana's Volunteering Experience