I know my beginning sentence will be so cliche but my all EVS friends and their families felt the same while coming Albania. When ı decided to make EVS, all my family was so respectful to my decision but after they learned that ı found a project in Albania and all my family started writing conspiracy theories 🙂 Cause you know when look from outside, Albania unfortunately is so famous with its mafia so they were so worried for this reason. But after ı came there and ı observed that this is not like we guess.

Good impression was started by our coordinator Ira, she helped me so much from all online platforms before going there. She made me calm and answered my all anxious questions like a my older sister. Great Albanian politeness kept going in the airport. One of our mentors came to the airport for just  taking me. By the help of a mentor from Tirana, we arrived to city center and every buildings ı observe were so strange, different. Imposing of communist regime upon the country was so obvious. Especially in first sight, ı loved so much The Albanian Mosaics on National Historical Museum. And after we had waited the bus for arriving the home and ı saw that public transportation vehicles were so ancient and neglected than Turkey. We were staying in student zone and it was a giant advantage for us. Always funny, crowded, energic etc. When we arrived home, all people were so gentle and warm to me but despite this ı was so indecisive what ı will do. I was afraid of being adapted to the home. We were so crowded; we had to share common ares and most particularly ıt was a big chaos for us in morning showers 🙂 Living with 13 people wasn’t easy, and supposed to be responsible and sensitive to each others. And we are Turk, German and Italian cooperation. 3 different nations, 3 different mentality, perspective; in first time understanding each other wasn’t easy. After negotiation and some briefing by our coordinators ı had to confess ı was mindful cause of that how ı can approach to disabled children. The rest of my past life ı had been never spend my time with them, this idea made me so streched; but after visiting schools all negative notions about this just became pufff..:) They were looking us with just unexpected love. They need just help and love from us. We played games, made gym, draw and painted pictures. That was so productive and teachable for them. But if ı have to mention about schools and teachers; schools were so different than same examples in Turkey. They were so old and neglected; and teachers looked so hard-pressed; so we came to children like fresh breath, a friend, a sister-brother. Most of the teachers and of course also children didn’t know English; in this point we need the contribution of our local volunteers, they always altruistically helped us for translation. But ı had to confess ı found pleasure in school presentations. I liked to make expressions to everyone who want to join Beyond Barriers, it was great missions for us; because some of them had no idea about EVS or our organisation. Talking about this and observeing their reactions about this project were good for us.

Of course while doing these activities, we had a lot of spare time, we tried to evaluate our times with visiting every place we can go. Firstly, we discovered Tirana, and after we went to Pogradec, Kruje, Shkodra, Durres, Vlore and we had chance to pass another countries and cities like Ohrid(Macedonia), Ulcinj(Montenegro). And somewhere we had to hitchhike just for adventure 🙂 And as soon as we said that we are Turk, all citizens in Balkans not just Albania became so happy and they started to talk about Ottoman civilization and our common history. And this made my all Turk friends and me so prideful with my ancestors. Cause there is a word in Turkey about Ottoman Empire: ”You can eradicate the state which came there with swords but if a state like Ottoman Empire came there with just ‘Selam’, you can say to them just ‘Selamun Aleykum’; so you can’t eradicate this empire from hearts easily. I saw that this word is % 100 percent correct, all people talked about our ancestors with a proud; we observed a lot of historical artifacts from Ottoman Empire like Ethem Bey Mosque. All people liked talking with us about İstanbul, Ottoman Empire, Turkish soup operas and their stars 🙂

I hadn’t enogh brave for say goodbye to our children in schools cause they alwys hugged me in all oppurtunity so ı couldn’t handle it again in last time. But ı will always remember them with a big smile on my face. Özlem ,who go to Tirana, is totaly different form coming back to Turkey version of Özlem. It add me great experience, memories, people and foods of course how can ı forget. I have still carry them on my body ;( Trilece, Sufllaqe, Ice-creams in all corner of Tirana, Byreks- Dhale combinations etc. 🙂

Albania, Albanian people will always great folder on my brain and in my all chance ı will find a way to come back there for seeing my friends. I create a idea about Balkans, which is the geography of my grandparents, with this EVS. Thanks to everybody for my experience. I started out to Tirana for helping children but this project didn’t consist of just helpin them. It help to us for enlarging our visions, opening sensations. If ı had a oppurtunity again, ı will choose Albania again and again. Thanks to everyone who had contributing efforts for the children for the project. Ana, Ira, Eni and all other heroes our mentors, local volunteers thanks for everthing. Falemenderit shume :*

Özlem Sudan,



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