Elin comes from Stockholm and joined UNDP Moldova as a UN Volunteer (UNV) in October and will contribute with her experience and knowledge to the Climate Change, Environment and Energy portfolio of projects. Her assignment is for one year.
Elin comes with a rich and diverse experience of living and working all over the world. We asked her to share her first impressions, but also takeaways from other volunteering projects.
“ I found the opportunity to become a UNV in Moldova and I thought that it would be a great opportunity to do something that is bigger than oneself and to gain experience in the UN system. I have always wanted to do that and build upon that.
This is my first experience within the UN system. The idea to work for the UN has been with me for a long time. I studied Politics and International Relations in Madrid and I think it was then the idea of having a meaningful job originated.
UN Volunteering = a true capacity to influence things
I always dreamed of being able to make a change and UNV offers this opportunity, also provides for experience and a true capacity to influence things.
I have been volunteering before, in many roles and many countries. I saw it as a nice opportunity to give, regardless of being involved in short term projects or long term ones.
Prior to Moldova, I have volunteering in several countries, amongst them in the Dominican Republic and India.
In the Dominican Republic, I was doing marine life conservation work, concerning marine mammals and their habitats. I worked with veterinaries connected to the National Aquarium in Santo Domingo. The biggest challenge was in the communicating in the Spanish language, as I had little knowledge of it when I started. However, acknowledging that communication goes way beyond just the language, I was able to integrate with the local groups and leave with a very decent level of spoken Spanish.
The cultural shock was bigger in India. I was located in the south of the country, collecting data for an NGO by interviewing people. I was there for 1 year, and at some point, I was happy to return to Europe, life can be difficult there.
However, I miss India sometimes. It is an amazing country, with majestic nature and weather. You instantly feel the power of the natural forces, it makes you feel smaller and more humble. Many things happen that one is not used to in Europe, seeing elephants in the middle of the road and things like that. The people are also extraordinary, it is a country hard (if not impossible!) to forget.
“You can tell Chisinau is Europe”
My first impressions of Moldova were that it was much better than I expected. I like the buildings in the city center, quite unique. I also expected that Chisinau would be more different than other European cities, but it is not. You can tell it is Europe.
When I was packing, I had no idea what to take with me and what I will find on the spot. In these cases, you just take it all with you. But I found everything I needed.
I like people here, they are very straight-forward. When they do smile, you know that it is genuine.
At UNDP Moldova, I enjoy very much the interaction with my colleagues and being in this environment. I work more with the Climate Change, Environment and Energy team. As I started just recently, I am still getting into the process to understand how everything works. But, so far, I feel quite fortunate to be involved in activities I truly enjoy and that help me grow.
This region is of specific interest to me, it is in the middle of everything, so many things happening inside it and around it.
Also, compared to other places, the advantage of being part of the UNV program, in Moldova, is that I feel closer to my culture here. I can also relax and focus on my work without being in a survival mode.
Volunteering is overall a privilege, as not all positions are funded. If you have some savings, it will help. If not, you will have to be very adaptable and learn to make a living apart from helping others. [Editor’s note: All UNV positions are funded]
A piece of advice I would give people interested in volunteering in Moldova is to study well before the interview: read about Moldova’s politics, how institutions work and the country’s relationship to the rest of the world.
And when you travel to Moldova, pack lightly.”
Elin Langemar benefits from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)-United Nations Volunteers (UNV) Talent Programme for Young Professionals with Disabilities. Her position is funded by Sweden.
The UNDP-UNV Talent Programme aims to build a talent pipeline of highly qualified professionals with disabilities who can contribute to the development sector, and to attaining the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) at national and global levels.