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Despite the challenging situation of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is still possible to volunteer: at home, abroad, online, or a mix of the three! Madalina from Romania talks about her experience of living and working in the UK.

Hello there! My name is Madalina, I am from Romania and currently in London volunteering for IARS with the European Solidarity Corps. My guiding mantra is ‘be the change that you wish to see in the world’ by Mahatma Gandhi. I am still searching for my purpose in life, but I know that having a clear goal that reflects your passion is key. I am passionate about human rights, social justice, environmental law, and sustainable businesses.

I’ve always dreamt of living in a vast multicultural city, with vibrant streets and plenty of opportunities. That has already taken me to Milan, Bucharest and Shanghai, where I did a master’s degree in international law. The Covid-19 pandemic brought me back to Romania in February 2020. Like most young people around the world, I was faced with uncertainty. My plans to work in Shanghai after graduation vanished. I was trying to pull myself together and understand what life wants to teach me, and why all my plans were ruined. Surely this is something I have to be going through in order to grow. I’ve always believed that we are being continually challenged in order for us to be able to change and grow, to break down and break through. It is difficult to make plans in a time of global uncertainty, but we need to try our best to continuously learn from every new situation.

two images of the same girl: informal posing with Eurodesk photo frame and formal - at a conference with a name tag


Everything happens for a reason. Right after I came back from China I received an invitation through European Solidarity Corps to connect with the IARS International Institute in London and I took on this challenge. I arrived in July and followed the self-isolation rule for 14 days. This didn't scare me, it just allowed me to be with myself, improve my relationships, and learn to self-regulate my emotions.

IARS is a youth-led NGO focusing on youth, justice and rights with an international mission to give everyone a chance to forge a safer, fairer, and more inclusive society. At IARS I felt at home from the very first day - Maija, my supervisor, even came to pick me up at the airport!  I was curious about London and looking forward to working on exciting projects.

Being a volunteer has taught me so much, and my confidence has grown. Everyone at IARS has been so welcoming and friendly. I am grateful for the opportunity to meet so many inspiring people. I have learned about the charity sector, social enterprise, gender-based violence, and child protection, by doing research, writing articles, participating in meetings, attending trainings, learning about project management, dealing with deadlines, attending focus groups and interviewing founders. The most inspiring project for me is one on social enterprise. It gave me the chance to meet people who made a real difference in their communities, creating a more inclusive society. 

Volunteering at IARS is a fantastic opportunity to learn and give something back, but also it has provided me with a new career path.  I’ve learned about NGOs and the charity sector, and now I know that I'd love to be part of it, to make a real change in society.

‘’I am so grateful that the European Solidarity Corps exists and encouraged me to become a volunteer. I will continue to volunteer - there is no substitute for real world experience for a future career or personal growth.”

Youth story written by Madalina Merlusca via Eurodesk UK Partner, IARS International Institute.


If international volunteering sounds like something you'd like to explore, visit our ‘Volunteer abroad’ page to see what opportunities are available!