Moving to Portugal to volunteer during a global pandemic

by Roxana Mihailescu

I sometimes think of myself as a very rational, down to earth person. But there are some moments in my life when I had the “why not” moments and I just went for whatever my intuition told me to do. Those are times that I will never regret, moments that crafted my personality and formed the collection of crazy stories and adventures I am going to share with you on my blog.

Blonde girl on a beach in Algarve, Portugal with a travel sign pointing in different directions around the world.

I had this “why not” moment in July 2020, around 3 months after the pandemic had started. I remember being stuck in Bucharest with a fresh international law master’s diploma and no exact plan for the future. I was drained after having worked on my thesis for the longest time and confused because of the global situation. And then, I saw an announcement on Facebook saying that an organisation in Faro, Portugal is looking for volunteers through the Erasmus Plus (European Solidarity Corps) program. I applied for the social media manager position and a few days later I got the email that I was accepted, and I start in November. In this blogpost I am going to explain how I moved to Portugal during COVID.

WHAT TO ARRANGE BEFORE YOUR VOLUNTEERING EXPERIENCE?

The hosting organisation will take care of most of the things, but you also need to make sure that everything works smoothly. Here’s my to do list:

  • Make sure you have a health insurance (they arranged it for me) + check for any COVID plans
  • Book a one-way flexible ticket (cost reimbursed to me by the organisation)
  • Check if you have a place to stay (the accommodation was provided)
  • Constantly check official travel advice with regard to closed borders or any new regulations (if you need to do a PCR test or the vaccine)
  • Pack only the essentials (trust me, especially if you do your program in Europe, you don’t want to carry a heavy luggage around)
  • Have some cash in the local currency and an international debit card such as Revolut.
MY TRIP TO FARO

To be honest, I was afraid that my flight would be cancelled, but it did not happen. Besides a pretty much empty airport, my trip was almost as normal as before. People would wear their masks and sanitize often. The situation in Portugal was pretty relaxed at that time. There were not many active cases and the only measure was a maximum of 5 people at a table in a restaurant and wearing a mask outside if you couldn’t keep the social distance. However, the country entered in a general lockdown in January and it stayed the same until mid-April. Right now (June 2021) the situation is a lot more relaxed, travel restrictions have lifted and the country allows tourists who have a negative COVID test.

Back to my trip. My plane landed in Lisbon and I had to take the train to Faro. It was around 12€ and the organisation covered alltravel expenses. The journey lasted around 3 hours and the coordonitator of the program waited for me at the train station in Faro. The city is so quaint and pretty, but very small, you can visit it all in no more than one hour. The distance between the AirBnb they rented for me and my colleagues and the train station was around 5 minutes walking.

WHY PORTUGAL?

I have never visited Portugal before, but for some unknown reason, I put it on the list of things I wanted to do for both 2019 and 2020. Whether you believe or not in the law of attraction, I think manifesting your dreams is an important step towards achieving them.

I have never visited Portugal before, but for some unknown reason, I put it on the list of things I wanted to do for both 2019 and 2020. Whether you believe or not in the law of attraction, I think manifesting your dreams is an important step towards achieving them.

WHY DOING AN ERASMUS PROGRAM DURING A PANDEMIC?

I consider myself as being a spontaneous person that follows her intuition. When I came across this volunteering position on Facebook, I knew it was for me. At first, my plan was to do an internship in International Law, as I had just graduated from that. But the pandemic made it even harder to get one, and I did not want to have the feeling that I was wasting my time. As I did different volunteering programs abroad since 2017 (mostly with AIESEC), I knew this experience will bring a positive impact in my life.

Maybe doing a youth exchange/ Erasmus program during COVID it’s not a great idea, since there are no parties to attend and it’s more difficult to make friends. However, I tried to make the most of my experience, spent time with my colleagues, travelled as much as the situation allowed, and focused a lot on my personal growth and social media skills. Also, I started this blog that I have been postponing a lot, and I could not be happier about this.

HOW TO APPLY

This program was funded by the European Solidarity Corps. I applied directly on Facebook because I saw an opening, but you can look for opportunities directly on their website:

https://europa.eu/youth/go-abroad/volunteering_en

The application procedure was not diffucult, I had to send my CV, a portfolio because I applied for the social media position and fill out a form similar to a motivation letter.

You can watch my TikTok video to see what my social media internship was about:

https://www.tiktok.com/@roxadventures/video/6941732650650471685?is_copy_url=1&is_from_webapp=v1

WHAT WAS COVERED

The host organisation covered our accommodation, transportation (flights and public transportation to get there and come back home), health insurance and pocket money. This depends on each project, so I would recommend checking them out on their platform. Here is an example of a program available now (you can apply by 18/06/2021):

Volunteering in Southern Italy for social work with young people: they are looking for volunteers to support the educators in a shelter for young people who are on a path towards rehabilitation and social inclusion. The accommodation is covered. Pocket money of 5 euros per day will be provided plus 90 euro for a month for covering food expenses.

https://europa.eu/youth/solidarity/placement/27183_en

I hope you enjoyed reading this blogpost about moving to Portugal for a volunteering European project during a global pandemic. If you have any questions about moving here, doing a youth exchange or any kind of volunteering program abroad, don’t hesitate to send an e-mail or hit me up on social media. I send weekly travel opportunities and recommendations in my newsletter, so don’t forget to sign up!

You may also like

2 comments

How it actually is to volunteer in a hostel in Spain - Travel with Contrast Adventures December 24, 2021 - 04:01

[…] as a social media manager through a European Solidarity Corps program. You can read all about that here. I was living in the small city of Faro, in Algarve, just 3 hours by bus from Sevilla. And as we […]

Reply
SEVILLA: BUDGET TRAVEL GUIDE - Travel with Contrast Adventures October 10, 2022 - 22:30

[…] a volunteering program with European Solidarity Corps in Faro, Portugal. You can read all about it here. It lasted for six months and at the end of it, I decided to travel solo around Andalusia for 6 […]

Reply

Leave a Comment

Subscribe to the newsletter and don't miss on weekly travel inspo