Sharice M shares her love of travelling and learning through her amazing and varied travel experiences.
The last year of my life has been an unbelievable adventure. After receiving a scholarship to study in Germany, I left Canada and set off for the unknown. I could never have predicted that with Servas I would travel through 27 countries, I would adopt temporary German parents, or that when coming home I would be receiving holiday cards from all over the world.
When I was born, my parents had already been Servas hosts for 15 years. I grew up learning about the world through the Servas travellers we hosted in our home and the many people we stayed with when traveling across Canada. As an adult, I continued to prioritize learning through travel. Whenever possible, during my first two years of University, I travelled in North America and Europe with Servas. After returning from each trip, I was naturally as restless as ever for another adventure, which lead me to spending last year in Germany to complete the third year of my undergraduate degree.
Upon my arrival at the University of Greifswald in Germany, I enrolled in an intensive German language course. After the final exam, I had a two-week break before university started. My brother and mother met me in Berlin, and we travelled together to Warsaw and Krakow in Poland. Our hosts were incredible. Some gave us tours of their cities, others provided us with the space to discover things on our own. Some fed us, others allowed us to cook for them. Some hosts taught us about their country’s history, while others took us with them to local events. Each host made a huge and unique contribution to an exceptional and memorable trip.
My next adventure with Servas occurred during the Christmas break. I travelled to Ireland for three weeks, to bike through the incredible hills and countryside with a friend from Canada. I remember one night in particular, we had biked 108 km and we had been dreaming about eating pasta for about the last 50 km. I remember the thrill we felt upon arriving at our Servas home and being greeted by warm people, in a warm house and coincidentally a warm plate of pasta! After a long day of biking in the freezing December rain, this experience gave me an even greater appreciation of the generosity of the people belong to this incredible international organization.
In the German university system, there is a long break between the first and second term of the academic year. During this nine-week break, I gave up my dorm room and used my rent money to buy train tickets all over Europe. I travelled to 16 countries while staying with 17 different Servas hosts. I was with different friends over the course of the entire trip, and most of my travel companions were experiencing Servas for the first time. One friend, already impressed by the idea of staying with people without monetary exchange, was completely shocked when our hosts said we could help ourselves to any food in the apartment. She was even more shocked when the couple left us their keys when leaving for work. This reaction made me realize how truly special it is for complete strangers to immediately place trust in one another. Due to this trust, I have been able to travel more in my 21 years than some people do in a lifetime. Throughout my high school and university years, my work with a non-profit charity for children with autism has resulted in a very modest salary, yet I have been able to experience extravagant travels abroad while making enriching international connections thanks to Servas.
Okay, back to Germany one last time.
After the semester break ended, I returned to Germany to complete my last term at university. I contacted a local Servas couple, hoping to improve my German language skills and learn more about Germany. I went over to their house for a simple cup of coffee and somehow over the next four months we adopted each other as family. I would go over to visit on weekends and during the week after classes. they not only helped me rapidly improve my German but they fed me, caffeinated me and took me on day trips to other German or Polish cities nearby. When they took me to the train station as it was time for me to return to Canada, they thanked me for everything I had done for them. I was shocked! I always knew how much they had enriched my life, I never stopped to think that I was impacting theirs. This ending made me realize that the connections achieved through Servas changes everyone involved. Whether hosting or travelling, the international relationships built through Servas will undoubtedly have a ripple effects on humanity far beyond our own awareness.
Did you appreciate Sharice’s tale? If you have travelled with Servas Canada and would like to share some of your news and a couple of photographs as a Travellers’ Tale, please contact us.