The ability to live your life as an independent person is something that not everyone possesses. As a child, I’m sure your parents want you to grow up and become more independent. And that’s because you need to be independent to survive in the world. Although, you can simply Google your way to find the tips and tricks in becoming an independent person. But we all know that actions speak louder than words, which was proven from Natasha Angel’s story. She spent her winter break last year, participating in the AIESEC Global Volunteer program for the Gemeinsam For The Goals project in Bielefeld, Germany. 

Now, before we dive into today’s story, I want to take you guys to the very basics. What exactly does being independent mean? Of course, everyone defines and views the word independent differently. In this case, Natasha, who is familiarly called Nat, personally describes being independent as a state where we can make our own decisions and choose our own path. It shows that you are no longer dependent on someone else, and you basically answer for yourself.

Growing up as an only child, Nat admits that she’s never really been away from her parents for such a long period. Plus, since the volunteer program took place during her first year in university, she had to adapt to a whole new environment all over again. “Being in a situation where it’s uncomfortable, but in the hope that you will grow as someone better”, she added.

Because the city where she landed and where her project took place are different, Nat explained that she had to get on a train for a two-hour ride after she landed. However, it becomes more challenging considering it was her first time on a train. She had to figure everything out by herself. “I think the biggest lesson that I learned was I had to rely on myself to figure everything out. I had to learn how to read maps on my own, and I actually picked up on the language as well. I mean to think about it, some German words aren’t so different from English, like nächste Station means next station, so yeah I think I understand a little bit”, explained Nat.  

Nat with her fellow volunteers

Unlike living in Indonesia, Nat expressed one main thing that she noticed during her days in Germany. She was really told to do things all by herself. From day one she arrived, she shared how challenging it was for her to do everything alone. 

“At first, I thought that I would be teaching for either junior or senior high schoolers. But apparently, when I went in, the school where I volunteered was similar to a vocational school. I was only 19 at the time, while everyone else was either 20 or 21, so I was so nervous because they are all older than me. And I also thought that someone was going to chaperone me for at least a day, but I was by myself. That’s why I was pretty scared and confused as well.”

However, she also added that it seems to have become the culture of the people there. And after experiencing living alone by herself for the past 6 weeks in the land of poets and thinkers, her perception of the idea of being independent certainly changed. “I guess before, whenever I heard the word ‘independent’, I would always think that it means you do everything by yourself. For instance, we can go anywhere by ourselves or even drive by ourselves,” said Nat. “But then, when I was doing my voluntary work, I actually realized that I am an actual adult. Because like I said earlier, being independent means that you also answer for yourself, and you can’t just go behind your mom or your dad. So, I have to decide, and then I have to take the consequences, even for the decisions or for the mistakes that I made, it’s all on myself,” Nat continued.  

The adventure, however, didn’t stop there as Nat told us one of the most nerve-racking experiences she’s ever dealt with. Due to the coronavirus outbreak in early 2020, Nat had no choice but to change her flight schedule. When she was at the money changer and was asked to show her passport, she realized that she unintentionally left it at the check-in counter. Nat rushed back to get her passport back, and fortunately, it was still where she left it in the first place. At first, she was a bit taken aback since neither of the staff at the check-in counter was trying to inform her that she left her passport. But then again, she mentioned that it’s a part of how you live your life as an independent person. You have to take accountability, not only about your decisions or for your mistakes, but for your things also.

Nat celebrating Global Village, the biggest celebration of cultures from all around the world, with her fellow volunteers

Looking back, Nat expressed how this experience makes her a better individual. “I found out that giving something to the community actually opens my mind and opens how I view the world. Being yourself and learning how you have to make all your own decisions makes you more mature. You see the world through a whole new different lens. You’re no longer a kid because you’ve become an actual adult.”

Words by: Nat Padma