Training. Ah, yeah, it’s those 2 or 3 weeks when you have to learn “how it’s done” before you can actually start with the real work. Inevitably you feel completely lost at the beginning, sometimes even bored, and often it’s like you are back at school. Definitely not a favourite activity for many. As always though there’s an exception to the rule.
[We asked our new volunteers to tell us what they thought of the selection process and this is Yana’s story. You can read also the first part of the series with Dessi here and the second one with Stefan.]
Now, let’s try again. Free Sofia Tour training. A whole different story. Is it difficult? Yes, at times. Is it demanding? No doubt about it. Is it worth it? Definitely!
So, everything starts with sending your CV. In case it’s approved by the Free Sofia Tour (FST) Training Commission (a.k.a – the scary bosses), you are good to go.
Next step – meeting some of the organization members and attending an explanatory seminar on the way FST functions. After that it’s time to see how things work in practice.
Each candidate has to visit 3 tours led by a different FST guide. Evaluating is mutual at this stage. You are being rated on a number of criteria so that it could become clear how well you would fit the team and the organization. Candidate volunteers are also asked to evaluate the guides whose tours they have attended. What’s more – feedback and recommendations for improvement are always looked for and welcomed by the FST team!
The last bit of this stage of the training is crowned with an exam – a simulation tour. Finally, if you are successful here as well, you pass on the next level.
And that’s where the real thing starts! You are given the opportunity to have 3 tours on your own (well, not completely alone – there’s a FST member with you still evaluating your skills because, let’s not forget, the training is not over yet!).
The end of this stage means that more than 3 months have passed since the start of the training and that you have managed to reach the finish line. Now it’s time to wait for the results. You are constantly playing that “Should I stay or should I go” song in your head. Still, before you know it the moment of truth has come – you have received an email from FST containing your results; you open the mail and fix your eyes on the first line… it reads “Congratulations!”; you start grinning.
That’s the FST training in a nutshell. Sounds tough? It is. It is maybe the longest training I have taken but also the most exciting and filled with positive emotions one. It’s easy to describe the organization of the training process but at the same time so hard to explain the actual experience.
Meeting new and interesting people from all over the world, laughing and having fun, learning a whole bunch of things you never knew before, improving your social, presentation and language skills- these are the usual suspects that you see in all types of offers and job openings. However, I have not once taken an offer that lived up to all its promises. Apart, of course, from Free Sofia Tour, where expectations are even exceeded.
Communicating on a daily basis with the green-and-white people from FST does make you think, enjoy life, appreciate the city you live in, its culture, history and a whole bunch of other things and most importantly – it inspires. If I have to describe the training in one word – I can’t. It’s not about the training anyway. It’s about meeting the remarkable Free Sofia Tour volunteers and being submerged in their enthusiasm. Maybe the words that would best fit the whole experience are “Shiny happy people”.
Doing what you love and loving what you do (with unceasing enthusiasm that is!) is the unique signature of Free Sofia Tour. Maybe now you understand why I am extremely proud to already be part of the Free Sofia Tour team and why I feel privileged to have met those amazing people.