Neither me nor my volunteering colleagues in France have thought that it will be so hard to leave our project in L’Aigle, Normandy. After 12 months abroad speaking French, working and hanging out with French and sometimes criticizing anything and everything, we could not imagine how we will cry at the airport on the 31 of August. Definitely, EVS experience changes lives, it challenges you, gives you loads of experience, reflection, new ideas and most importantly it gives you a lot of friends.
My journey with European Volunteering Service started long before 2017 when I have been accepted for a project. I have spent almost a year searching for an interesting project, writing motivation letters and sending CVs. It took me a lot of time to learn everything about the program and to start writing real and personalised letters to organisations that interested me. All in all, I have sent over 50 candidatures for projects in different countries, but mostly in France. I have got my organisation’s “yes” answer on February 2017 and by May we knew that project had been approved and that I could start preparing my documents for the visa. On the 31 of August I have landed in Paris and met my project coordinator and three of my future colleagues : two French and another EVS volunteer - a Portuguese girl. The journey has begun.
During this year I have mostly worked with a web radio project Kolectiv’. I was creating visual communication materials like posters and images for social networks, updating the project’s site to make it more user-friendly, creating radio programs, recording and editing them. All of this was done with an incredible young and creative team. Radio experience was crucial for my French - I have enriched my vocabulary with expressions, learned to speak quickly and fluently as well as understand slang and different accents.
Apart from that with my Portuguese colleague I was in charge of promoting international mobility. We organized several presentations of the European Voluntary Service for young people, after which we helped future volunteers to write their applications for the projects. We have also prepared stands about international mobility during different events to promote open-mindedness, tolerance and fight against clichés.
All of the stuff mentioned above was great, but the most precious experience for me was personal. During my year of volunteering I immersed myself in French culture through music, movies, books, traveling, etc. Thanks to living with a French and a Portuguese, I have learned a lot about the their cultures, values, to be tolerant and to live in the international community. I have developed my ability to listen, to find compromises and to be flexible, to share tasks, to collaborate and to manage conflicts. Living abroad has taught me to adapt, to be independent, to evaluate my abilities and resources, to be calm in difficult situations, to say "no" and to solve problems.
As I have said in the beginning nobody thought that it will be so hard to leave the project. I am in Ukraine for a couple of days now and I am still feeling myself lost and confused. My future plans are unclear, but it is like that just because there are too much of new knowledge and ideas in my head. I have lots of friends around Europe now, I miss them a lot and I eager to see them as soon as possible again.
I hope to figure everything out soon, but for now I want to give only one advice to a person who thinks about going abroad : do not hesitate! Participate in the EVS, challenge yourself, meet new people, learn a new language and have fun. You do not even imagine now how much you will discover about yourself during such a journey.
Kateryna Bilobrova, 23 years old, Kyiv