Two ex-EVS in Paris
Can you tell us about yourselves?
Timo: I’m 22, I come from Berlin and I did my European Voluntary Service (EVS) in Denmark in 2011-12 for a year. I was volunteering at the Brønderslev Ungdomsskole youth school. I was living with three other EVS from Italy and Spain, it was my first real European experience and I enjoyed it a lot.
Helena: I’m 21, I’m from Potsdam and I made my EVS in 2012-13 in Huesca, Spain. I was working with elderly and jobless people at a computer centre called Telecentro de Ayerbe. I stayed there for 9 months, living and working with another EVS, a French girl from Martinique.
How do you know each other?
H & T: In Germany, some events are organised every year for the people who went abroad. It’s a huge come back event which gathers about 300 ex-EVS and we met there. It’s really nice because you meet people like you, you can share your experiences and we are still very connected.
How did you find out about the EVS programme?
T: I wanted to take a gap year between high-school and university so I looked for opportunities: that’s how I got to know the EVS programme. I enquired and when I saw that it was free I thought it was a very good opportunity. But no one advised me to apply to an EVS. Then, the sending organisation Experiment e. V accepted me and I sent a lot of applications before finding my hosting organisation.
H: I wanted to do a gap year in a Spanish speaking country and I discovered the EVS on the website Raus Von Zu Haus, which informs about all the programmes you can do after school. Once the sending organisation from Stuttgart accepted me, I looked at the projects in Spain and I wrote about 15 or 20 applications and got accepted. It was quite easy.
What were you in charge of?
T: I was working with children. I helped them to do their homework and creative activities, I taught German classes and played football with them.
H: During my EVS, I had to write articles for their website which allowed me to improve my Spanish, I prepared computer lessons, so I thought of the best way to teach the class and wrote manuals to give them after the class. I also made a radio programme.
Do you think that going on an EVS can help you to find a job?
T: For people who come from countries where they have difficulties to find a job, it can be a good way yes. I know a Spanish girl who did an EVS in Denmark and who is still working there. But I think that most of the German people just want to spend some time abroad before to go to the university; so it’s not the main intention but for other people it might be.
H: As far as I’m concerned, it helped me to get a student job. I applied for a job at my university which had to do with computer work as well and I think they took me because of my EVS experience in this field.
What would you say about this experience in a job interview?
H & T: We think it is a big advantage: you learn another language, you get to learn how to live by yourself, to adapt to new cultures and to deal with new situations. We still have very tight connections with other EVS and we think this experience helped us to open our mind and become more self-confident.
Have you noticed any working cultural differences? What did surprise you the most?
T: I didn’t expect big differences between Denmark and Germany but I was surprised. It sounds very stereotypical but the Danes are really closed. It’s true I spent a lot of time with other EVS but still, I think it is difficult to make friends there. Something that really surprised me: they have an amazing drinking culture at night!
H: I expected Spanish people not to be on time but I didn’t notice anything like that, my boss was always the first person in the office and after a while I was the one to be late. I think it was harder for the other EVS from Martinique, she was always cold although we had 25°C. Also, I actually surprised myself because I had always lived with my family before and I realised that I was not always easy to live with.
Would you recommend young people to go on an EVS? Do you have any advice?
H & T: Yes, of course! In fact, we are part of the organisation EuroPeers, which is a community of ex-volunteers who want to spread the word about the EVS programme and organise some intercultural events. Now, if we had to give them some advice, it would be to send applications by post rather than per mail and write those in the hosting country language.
What are your plans for the future?
T: I’m in my third year of bachelor of Political Science and I’m in Paris for 4 months as part of the Erasmus+ programme. I’m going back to Germany in December and then I will probably do a Masters degree. I don’t have concrete plan yet.
H: I will continue my Library studies and will go back to Spain for my internship.