An EVS adventure in Croatia
After an enjoyable and enriching three years spent at university, studying Culture and Media, I found myself in a slightly cliché but very real crisis. What to do now? I could specialise and pursue a master's degree. But that idea was daunting and I needed something different. I had wanted to study abroad but, for a number of reasons, that was not possible and I felt this kind of mobility experience was lacking, not only from my CV, but on a more personal level.
I heard of the EVS programme through a friend and the idea started to simmer, as I was trying to figure out my next step. I went back to my hometown and my mother's house, which was a little difficult after three buzzing years in a big student town. So, I knew I needed a change and contacted a local youth organisation to find out more about the whole procedure.
I wanted to do something that would be beneficial for me, that I could learn from. I searched for projects in my fields of interest, without too much consideration for the country I would be going to. The nature of the projects mattered more to me and I was willing to go pretty much anywhere. I had a slight preference for Northern, colder countries but, as it turns out, this was not where the path would lead me. And I don't regret it one bit.
Carpe Diem was one of the first organisations to respond positively to me. I thought their work looked diverse and interesting and I would be discovering a place I hadn't been before, so it looked pretty perfect to me. I had a good feeling from the Skype interview and thought the team looked friendly. I was very happy to embark on this new adventure, although I didn't really know what to expect.
Of course, I went ahead with a positive attitude, thinking it would be fun and that I would hopefully learn and at least travel and see something new. But I really could not have anticipated how incredible this whole experience has been. Lengthy stories about how life changing living abroad is always sound a bit cheesy, but that's because it's actually true. This experience is incredible, especially when you find yourself in an environment as generous and exciting as the one I'm in.
I wasn't without my doubts though, and they came back running on that long bus ride to Croatia. What if my flatmates were awful, what if the project was boring, what if I wasn't up for the job? But, in the end, I bounded quickly with the two other EVS volunteers, felt nothing but warmly welcomed by my host organisation and met a bunch of inspiring and kind people. They have all become my family over the last nine months, bringing me a lot of joy and helping me grow.
I still can't believe how lucky I've been, getting to travel around the Balkans, from the Plitvice Lakes to Ljubljana to Dubrovnik. I strongly believe that you should travel as much as you can, if given the opportunity, and the EVS is exactly that. Simply living abroad for a year, integrating in the community, making friends, is the best feeling. Of course, the language barrier can be an obstacle, especially for me, as I've struggled a little with Croatian. But a few times now, I have been mistaken for a Slovenian, which I see as undeniable progress considering the bad track record of the French with foreign languages. And I got to know this place well with all it's quirks and, most importantly, it's people. I cannot emphasise enough the importance of the human experience during the EVS. It will surely be my main take away from it.
Of course, I also took part in a wide range of projects; volunteering on a photography festival, helping with Carpe Diem's events, working on building it's social media, participating in the organisation of an art festival and putting together my own theatre and English workshops. All of this has helped me improve my skills, as I got to see up close the workings of a youth organisation for several months.
I would strongly recommended this experience to anyone who has considered living abroad. It can be scary and taking a first step in a safe environment, designed to help you through and make sure you're well taken care of, seems like the best idea. The programme being practically free is also a huge bonus in my eyes and it certainly factored in my decision to give it a try. I truly think only good can come from trying something like the European Voluntary Service and it certainly has, not only for me, but for a lot of the international friends I've made along the way.
Author: Carpe Diem