Julia's and Sophia's self development as EVS volunteers
Sophia and Julia having fun in Reykjavík's winter
Sophia (Austria) and Julia (Germany) were two 19 year-old EVS volunteering at Waldorf kindergartens, that experienced a year abroad full of personal experiences and development in Iceland. They share their journey with you.
- HOW WAS YOUR LIFE BEFORE YOUR EVS
- Sophia: before I graduated from high school, in autumn, a classmate made us go to a youth meeting where we heard about EVS. From all my friends I was the only one that actually looked at all the information about EVS. I was interested in a project with children and the first one that popped up was the Waldorf Kindergarten in Iceland and at that time I was really obsessed about the country so I applied.
- Julia: I also finished with school but for me it was clear for a long time that I didn’t want to go into university straight away, and I wanted to do something else in between. I was looking on the internet and information that we had at school and EVS appeared, but I was looking for a project involving art and music and Iceland was the only project I applied more for the country that for the project itself because I never imagined myself working with kids.
- WHY DID YOU CHOOSE ICELAND?
- Sophia: it’s an island in the middle of nowhere with fairies and elves, because people here believe in fairies and elves!! Also, my sister and me had this plan that we would hitchhike around the country because we were told that people here were very nice and open-minded and finally the music, the great music that I knew from Iceland. I think…I think I had a very romantic vision of Iceland.
- Julia: I always wanted to travel here. My godmother was a lot into Iceland and she also told me that she wanted to travel here. I also feel I had a very romantic view; the landscape here is so full of contradictions. I really wanted to come to Reykjavík because of the music scene.
- WHAT’S VOLUNTEERING FOR YOU?
- Sophia: I think our volunteering experience is kind of in the background of the whole experience because it is more a self-development year.
- Julia: I see it as a scholarship that I was given, an individual scholarship. It was something I wanted to do and it was really important for my personal experience and development. And something that I want to stress here is that we are funded by the European Union that makes this programs possible so young people travel around. I would like to encourage other people to think about it because I heard a lot of anti-European comments; even from some EVS volunteers and they don’t realize that it’s not very common to be in peace with so many countries and that 60 or 70 years ago, the countries were in war. I think volunteers should also learn more about Europe.
- TELL ME ABOUT YOUR PERSONAL LEARNING EXPERIENCE
- Sophia: for me it was also the first time I was properly working, with a team and it taught me to say when things were going wrong. At the beginning I didn’t dare to say it but I grew more confident and said when things were going in a different direction. I realized that I could freely talk and I was being listened. I also think I became less shy. I learned that from now on, I can be wherever and I’ll be fine.
- Julia: the first thing is that we both lived alone for the first time and this clearly teaches you to do the laundry and live with other people and this kind of things. It was the first time I had a full time job. But for me it was a lot about learning about organize my life again: hobbies, friends, not having parents, taking care of you…it taught me to deal with my own emotions because in a year you can really go back to things and see an evolution in yourself. You know yourself better and you know how to handle yourself.
- WHAT ABOUT THE CHALLENGES DURING YOUR EVS?
- Sophia: A very big challenge for me was to try not to cry when the kids in the kindergarten were crying. I was not sleeping so many hours. I was doing yoga, and I went to drama classes, I was swimming once a week and I was doing chi quong. And I also followed a TV show, which I think it helps. Sometimes here is just grey for so many day in a row.
- Julia: winter was for me a real problem. I didn’t think it was going to be so bad, I never wanted to take the vitamin D and people had to force me and I was basically sleeping 13 hours a day. And now that I look back, I don’t have that many memories of those months. And at some point I realized that I had to do something so I moved out to another apartment. The weather was also very challenging for me.
- YOU ARE TWO OF THE FEW VOLUNTEERS THAT LEARNED ICELANDIC, HOW WAS IT?
- Sophia: I liked it before I came. We both learned Icelandic because of our project; we were working with the children and it comes to you naturally.
- Julia: I didn’t know much about Icelandic before I came, besides the fact that it’s a very ancient language that hasn’t changed in the last 1000 years. I didn’t give too much importance to Icelandic but once I was here, it became so important to me. I even think that there should be more pressure of the volunteers to learn Icelandic because you get much more about the country and the culture if you speak it. It’s easier to connect with the people. They don’t expect people to speak Icelandic and I think this is really sad so that’s why they get very happy when you show that you speak the language.
- WHAT’S COMING NEXT?
- Sophia: I will apply for acting school, which was my plan before I came to Iceland.
- Julia: I applied for Law school before I came here even though I was never sure about it and now it’s 90% that I will do that. I want to work for an NGO with issues related to law, human rights, environmental rights… But I was also blogging and writing when I was in Iceland and I had a really good feedback about my writings, which made me think that I could also go into journalism.
This article was written by Celia Haro Ruiz for Eurodesk Iceland