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Maxence, former EVS volunteer in Armenia, talk about his experience

© Maxence Smaniotto
"I had always told myself if I had the opportunity to go and live an experience abroad, I will do it. So I quit my job, and I ventured to Armenia”.

What were you doing before going on EVS? Why did you decide to go?

I was working as a Psychologist in the South of France. I had always told myself if I had the opportunity to go and live an experience abroad, I will do it… So, only because I didn’t wanted to have any regret, I quit my job and ventured to Armenia.


Can you say a few words about your EVS?

I joined KASA hosting organisation in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, to work as a volunteer in the humanitarian and cultural fields. My mains tasks involved everything which was related to French culture and language: organising conferences in French, writing articles and interviews for the organisation’s newsletters, leading the French linguistic club and cultural meetings (cinema club, museum tour…).


What was the most relevant activity you did in Armenia?

I am not sure there was one in particular, but I would say that organisating the conference on Armenian refugees, with Syrian and African participants was the activity that the most left its mark on me. 


How would you describe Armenian culture?

Armenian culture shows a very old story. This culture and its people went through several persecutions and almost disappeared in 1915 because of the genocide. This explains why the Armenians are very attached and proud of their traditions, which on the one hand, helps them to preserve their identity and, on the other hand, prevents them from opening up to the world.


The Armenians are very welcoming, nevertheless, some ideas and behaviours which are very common in France are badly perceived in Armenia. In Armenia, we are immigrants, so we need to respect the Armenians’ point of view and stop trying to impose our ideas. Once you have understood this, you don’t have any problem making friends in Armenia.


What skills have you learnt or reinforced during your EVS?

I have learnt teamworking, organising my work and communicating in a very different context and culture. I have also learnt the Armenian language, which helped me a lot communicating with the locals.


Can you please tell us one phrase in Armenian?

“Barev, yes khantrum em mi hat shawrma yev mi hat garejur, merci shat”, which means “Hello, I would like a shawrma sandwich and a beer please”.


On a personal point of view, what did this experience bring to you?

This experience made me mature a lot. It is one of the best things that ever happened to me. 


According to you, the EVS is…?

EVS is about committing oneself in a project until the end.


Your EVS project has just ended… What are your plans for the future?

KASA hired me as their Francophone Project Officer, so I am going back to Armenia for one more year! I am also writing a book on my experience in Armenia and Caucasia, in which I talk about the encounters and experiences I had with people, their problems and living conditions. 


Is there anything you want to say to the future volunteers going to Armenia?

Being French, you represent France in Armenia and Caucasia. Keep this in mind, and behave well because the French expatriates don’t have a good reputation here…  

Published: Wed, 19/08/2015 - 09:38

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