After studying art for several years, I decided that the fine arts were not so meaningful to me. It's great, beautiful, challenging, don’t get me wrong. I mumbled to myself, "I do not care" and "it doesn’t matter" every time someone asked me about my studies. At the time, I had never been to the Balkans, and I had never travelled in another context than tourism. So it was a “Two birds, one bullet” experience for me, and it turned out great. I was doing my EVS in Karlovac, in Croatia, during 1 year, in an NGO called Carpe Diem.
I read several times that EVS was a “life changing experience”, and I couldn’t help myself thinking that it was an exaggerated statement, indeed I still find that “life changing” is not the label I would put on my EVS experience. Things were learned, habits were changed, friendships were created, but it was not, at any time, a “rebirth” moment, which is ok because my first birth was quite enough! I am not disappointed that it wasn’t a “life changing experience”, because I never expected my EVS to be such a thing. And my EVS was amazing. One thing that could have been frustrating would have been to set very high expectations and miss out the excitement by not letting yourself be surprised.
The only thing I wanted for sure was to have a goodtime, and I definitely did. Did I change? Of course, maybe faster by force of circumstances: I learned that it’s cool to step back, I learned to deal with my fear of missing out, I allowed myself to get surprised and to let go. I learned how to give myself some credit: I did not live in another country, travelled, met new people, went far from everything I know because of luck: I did it because I wanted it, I gave myself the means, I made decisions . “But you were lucky to meet good people”: yes and no. When you are positive and active in your social interactions, you end up with people that are good to you, it’s a subtle cocktail made of intuition and karma I guess.
I met great people, people I can now call friends and that I miss deeply. Wherever you go, there’s going to be people you won’t like, and it’s not their fault, but it’s up to you to not become a whiny kid, no one wants to hang out with a whiny kid, not even yourself. Focusing on people you don’t like is like watching a movie you know you hate just for the sake of complaining about it. It is your job to put more value into your time by focusing on things that are meaningful and people you like. I quickly realized that anywhere can be cool if you are surrounded with good people; this statement is as cheesy as true.
Writing about it today, almost 3 weeks after the end of my project, I indeed think some things could have gone wrong. When I arrived I took good things (a good NGO, great colleagues, a cool flat…) for granted, maybe, and I met other volunteers for who it was rough. I may had it easy, but it was all up to me to decide how my experience will be. To continue with a metaphor: you can have all the good eggs, the best flour, butter, chocolate, If you don’t put any effort into making something out of it at the end of the day it will still be eggs, flour, butter and chocolate. It’s up to you to make a cake. You can turn a not-so-good experience to a good one, and a basic experience into a great one based on your will, which is for me the best part of the process, and what volunteering is all about.