My name is Joris Degas and I am almost half way through my 1-year European Voluntary Service journey in Slovenia, where I live with 6 other EVS volunteers. The perfect moment for me to put down on “paper” a first outcome of my experience so far, on both volunteering in PiNA and Center Mladih Koper and life in Slovenia.
Flashback. Five months ago, I left my native France to board on the most routine-breaking experience of my life. I am used to traveling around Europe for holidays but nothing comparable to the adrenaline of changing all your habits by diving into a brand-new environment. But that is precisely what I was looking for. An unfamiliar environment and all its cultural, linguistic or behavioural components. I am only 21 but I have already tried a few academic and professional fields – law, communication, advertisement, journalism, audio-visual – without touching the certainty that I would fit in one of those. That combined with a growing feeling of stagnation in my personal development was alarming enough to motivate the new path I have chosen. From my perspective, an EVS is a springboard. A way to widen my personal and professional perspectives. A way to get new tools to go in the right direction instead of hoping to miraculously find a vocation.
At least that is what I thought when I first applied to the “Act for you, Act for all” EVS project carried out by PiNA. Going through the different stages of the process, my questioning nature started to stand out again. Am I ready to live a full year abroad? Am I skillful enough to carry out all the tasks I am going to be given? What if I don’t fit in that new environment? Not forgetting the linguistic issue. As most French people, I sometimes prefer to stay in the ease of my native language. Is it out of fear of failure? Probably. But this is also what EVS is about. Going out of your comfort zone. Having the guts to try and go forward. The first mandatory step of progress.
Those initial fears started to fade away quickly when I arrived in Koper. I began to work in the multimedia field with Center Mladih Koper in the first place – mostly as a photographer – and then with PiNA. Not only was I surprised by the patience, openness and linguistic ease of my Slovenian co-workers, I also made some huge progress since the first month in regard of my multimedia skills and the fluency of my English. Here I can develop my competences in an environment favourable to experimentation and, by extension, self-awareness. Turns out I discovered a strong interest in photography that I never had the chance to deepen before. It is probably too early to determine if this is a viable option for the future, but that is definitely a new perspective that I will bring back in my luggage 7 months from now.
A few lines back, I described my EVS in Slovenia as the most routine-breaking experience I have known so far. To be honest, my daily life is not that different from back in France. I still take the bus every morning to go to work, I still spend a big part of my free time watching movies or TV series, I still try to travel as much as I can. But living and working with people from different countries – not only Slovenia but also Portugal, Italy, Greece, Hungary and the Netherlands – is a chance to open myself to different cultures, different approaches. I still can’t really measure the benefits I will gain from this experience, nor what I will do afterwards. But I still have a long way to go and the initial blur keeps departing day after day.