For those who don’t know, the European Voluntary Service (EVS) is an international volunteer program funded by the European Commission within Erasmus+.
By looking for projects in dedicated websites I eventually found an ad posted by CESIE, an Italian association from Palermo. They were promoting an EVS mobility for 6-months (May-October 2016) at the Slovenian association PiNA. The selection process started and, after sending my CV and motivation letter and passing two Skype interviews in March (with CESIE as sending and PiNA as hosting organization), I was finally selected.
Why I chose EVS? I was looking for an experience abroad that was not too expensive and would give me an opportunity to do something useful for my future. My specific EVS project is about project management and, since I would like to work in a cultural organization and I am interested in acquiring knowledge and skills precisely in the field of project management, the option in PiNA was perfect for me.
From the first days I was involved in a lot of tasks related to many aspects of project implementation, strategic planning, and different activities, such as organization and coordination of workshops.
Why Slovenia? To be honest, when I decided to apply for this volunteering opportunity, I chose the project not the country. Coming from South Italy, I have always been more attracted to Latin countries, like Spain or Portugal. But as soon as I arrived in Slovenia, I was pleasantly surprised by my hosting country and my new city. Perhaps because it’s so small, Slovenia seems like a transition country, in-between the Balkans and the Mediterranean Europe. These cultures also affected it.
In particular Koper, or in Italian Capodistria, and the surrounding area which was part of Italy until World War II and is now a bilingual territory, so many locals speak or at least understand Italian. This makes me feel much closer to home. However, chances to speak in English are not lacking either: in PiNA’s office, with other volunteers, with Slovenians, at home with my roommates. I can practice English and I really need to improve it!
A funny thing happened on the day I came to Koper. I arrived in what would be my apartment for the next 6 months and I met my Slovenian roommate – we both didn’t speak English very well, so communication was very difficult and sometimes we talked in gestures by moving your hands. In spite this we were able to understand each other. That’s EVS in practice!
Looking at these passed three months, I can sincerely suggest everyone to try the EVS experience. It is an unique possibility to get in touch with a new culture, to widen your horizons and stretch your mind to new realities, to meet new people from different backgrounds and countries. 15 days after my arrival in Koper, I took part in the on-arrival training, a 4-day meeting where I met a lot of other volunteers present in Slovenia and coming from all around the world. It was a great experience and it gave me the possibility to form a network of contacts in Slovenia and – why not – in the world. For example, now I know that in Nepal one doesn’t need to say I’m sorry among friends.
EVS is also helping me to know myself better and what I want to become. I know that my future will be in an organization (I am still not sure where) and that I still want to experience the world. Not everything is perfect of course, I am facing some obstacles (local language, different habits, cohabitation with other people) and, sometimes, I feel a bit lonely. But I believe we can always learn something from difficulties.
In the end I can say that I made the right choice by coming here. The work is interesting and often challenging; I have the possibility to learn and improve my skills by collaborating with talented and interesting people and making new friends.
What else? I am curious to see what still awaits me.