Emma Garnier is a 24 years old French girl, from the countryside of Lyon, and is now studying in Grenoble. When she was 22, she finished her studies of Graphic Design and decided to move to Slovenia for a whole year to start an ESC (European Solidarity Corps) project and to practice what she’d studied, experiencing it in a new country.
Why did you decide to start this ESC project in particular?
I’ve always liked Graphic Design, but I wasn’t sure about having my professional life in that field and I couldn’t speak English. I wanted to go abroad, just stop my studies for a while, and see other things in different countries, to let me think about my future. I wanted to practice it, to see if I really liked it and if I wanted to work in that sector. I wanted to make this year useful for my professional future, but I also didn’t want to spend a lot of money, so I chose to do an ESC, because they pay you the accommodation and pocket money. I didn’t choose the project because of Slovenia, but for Graphic Design, because I wanted to do it and multimedia too, so I checked for it and I’ve found this one.
Were you scared?
Yes. *laughs* I was scared maybe two days before. I was afraid that my work wouldn’t be as the same level as PiNA – that the design, the photos, the videos wouldn’t satisfy their expectations. I was also scared about my English knowledge, because I couldn’t speak it. I could write and read but I didn’t speak or understand it. I had big big difficulties, but I wasn’t afraid to go abroad alone.
What were your hopes and fears at the beginning?
Well my first hope was to be able as soon as possible to speak English and my fear, as I already said was that I couldn’t be as PiNA wanted me to be, like if they asked me to take pictures or to do the design of something I was always afraid not to be able to do it, because I’m a bit perfectionist. *laughs* I like when they say “okay, your job is good”.
To receive compliments and feedbacks. Yeah I’m the same.
So yeah this was my main fear. Also before my departure, I got a welcome book where was written that all the ESC who came to PiNA brought something special to the organisation. My biggest fear was to be the only one without anything “special”. At the end, I really think that everybody has something special, and the ESC and going out of our comfort zone is the best way to discover it. I was scared to not figure out what my professional “path” would have been, like going back to France once the ESC and not knowing what to do.
Did you achieve some goals? Which ones?
Well my English of course improved. Now I’m able to speak and understand it. When I have classes, I can understand everything that the teacher is saying, and I’m very proud of myself for it. An achieved goal for me was also every time I received a compliment for a job. I’ve got much more autonomy, because now I can travel alone, and do a lot of things on my own. I take more initiatives than before, and this are the little skills I’ve developed here and I’ve seen the results quite soon during my ESC and after.
Did you manage to learn Slovenian too?
*laughs* I tried to, but it wasn’t my goal. I really wanted to, but I couldn’t speak it. I still remember the little things I’ve learned, and I realised how important is the difference between wanting to learn something and when you’re kind of “obligated” to learn something you don’t want to (like in school for example). Now I know “how to learn” and that’s also another goal I’ve achieved honestly.
In the complex, how was your ESC experience?
It was a really good experience, because sometimes when it was a little bit boring or annoying I’ve tried to take a positive side in everything. Whenever I think about my ESC, I always remember the positiveness. It changed my life, because I discovered a new field, so I started my studies in that. I’ve always said to my mentor, that I would have liked to work in a company, and I tried to apply there but I never got accepted. Now thanks to my new studies, I got accepted. I’m doing my Master’s Degree in a not so popular field, and they needed someone in that sector, so it was the perfect chance. Even if I won’t work in that company for many years, the ESC opened a lot of doors for me. During this experience you really have to be open minded, to live it fully, to discover new things. I’ve also met so many people, especially during the on-arrival and mid-term training. Each person can bring different things to you, because they all are from different countries. I’ve stayed in touch with some people even today. Sometimes we travel together and it’s great.
Did you discover any new passions or hobbies?
I’ve learned how to take photos and how to use a Reflex which I’ve really liked. Outside of PiNA, I’ve also discovered management, Design Thinking, which I’m now studying – Management of Innovations. After my ESC, I was really interested in entrepreneurship, because I think that when you go abroad you develop a lot of skills that are needed for it and also autonomy, freedom and flexibility. So when I finished my ESC, I was really into starting to study entrepreneurship, so I had two choices: this one or the one I’m currently studying. I chose the second one because you have a lot of responsibilities, take many initiatives and you can gain enough knowledge to start your own company.
What did you like to do during your free time?
Travelling. I’ve done a lot of travels around Slovenia and Europe during my ESC experience. Slovenia is a really small country so I really enjoyed to visit all the small places and I really fell in love with it. *laughs* So I came back. I’ve also liked meeting new people. I’ve forced myself to talk to improve my skills.
Which one of the places you’ve visited was your favourite one?
In Slovenia it was Bohinj and in Montenegro it was Kotor. I did like a small Balkan trip – I’ve visited Montenegro, Serbia, Bosnia and I think it was cool. I also went to Prague.
Okay, and the worst one?
It was Belgrade, Serbia. Mostly because it was raining a lot and it was at the end of 10 days of travel so I was a bit tired.
Did you have a favourite place to hang out or to eat?
I didn’t have any special places to hang out but I included myself in the Erasmus group in Koper. I spent a lot of time with them and got the opportunity to travel with some of them. Thanks to Erasmus, I’ve also met local students. By playing basketball at Bonifika, I’ve met a lot of local people. Each time I went there, I used to meet the same players. My favourite place to eat was a small fast food, where you can buy a pizza for 1€. It was a bit weird because in France you can’t have it for that price, even if it’s really small. I like Sarajevo 84, I liked it because I like “čevapčič”, it’s a small sausage. I didn’t like to hang out that much, I preferred to travel more.
What are you proud of?
Since I didn’t want to go back to France during my ESC experience, I’ve built the opportunity to get closer with some people. I went to Russia with my brother for Christmas. It was the first time we were travelling together and it made a big difference in our relationship. For New Year, a group of friends came to Venice to spend this event with me. I’ve also travelled to Prague with one of my cousins and to Croatia with others. My parents came to Slovenia. I got closer to all of them, and I’m really proud that I’ve made the decision to stay abroad for one year.
So the last question. What did you bring home from this experience?
I think I’m a bit more confident in myself, and with new knowledge and skills. This experience made me understand that I wanted to continue studying in the field I’m currently in. I also grew a big feeling for Slovenia, I mean I love France and I feel really good there, but I miss Slovenia. I always want to come back, but I don’t know why.
You feel like it’s your home?
Yeah, a bit, but I don’t know the language. I feel good here, it’s different from France, like everybody is nice to everybody. So I brought home the flag. *laughs*
Meeting Emma was great because I’ve learned a few things about her experience that could help me to fully live mine too. It was really interesting to see that she had the same fears as I’ve had at the beginning of my experience and to share a delightful chitchat with her about food and travelling.