I heard about European voluntary service a few years ago. But I didn’t have the time or the courage to take the plunge. After some administrative formalities, I was finally able to embark on the adventure. I chose the Czech Republic because I wanted to stay close to France while experiencing a culture different from Western Europe.
Before I left, I had a departure seminar with my sending organization. This seminar can be beneficial if you go to another country for the first time and are young. For my part, I was already 27 years old, and I had been independent since I was 15, so many things seemed to go straight to me. But, this is not necessarily the case for all. The advantages of an EVS mean that you are followed during your experience abroad, both by your original organization and on-site. It is vital to be surrounded when going in the medium term for the first time.
Indian treasure hunt
When you get there, prepare to have three phases: the euphoria of discovery, the downfall of lack, and nostalgia for the end of the project. Please do not underestimate the set. It is essential for your morale and allows you to arm yourself psychologically. Depending on the country, the seasons are variable. Winter in the Czech Republic is dry and snowy. The sun is not very present, which can have an impact on morale. This is a phenomenon that I was able to find in Poland afterward.
I was an English assistant in a school with children aged 6 to 15. We were non-stop between volunteers for the first few weeks. Having been placed in a small town, I couldn’t hang out with expatriates, for example. And that was good for me, although very hard at first. The food is very different, and I enjoyed eating goulash, drinking Kofola and devouring kneels. Besides, I miss it a lot now. I remember spending two hours in a supermarket the first time, looking for what the shelves were and finding my way.
Fair with children
Also, prepare for a different way of working. Some countries do not know the 35h/week; others have a limited labor code. Learn to adapt while setting your limits. No, it is not customary to respond to an email on Sunday evening for Monday. Yes, it is normal to stay longer in school to set up extra-curricular activities. If you ever feel overwhelmed, don’t hesitate to talk to your superiors about it by requesting an interview. Finally, if you prefer to shorten your volunteering or employment contract, read the starting conditions carefully and refer them to the people concerned. Don’t leave without warning overnight. I’ve witnessed it twice, and it messes everyone up. You have the right not to feel like you belong, but it is a duty to point it out. Remember that in addition to yourself, you represent your country in the organization that hosts you. What would you think of an employee who crashes you at the last minute?
Finally, to overcome the down phase, do not hesitate to call on your Madeleine de Proust. I love to read. In each country in which I have lived, I registered with the Library of the French Institute to rediscover this personal pleasure. I also really like to cook, and my roommates had a great time with my homemade compotes, pancakes, and logs.
My first summit in Jested
On the administrative level
Prepare your papers several months before leaving: identity card, passport, visa (if leaving outside the EU), European health insurance card, private or mutual insurance, adapted telephone plan, renewed bank card, etc. In my case, I left for three years without knowing that it would last that long since my EVS lasted one year. It opened up a portal of opportunity for me that I never dared imagine. I was able to work in Belgium and then in Poland afterward. I no longer had a fixed address in France, so it was essential to me.