4 things I learned in the first 4 months of my EDS
Hello, my name is Magdalena and I am currently on a long-term (12 months) volunteer exchange in Bratislava, Slovakia. I arrived in early September and since then I have been helping to organize events, PR campaigns and write information in English about the cultural center “A4 – a space for contemporary culture”, which is also my host organization.
I can tell you what events I help with together with the other three volunteers or the English brochure that the four of us create and print each month, but honestly I’d rather share a few things I’ve learned over the past four months. I know that no matter how hard one tries, one can still have slightly utopian expectations for their future EVS project in a foreign country, and I want to tell you that some things will definitely not happen exactly the way you imagine, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy this wonderful experience.
If you are not the only volunteer on your project, do not act like you are. There are four girls in my project and, as it’s understandable that we don’t always get along perfectly; after all, it is quite difficult to live and work with the same people 24/7. But it is extremely important that all four of us go through almost the same experiences and only we know what it is like for each of us, so the more often we remind each other of this, the more tolerant we become of our differences and avoid unnecessary conflicts.
You can’t learn a new language even if your EVS project lasts a year (unless you are a language prodigy). I admit, I believed that there was a chance to learn Slovak in 12 months, because it is supposed to be similar to Bulgarian, but I already know that this will not happen. For one or two hours a week of group lessons, with a teacher who knows that in such a short time (there are about 20-25 lessons for the whole stay, by the way) he can’t teach you all the grammar and vocabulary while you\re at the same time thinking about all the other obligations to the organization that you have to complete after the lesson. Of course, you can’t learn anything if you don’t try hard.
You will also perform some tasks that are not part of the agreement. Yes, in any kind of work there are various tasks that need to be done quickly (especially in projects like mine) and very often mentors will turn to volunteers for help in orther to complete them. Of course, if the things that are not part of your obligations start to increase and you are constantly being askedto do more and more, you can always say “no” and (if necessary) turn to your sending organization for help.
OnArrival and MidTerm trainings are extremely useful and fun. At these trainings you meet other volunteers from other organizations in the country in which project is. In these trainings you also meet “instructors” (people who lead the training),whom you can turn to with all questions related to volunteering. These “trainings” are very similar to green schools or summer camps, so you will have fun and find friends who feel a lot like you (confused, excited, surprised, etc.).