My EVS on-arrival training – Sharon

Two months have already passed since the beginning of my EVS and the on-arrival training in Sofia has been a good moment to rethink about this volunteering experience from a wider and deeper perspective. It has been also an opportunity to discover a new dimension of Bulgaria, the one of its slow-paced and multicultural capital city, and to connect with other EVS volunteers around the country.

The on-arrival team was formed by 30 volunteers coming from 15 nations: Italy, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia, United Kingdom, Austria, Latvia, Estonia, Lithuania, Holland, Georgia, Turkey, Greece, Germany and Poland. All together, with the help of our trainers Nora Stefanova and Tihomir Georgiev, we built a common space for exchanging our stories, feelings and impressions. The training programme was articulated into five intense days full of activities: from Monday 4th to Friday 8th September 2017.

The first day, after the opening lunch, we started with a welcome session to get to know each other and receive general information about the programme. The following workshop, “My river”, helped us to reflect about our life path and the reasons that motivated our choice to take part in the EVS. Life path is like the course of a river with branches and streams, the sum of every little step we take in a natural process of growth. Sharing it with other volunteers and knowing theirs was really inspiring.

The second day started with “EVS practicalities”, a useful session about practical issues of the EVS such as rights and responsibilities of the actors involved in a project, budget or insurance. The following activity, “Communication”, was focused on Nigel Risner’s communication styles theory. We made a test to discover our communication profile and, accordingly to the results, we worked into groups to reinterpret them. This session was complemented by another one, “intercultural learning”, in which we played a game about how to communicate in multicultural contexts and I could understand better the meaning of cultural awareness.

The third day began with the topic “How about Bulgaria”, where we shared anecdotes and experiences lived in our EVS and represented them in a funny short play. During the “mission outside” in Sofia we made a short video about the topic “together”. To me, this was the most challenging and funniest activity, because I had to work in team with other ten girls almost unknown, from both the on-arrival and mid-term teams.

The fourth day we shifted the focus on “conflict resolution” to learn about the reasons why a conflict arise, the attitudes we can show towards it and the possible approaches to resolve it. The following session, “together with mid-term volunteers”, who shared their experience and tips, helped me to feel more confident about the EVS. The day finished with the workshops “Youthpass certificate” and “Personal project & planning” and then a short-movie night.

The fifth and last day, we closed the training with the session “Future opportunities”, talking about other mobility programmes after the EVS, and a final game.

I was really looking forward for this training and, finally, I can say that it met my expectations: I created meaningful connections with other EVS volunteers, no matter our cultural differences, and learnt about EVS and its potentialities from experts in European mobility.

For the first time in my life, I lived in such a multicultural environment with so many people from different nations in the same place at the same time. Each one of them has inspired me and offered new viewpoints on EVS. Maybe, the greatest teaching came from the card I picked in the final game of the course: “Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” It reminded me the importance of being open and flexible as much as possible. All good and bad moments, all experiences are worthy, because each one of them is an opportunity to widen your horizon. This is the path to lifelong learning.

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