Irene Álvarez Borge
Volunteer from Spain
What doing an EVS (European Voluntary Service) feels like…
When I first heard about EVS I was in a taking part in a Youth Exchange in Cyprus in 2014 when I was 20 years old. How I found out about youth exchanges? Well I don’t even remember that one… Just by chance, I guess. Some people from another people, and my city and stuff… The thing is since I found out I wanted to take part in one, but always studying, or busy trying to find a job or solving my life, I never got the chance to do it and I ever think I had almost forgotten the idea. But then, at 23 years old, realizing that I had finished all my life of studying and that that wasn’t meaning that I was going to have a job right away, I just realized after trying back in Spain for a whole year, that my life wasn’t any close to be solved as I thought it would be when I would have finished my degree in Journalism.
So the thing is, after hundreds of job applications and only a couple of interviews, and a non-paid internship in what I thought I wanted to work in, I realized I had to leave again if I didn’t want to go crazy. And I actually didn’t even thought about Erasmus+, I just went to a couple of Facebook groups about opportunities for young people (oh how much I recommend those to everyone), and next thing I know is that I was sending an email to this NGO in Romania for a project of 11 months long on that already forgotten Erasmus+ field that I was still able to applied to until I was 30 years old. They answered me back from AIDE, I did an interview in Skype with Adelina, who –later- would be my coordinator, help and guidance on this experience, and I remember she just said something like «well, if you still want to come after this interview, just let me know » and I remember just saying « yes ».
I hanged up and I just thought « It’s now or never, and after this past frustration, maybe it is my last chance to do something like this ». So I just left the fears and nostalgic and insecurity aside (or I tried) thinking about how temporary life and all our situations are. « The worst that can happen is that I will spend a bad 11 months but after that I’ll be back home. The best : that I will have a life changing experience. »
And so there I was, a couple of months later, in Málaga, in the house of the other Spanish girl and another Spanish guy who would be, both of them, my flatmates and colleagues –and soon I realized so much more, my travel and adventure mates, my friends, and also my worst nightmares in some occasions…-, all three of us anxious, nervious, excited but scared, not
really knowing what we were getting into. Adelina, our coordinator, and Gabriel, her husband, came to take us from the airport and drove us to Râmnicu Vâlcea, our home for –at least- 11 months. And although I didn’t know at that moment, that wasn’t the last time we would see them both and each one of them, or the last time that we would share a meal, since they became much more than our « bosses » here, but our allies, our helpers and even our friends.
The first months were difficult, I’m not going to lie to you, everything was new, living with people you don’t know is hard, and doing it in another country, culture and language, « alone » it makes the situation even unbearable sometimes. But soon enough, I realized it was the best choice I could have ever made. It was that life changing experience I was expecting, but that meant so much more than that expectations I had. I learnt so much, about my limits, myself, but also the country, the people and friendship. I developed skills that I didn’t even know I had, and even though this wasn’t always of course a bed of roses kind of situation, the good parts were always way worth it than the bad ones. And that is the key to all this, to focus on the good parts, on what you have to learn and give, to discover and made people discover you. And I even feel sorry about people that –existing this opportunities- they never have the chance to try it on themselves, either because they’re too scared to do it, or their situation is not good, or just they don’t even find out about it. The only thing I have to say is I wish these kind of opportunities were mandatory for at least a couple of months in everyone’s lives. And for you, I just hope you take each opportunity and
say yes, without even thinking a lot about it. Because the regrets of missing someting will always be worst thant the ones of living it –if there are any-.
Thanks for this amazig opportunity!
Testimony of Irene after volunteering
When I was looking for an EVS experience, I had in mind a “typical” European country. And so when I read a project in Romania I honestly thought it twice before saying yes. Romania is not a “typical” European country. It’s the opposite. And that’s exactly what makes it so magic. It’s a place full of fairy tales, castles, medieval towns and vampires. It’s a place full of history and cute little villages. But especially it’s a place full of amazing people, that are always willing to help you and chat with you, very welcoming and warm, and that really know how to enjoy life, something that it’s not very easy to find in many parts of Europe and that made me feel absolutely like home in just a few days. The project we took part in was a life changing experience where, for the first time, I got to help, teach and play with students (young and older) that didn’t share a language with me and sometimes didn’t even understood me, which made the adventure even better and more enriching. Rewarding, beautiful and
emotive would be the words to describe this volunteering project, and family, would definitely be the one to describe my relationship with my coordinators and the rest of the people involved in it. I developed not only many new skills but I also grew up a lot in Romania. I became a better person, I realised that I could overcome more challenges that I ever thought I’d be capable of, and, especially, I found a home.