What happens when experience meets expectations? A precious thing, and that was my EVS in Slovakia!
When I went to Bratislava for my European Voluntary Service, I had clear in mind what my intentions were: doing something that could have an impact and could improve my profile as a researcher, my deepest ambition, and having another opportunity offered by the European Union. Nevertheless, not being anymore the 21 years old Erasmus Student looking for independence but a 27 years old facing the challenges of the job market, I also knew what my fears were: getting stuck into a project that would have actually slowed down my career. After six months of EVS I can easily say that my experience has fully satisfied my expectations and it has been one of the best memories I have.
After some projects within the European Programmes, I was very interested in a EVS, although waiting for something that could fit my profile. When a project at a NGOs as the Slovak Youth Council of Bratislava came out, I was immediately thrilled, and when I got the chance to apply, I was extremely excited to have been selected. Working as a social scientist, often you end up sit at a desk managing data and experiments, paradoxically studying society without being in touch with it, carry on results likely to not have an immediate impact in short time. On the contrary, my EVS has showed me another approach to research, working actively for a community producing tangible opportunities of change, and I contributed by writing reports, giving some methodological inputs and providing information on youth policies. The main focus of my EVS was the Structured Dialogue, a EU project aimed at shortening the distance between young people and policymakers and concluded with the European Youth Conference in Košice. All this let me get into the world of EU policies and social activism, associations and volunteering, and I hope to be part of all of this in the future, confident that my experience will provide me a better attitude in my job. Moreover, I was blessed with a very engaging team that allowed me to run also workshops of my own as in Turany, where I first introduced my personal project of the Multicultural Diary aimed at enhancing the self-awareness of social workers in multicultural contexts.
Living and connecting also with people from outside of Europe, as from Balkans and Eastern Europe, with their stories of war and still ongoing political tensions, allowed me to even more appreciate the process of peace and growth that the European Union represents for us regardless of our different cultural and political backgrounds. Regarding this point, Slovakia has been an unique surprise. I admit I had no knowledge of this country and its history, what their society looked like during the communist regime, their struggle for freedom and their adaptation to a new lifestyle once they got it. Getting to know about the history of Slovakia from my colleagues, as well as the history of other countries from my friends and flatmates, has shown me how much we can be ignorant about this world and how much news from books and media should never be considered the only truth, turning us reflective citizens of the world.
I got the chance to meet very interesting people, and I was received by a great and supporting network, which was far beyond my expectations. My mentor Alex was the first to welcome and guide me in Bratislava, introducing me to the events and amusement of the city and Slovakia as well. Sharing my house with some other EVS volunteers has been a chance to never get bored, with great chats, Turkish, Italian and Macedonian breakfasts and dinners, collecting nice and sometimes unexpected moments I will remember. And I can’t name here all the other nice volunteers, people and visitors I have met
In sum, my EVS has been an engaging and productive learning experience to get more involved into EU policies and making an impact through my job. And besides that, I was part of a community of great people that will be part of myself in the future. The simplest and the most appropriate word I can find is “thank you”, and that’s the most precious things of all.
Battipaglia (Salerno), Italy
17.6. – 30.11.2016
hosting organization: Rada mládeže Slovenska
project: Share&Care with EVS