Mitä on EVS?
What is European Voluntary Service?
Since I started my European Voluntary Service a lot of people: exchange students, friends, colleagues and even strangers keep on asking me how is it like, what should they do, how should they start. In the beginning there might be a lot of questions but I will try to help you and clarify some of your doubts.
Getting to know your motivations and willingness to enter this project
First of all you should think at what point this project will bring joy and experience to your life. Every situation is different and not everyone feels like leaving home to go abroad in the uncertainty. If you want to change your life, contribute for an active society, get to know new cultures and improve yourself this is the ideal project for you. In the EVS platform you can find many topics and countries where you can apply, so you just need to organize your thoughts and think about what you would like to work on. You should be aware of how much time you would like to stay abroad and which project can help you improve your curriculum and life experience. Please notice that this project is, above all, important to your self-development. All the expenses are covered by the European Union.
Finding a sending organization in your country
Since you can not apply to this project without a sending organization (https://europeanvoluntaryservice.org/) you have to find one in your home country. There are a few organizations that have already their partners abroad but you can always suggest to the organization you trust a new cooperation. However, I must highlight that for me this was one of the most important steps of my project. My sending organization in Portugal is the Youth Red Cross and before applying to a project I kept in touch with the responsible for the EVS projects during six months. I considered many projects before applying to the one I am currently in. I can say I had the odds in my favor because when I was really available to apply to the perfect one just came.
Your sending organization has a major role in your project. They will guide you and intervene in everything you need. They are the ones preparing you to go abroad. It would be nice if you have the chance of getting to know them and create some mutual trust.
Applying for a project
When you think you found the ideal project for you (https://europa.eu/youth/volunteering/evs-organisation_en), it comes the time to apply to it. Earlier I mentioned my project as “the perfect one”. However, there are no perfect projects and there will always be some points/tasks you won’t like that much, but there will also be those you will love. Like everything in life, nothing is perfect. I described my project as perfect because what I have the chance of doing matches exactly what I wanted.
Updating your CV and making sure it’s clean and understandable is important. However you should put all the effort in your motivation letter. Every motivation letter should be written specifically for the project you are applying to. Don’t create a standard motivation letter. People from the receiving organization will know it. Notice that this is the way of you introducing yourself and showing how much you want to be part of that project. It’s also the first impression the organization will have of you so just speak from your heart and be honest.
Don’t specify too much about your CV in the motivation letter. Highlight your strengths, extra-curricular activities and what you think you could improve about yourself. When talking about your role in the project define solid aspects in what you could be a major add to the organization.
Show them that you did your homework and mention a few things that attract you in the place, country you are applying for.
Be patient and keep on doing your research
It’s important to keep calm during this period. You really want to receive the answer but it takes time. During this time you can search for some other opportunities (just in case you are not selected). You can keep digging about the country you applied for. My advise is for you to take this as a challenge and not give up if they don’t accept you. Trust me! There will be someone who really needs you and want you somewhere. Don't lose hope.
When they answer you for the first time they will want to schedule an interview. They will ask your goals within the project, your strengths and weaknesses, what you fear the most about the experience and why you want to take part of it in this specific country you applied for. Again, my advise is speaking from your heart and be humble enough to understand that this opportunity has only place in your life once. You can prepare the interview. I did prepare some English words I know I would need and some attractive points about Finland. I didn’t prepare more because for me if it’s natural it’s enough.
The interview is also for you to make all the questions that are still blurred in your mind. So, please, don’t be afraid to ask! It’s better that you know everything before you sign the contract.
“Dear… we are glad to announce you’ve been accepted”
*Jumps of joy* and a roller coaster of feelings! You were accepted. Now what? It’s the time to arrange all the necessary things with your sending organization. Flight tickets, health insurance, documents, passport, advises (…) everything you feel like you need to know. I would advise you to keep this achievement between you and your closest ones. Don’t be inpatient to share it in social media and with your friends. You have time to do it. First make sure everything goes as you wish.
Time to go and embrace all the opportunities abroad
You will make friends from all over the world, you will have great experiences, you will have bad experiences, you will feel alive, you will cry because you think you can’t do it. All the emotions you can feel, you will! Don’t panic. Be aware that this project is temporary and if you’re staying the maximum length of it, one year, remember that one year of your life is just ONE year in so many. Work hard on your goals, travel, eat crazy food, fall in love, dance, walk under the snow, heat or rain. Improve yourself as much as you can and don’t waste any opportunities. Don’t be afraid to live.
Don’t be afraid of not being ready
If you realize you are not feeling good, ask for help! Your receiving organization will help you and if you need some medical care they will also get it for you. If you keep on feeling you can not fit in the project then don’t be afraid to speak about your feelings and let your sending and receiving organization know that you would like to go back home. You shouldn’t, in any situation, feel like you failed. You were brave enough to go and see for yourself that maybe you were not ready for this. Embrace this as an opportunity always.
As many of you might know already, I walked off from my journalist job. I realized that the place I was working didn’t match my values and it wasn’t worth it. I had a hard time during the period I was doing my first official internship. However I decided to put an end to an unhappy moment of my life and started to take control of it. Applying for this project was my light in the end of the tunnel and now I know I can be whatever I want to be as long as I am happy and appreciated.
If you think you are alone feeling mistreated in your working place, that no one gives you the value you deserve or that no one understands your will of ‘being different’, let me tell that you are not. You just need to let yourself out of those conceptions and you will see that there are many others like you. Feel free to contact me if you need any further information.
Created by: Elodie Pichard, Iñaki Reyna, Marie Zornbach.
Animated, Edited and Directed by: Iñaki Reyna.
Drawings by: Elodie Pichard, Marie Zornbach.
Written by: Iñaki Reyna, Marie Zornbach.