EVS, European Voluntary Service, is a good idea if you want to change your life
This experience would help you to see life from different perspectives.
I chose this project because I wanted to do something for myself: learning new things, travelling, meeting new people, discovering myself. I also wanted to help to socially vulnerable people. I arrived to Zagreb on 28th of August during the night. After a long and exhausting journey by the train, I was excited to meet my colleagues: Ramona and Tihana. I did not know what to expect and I was feeling nervous all the way to Zagreb. After the meeting and talking with the girls I finally started to feel relaxed.
The next day I met Antonija. She was the first one who showed me the city. That day I tried Croatian traditional food: strukle, for the first time. I remember that we spent quality time together and I was impressed by the amount of green areas and graffiti. Since that day I started to walk on the streets looking for graffiti. I found some really nice ones.
On 30th of August I had the first meeting with the members of my organization: Krugovi. They greeted me with the cake. They tried to make me feel comfortable, to integrate me in the team from the first day. We talked about my role in the organization and about my tasks: visiting elder people and helping them with things that they can not do alone, participating in workshops, raising donations for children at the donation stand.
First lady that I visited was Melva. Melva was curious and happy to see me, she was smiling all the time. This visit increased my confidence that I can help. I realized that those things are easy to do for me, whereas for them are challenging. Knowing that I can improve their life made me feel satisfied and joyful. I also realized that I have to jump over the language barrier.
Bozena showed me that you do not have to talk when you want to express your feelings. During one of the visits, she tried to explain something to me that I could not understand. After a while, she just grabed my hand and held it close during the entire walking. I think she just needed to feel that she is not alone. It was an touching moment for me and even now when I am thinking about it, I have a smile on my face.
I met Lorena in the hospital. I was with Antonija when I first visited her. Antonija told me that Lorena does not accept everyone around her and I was scared that she will not accept me. Fortunately, she did. First visit without Antonija was difficult and frustrating for me because I could not speak with her on Croatian. That situation pushed me to give my best to learn Croatian. It became increasingly easier with every visit. I remember one emotional moment from the hospital. Lorena did not feel so well that day. She was tired and in pain. I was there for her but I could not make her cheerful. We started to watch TV and at TV was an old Croatian song. When she heard the song, she started to sing. I felt the joy in her voice.
Visits to elderly people made me realize that Romanians and Croatians have things in common. In our elderly people’s houses you can also find: frills, doilies, arrases and pictures with the loved ones hanging on the walls. This made me go back in time, thinking about childhood, that beautiful time when your grandparents take care of you and try to make all your wishes come true.
I met Ljubica at one of the workshops in Krugovi center: Zlatne Ruke. She immediately took my attention with her smile and positive attitude. She has a warm smile. When I realized that she knows some words in English, I started to communicate more with her. She helped me to learn some words in Croatian. After a while, we decided that we should go together for a walk. It was a great and exhausting experience in the same time. We both like to talk so we tried every resources that we have: English, Croatian, German.
I did not have any experience working with children. I’ve always thought that is not a job for me. I’ve always thought that children are too active for me. One of my tasks in the organization was to work with children in the hospital. I met two girls that changed my opinion about working with children. They made me appreciate life more than I did before. I saw them in the most difficult time in their life: living in the hospital, feeling pain most of the time, but always smiling, always saying yes to the new activities. They tought me a life lesson: enjoy the moment as much as you can, don’t worry about the future!
My first impression about people from Croatia is that they are kind and they are always trying to make you feel like home. They invited me in their houses for lunch or for a glass of wine. I could meet their families, which is great for someone who is for the first time in this country and doesn’t know anyone here.
I did not have time to think about my family and friends during the first two weeks because I had a lot of new experiences. After that I started to feel homesick. I realized that for me is important to have a reliable and close friend by my side. Luckily, I met Cristina at on-arrival training for volunteers. We became friends soon after the training. We had a common goal: we want to travel as much as we can. First place on our list was Zadar.
Zadar is so beautiful and quiet place. In Zadar I had my first contact with Adriatic sea, my first experience with Couchsurfing, my first beer from Croatia. The story with the beer is funny. A guy gave me the beer without saying anything. I wanted to thank to him but he refused. I guess it was only a bet or the guy did not know English. I still have the bottle of that beer.
I visited Ljubljana and I met other EVS volunteers there. We spent a great time together. They invited me at their place in Brtonigla, Istria. It is a nice feeling to be at the same table with five different persons, all from different countries. You can find out different ways of thinking, different ways of cooking, different cultures, but in the end you realize that at one point, we are all the same, we are all humans.
EVS journey after 6 months
Zagreb feels like home for me: not too small, but not too big, not so crowded, but not empty. The most important thing is that it has the mountains close. Walking to Sljeme during the sunny autumn day, recharged my batteries for a long period of time. The feeling of freedom that you get during the hiking is amazing. And the view when you get to the top is breath-taking.
I remember On arrival training for volunteers: 15 people, different stories, different cultures, different
expectations, different knowledge, but all with the same goal: EVS journey, a journey into unknown. What is a volunteer′s life? How does it look like? It was hard to respond to these questions. I remember how exhausted I felt after the training. Instead of finding answer to my questions that I already had, I started to have more questions without answer.
I had a few moments when I wanted to give up. It’s hard to be in another country, without your family and friends, without knowing the language. Homesick feeling can be your enemy if you don’t know how to deal with it. You must occupy your time with different activities. You have to try to meet new people even if, sometimes, is the last thing that you desire.
It′s funny how your life can change in six months. You have to fight with your expectations. I learned that you can′t predict your EVS journey. You encounter moments that will disappoint you, also moments that will make you go forward. You have to accept them how they come and step by step, you will know how to deal with your ups and downs.
It′s normal to lose your motivation on the way, but it′s important to keep on going. You need some time to rest and recharge your batteries. Croatia is a really beautiful country, with spectacular places. Choose to travel: sea or mountain, Croatia have them both. Once in a while, a trip will make you free your mind, relax and come up with new ideas for your voluntary work. Also, you can meet new people: some of them will inspire you, some of them will make you learn from their mistakes, some of them will make you realize who you don′t want to be.
The best thing from EVS is the moment when you feel a special connection between you and another person at first sight. You just know that those persons will be an important part of your EVS life. It′s nice to know that you are sorrounded by people that you can count on, people that will always try to make you smile when you are in a bad mood.
I think that all the EVS journeys are unique! Take the best from it!
End of my EVS story
I am at the same cafe bar where I first came one year ago: the same surroundings, the same language, the same coffee, but different me. After one year spent in Croatia, Zagreb feels like home.
It was one year full of everything: happiness, joy, satisfaction, sadness, despair, confusion, frustration. It was the year that made me become the person that I am now: more patient, more confident, a bit more open to try new things (I say “a bit” because I still have to work on this). I am ready to start a new life. After one year of EVS , I have decided to move to Croatia, the country that hosted me, the country that slowly got into my heart… To be honest, the main reason of my decision is my boyfriend. We met in December and we are together since then. I did not plan this at the beginning of the project, I did not even think about it, it just happened. Now I realize that a big part of EVS is about me and him. I have discovered Croatia with him: Croatian way of loving, Croatian way of eating, drinking, Croatian way of doing things.
I have seen a lot of beautiful places in Croatia: from the quiet mountains to the crowded seaside. Adriatic sea it’s a must see place in Croatia: clear water with intense blue colour.
I learned a lot of things, but mostly I discovered myself. I have discovered that I can do things that I thought I couldn’t do, for example working with children. Holding presentation about my country in schools was a great experience. I wasn’t feeling weel at the beginig but at the end I felt relaxed and I started enjoying it.
I discovered that life in Croatia fits me better than life in Romania. This experience helped me to find my purpose and get to know myself better and to realize what I want to do next.
I met different people from different countries. I can say that I have new friends, a few friends, but really close to my heart.
EVS can change your life: if you have the opportunity, don’t miss it!
Don’t worry about language barrier: even if it will be hard at the beginning, you will get used to it and it will be easier and easier!
Don’t worry about the money: you will survive!
Don’t worry about being shy: even if you will be quite for a while, you will start to talk and feel comfortable talking at some point!