EVS – a life changing adventure and countless memories  28/08/2018
EVS – a life changing adventure and countless memories

My experience with European Voluntary Service (EVS) was in every sense of the word, life-changing. For 10 months, I would live within a Dutch community alongside more than 60 adults, children, practitioners, professionals, social workers (and even a few cats!) and work for their organisation Oudezijds 100, in the heart of Amsterdam. Initially, the change was drastic.

Waking up early, eating communal meals, working in different teams on a daily basis, getting used to hearing a very strange language being spoken around you morning, noon and night, narrowly avoiding bike accidents and accepting the fact that life in the capital of the Netherlands is both expensive and thrilling.

On the flip side, neither did I expect to meet and connect with so many different people from all walks of life, to eventually be able to hold a conversation in Dutch, to enjoy working with others and hearing their input more so than working on my own, or cooking a meal for 25 people once a week! These were just some of the challenges and rewards I experienced throughout my stay.

EVS is a unique programme because it takes care of all the important logistics (such as accommodation, flight and living allowances, language assistance and guided support/ mentorship) during your placement, but it throws you into the deep end and challenges you to deal with change, discomfort and diversity.

There will be good days and bad days, but if you can keep your learning goals and objectives in mind, that will help you to stay motivated and eager to overcome any obstacles. It is also relatively easy to connect and meet up with other volunteers on EVS, and form a network of friends who are going through the same journey as you. With my volunteer friends in Amsterdam, I was able to discover more about the Netherlands, travelling by train on day trips, visiting historical cultural sites and participating in festivities, and this ultimately helped me understand more about the country that my colleagues at Oudezijds 100 call home.

As I find is always the case with volunteering, I ‘gained’ much more than I expected I would from my EVS experience, even from the smallest things. Expressing my feelings, needs and interests in another language bolstered my personal confidence and emotional development. Dealing with the consequences of linguistic misunderstandings helped me sharpen my problem-solving skills. I also became more aware of my own cultural background throughout - there were days when I missed the Mediterranean sea, sun and laid-back lifestyle (but you don’t appreciate those things as much when you’re exposed to them every day).

Overall, I felt that I was able to support and be supported by others; discuss differences and dislikes, but also embrace and promote European diversity and values through newfound friendships and relationships with others.

In sum, what would I say to future EVSers? Go for it, and don’t look back! You’re signing up for a memorable adventure and will have countless memories and stories to retell when you get back, and hopefully many new friendships to prove it. Don’t worry about missing whom or what you will leave behind, because EVS will fill those gaps with all kinds of wonderful distractions. Good luck :)

- Denyse Degiorgio