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Why you absolutely should do EVS?

ponedeljek, 26 november 2018 10:41

Patricijo smo že spoznali v čalnku "Travel tips after 3 years on the road", tokrat pa piše o njeni izkušnji z Evropsko prostovoljno službo. EVS mladim ponuja možnost prostovoljskega dela v vseh državah EU v zelo različnih gostiteljskih organizacijah, pri čemer je pomembno, da prostovoljci delujejo v korist gostiteljske organizacije ali njenega lokalnega okolja, za prostovoljce pa v tem času z opravljanjem izzivov poteka učni proces pridobivanja novih veščin in znanj.

            If you’re reading this and are in-between the ages of 17-30 and have European residency, have I got some great news for you. The EU, as part of Erasmus +, funds youth to volunteer & use their skills in non-profit organizations all around Europe; and they pay you to get there.

            One year ago I had no idea what EVS was. A few months later I had completed a 2-month long EVS in Macedonia, sad to leave, but accomplished, happy, and confident. 

I’ll share my story with you later on, but first, let’s introduce the topic of learning, and what different models of education look like. 

            Did you know that there are 3 types of education? Formal, non-formal, and informal. EVS is a  type of non-formal education… and one of my favorites!

            In formal, learning is structured, and has clear tasks and an end-goal. This type of learning has a teacher and information is passed one-way, from the teacher to the student. An example is a history course in high school. 

            In non-formal, learning is continuous and independent. Learning is also environment-based, community-related, and learner-focused. There is no clear “teacher” or “student”; learning is done by everyone involved. An example is doing volunteer work in the community

            In Informal, learning is spontaneous, and occurs in daily life. Learning is as a result of experience & interaction. An example is- mastering a language by interacting with locals.

            The amazing thing is, that while formal education is limited to a classroom, non-formal and informal learning can happen practically everywhere! And where better to try out a new kind of education model, than in a different country?

            So, here is a story of my EVS experience, January-February 2018.

            I honestly never had a plan to visit Macedonia, nor the Balkans for that matter. But the best experiences are often the unexpected ones.

So how did I end up there in the first place? I suppose I have Facebook to thank. 

I was in Serbia in November working in a hostel near the mountains. 

One of the other hostel volunteers started mentioning how lucky I am to have both an US and European passport. 

“Look at this Patricia” he says with a grin, opening a Facebook page called EVS Vacancies, “These are programs about volunteering for NGOs around Europe, in which your accommodation and food is provided, plus you get pocket money.”

“You have a Romanian passport. You can do them.”

            My eyes grew wide and we looked at each other silently affirming that the words free and travel are what dreams are made of.

            I scrolled through the Facebook page with wide eyes, imagining all the places I could call home.  My eyes lingered on one call for volunteers for a youth project in Macedonia. 

            I knew nearly nothing about this country but realized I was quite close by (being in Serbia at the time) and the organization had been looking for volunteers for December and January. I knew it would be a long shot, they probably had the volunteers by now…. but I sent a message anyways. 

            And, it turns out, the organization did still need 1 more volunteer for both months. To summarize, they liked my CV and personality… and 1 weeks later I was accepted!

            The days and weeks in Bitola, Macedonia went by quickly…  to say the least. I began teaching Italian and Spanish lessons, as well as hosting a weekly language exchange in a quaint cafe called Piano Bar. 

            The other EVS volunteers and I created environmental workshops and upcycling projects for our house and for elementary schools. We organized a painting night called Art Attack and movie nights every Thursday.

            Along with another volunteer we installed an interactive question display in the center of town. We had people answer the question “What is your goal for 2018”.

            I gained public speaking and presentation-creating skills with our various events. From a presentation on how travel cheaply, to a discussion on globalization, to a panel on youth rights, to an interactive workshop on positive psychology, to my language courses, I developed love for teaching, for sharing information.

            And the crazy part, looking back on this, is how much I enjoyed every moment. Work didn’t feel like work, not when speaking with an audience, nor staying late in the office to finalize plans and poster designs. 

            “Time goes by when you’re having fun” is absolutely correct. And for one of the first times in my life, every moment of my time I was absorbed and fascinated with and at work.

            But all of this aside, there is one unforgettable thing.

            The Macedonian people.   

            The warmth, the curiosity, the intelligence, and the generosity of this small country left me speechless in many situations. Kindness to strangers isn’t foreign to me, I’m always experiencing this when traveling alone, hitchhiking, couchsurfing, etc., but in Macedonia it was a new level.

            Even the days when I traveled alone, I never felt alone, I was never lonely. People made conversation everywhere. They showed me their dogs and invited me into their homes and made sure I always ate dessert. They asked as always, where I’m coming from, with a smile following whichever answer I decided upon, Romania or USA.

            The spirit of Macedonia and its people will always be in my heart. 

            So, now why should you do EVS?

Well, a more applicable question is… why not?

            The cultural immersion is unmatched. You get a stipend for food, accommodation is provided, and you receive pocket money. You get to take language courses for free. You can develop your skills, and find new passions working for a non-governmental organization. You can coordinate events, you can share stories, you can listen and learn and be surrounded by new experiences. You can dive into a local culture. You can call a once foreign place your new home.

            Above all, doing EVS can help face a fear of change, of failure, of uncertainty, and living apart from all you have known. It is important to leave our comfort zone from time to time. It is fine to have a routine, but a routine doesn’t always help us grow. Spontaneity is the essence of growth, the cornerstone of adventure. 

            I encourage you to say “yes” to things, to push the boundaries you (or others) have created for yourself, to reflect and realize what do you actually want… and to be okay if the answer is something completely different than what you are doing now.

            Time will pass, no matter if you are doing things you enjoy, or things you dislike. Time doesn’t wait for you to decide… so what are you waiting for?


Patricia is nomadic soul whose passion for adventure ignited 4 years ago. She is creating her dream life, exploring our Earth with an open mind and the cross-cultural communicative power of a smile. Patricia hopes to inspire authentic living in everyone she meets. Follow her adventures at or on Facebook as “Where Is Poppy”.

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