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Clara's EVS in Liège

My name is Clara and I come from the eternal city of Rome. I am an interpreter and translator but there was something missing in my language collection: le français! Unforgigivable, especially for someone who wants to work in the EUropean institutions! Besides, I would be working at VIEWS International, doing one of the things I love the most: helping blind people in an international framework. I couldn't ask for anything better.

I arrived on the 10th of October, and my beginning wasn't easy: I couldn't communicate well with my housemate, who spoke mainly Spanish, and I wasn't too used to go around on my own with the cane. I had to learn many things in a short amount of time, and at the end of the first week I was almost ready to give up! Luckily, three days at the seminar for the new EVS volunteers, organized by the Bij, were enough to make me change my mind!

Though I didn't speak a lot of French in the beginning (I had only studied it for three years in primary school), I started to like it right away, and got better and better at it. NOt only did I speak it at the office (which was very very hard in the beginning, as I knew that Anca and Tamara could also speak English and that was so tempting!), but also during my mobility classes. What a mess in the beginning! Just to give you an example, I was learning the route to go to the supermarket Lidl, and my mobility teacher Carine suddenly mentions "carrefur". "Carrefour?! Je pensais que nous devions aller au Lidl!". Fortunately, I attended a French course for the whole year, with many nice classmates and a very funny teacher. I definitely owe a lot to that course!

As I also speak Dutch, which I've studied at university, it was always great for me to go to Flanders and practice it a bit. In the beginning, when I hardly spoke any French, getting off the train in Leuven or at Brussels' Airport came almost as a relief: no French, and so much Dutch!!! As time went by, I felt comfortable with both languages, but I always tried to visit Flanders as much as possible, so as not to lose the opportunity to practice my Dutch. And I was very lucky in that respect, because I had already two Flemish friends when I arrived, who introduced me to their own friends. And, before I knew it, I started volunteering for ICC Belgium, an association in Leuven which was busy organizing the very well-known international camp ICC. It was amazing, because it enabled me to work intensely in Dutch, which I hadn't done often, and for something that had always been dear to my heart: I had participated to the same camp 12 years ago!!!

Working at Views' office was very interesting as well: I loved writing the monthly newsletter, and I feel that my English benefited a lot from it. There were a lot of diverse and interesting projects going on, with international partners, which taught me many things I didn't know at all. What I loved the most, is that I had different tasks (translation, editing, writing report...), and I never got bored of my job! Besides, it was nice to work closely with Anca and Tamara, which taught me a great deal. Our lunch breaks were great, with our sandwiches and salades!

Once a week I also went to La Baraka, an after-school for children of different origins, where I organized awareness-raising sessions. Though they were always pretty chaotic, as they took place in the entrance hall, I enjoyed them a lot: children were always curious and funny, and asked many interesting questions. I'll never forget the last one we organized, on the 13th of June: not many people, in a quiet hall, and in the complete darkness. I felt so comfortable with the children, and it was great to see how quickly they got used to blindness and how enthusiastic they were with everything!

Clara

I was also lucky enough to share the EVS apartment with two other people besides Jessica, in different periods of time: Paola from Italy and Tiffany from India. Extremely different people, but both great housemates! I had never lived with anyone before, and it was great to discover how nice it can be, to have someone in the house who's also a friend! i went out a lot with Paola, discovering the different neighbours of Liège, whereas with TIffany we really loved to stay home and drink tea, like real ladies!

Another thing that made my stay in Liège as nice as it was were the friends I made along the way. My tutor, Samantha, was always there for me, and we had great afternoons/evenings together. She works in one of the best pubs in Liège, and that made our friendship even more... how could I say... cheerful! My daily-living skills sessions, too, were always a source of great amusement, with Angelique! She was the first person I met when I arrived in Liège, and an amazing friend throughout my 9-month adventure. She helped me a lot with household things (she knows everything about washing machines!), but she did much more than that: she took me to many interesting places in Liège that I would've never discovered otherwise. She always described everything in a colourful and imaginative way, so much so that I really felt like I could actually see those places!

If I had to name one thing that I really really loved about Liège, I would say the people. I had already been told that they were generally nice, and they definitely lived up to my expectations! As I took the same busses more or less every day and at the same time, people even started to recognize me, and would know where I was heading even before I opened my mouth! It made me feel very comfortable and safe, as though the city had officially welcomed me. And, of course, replying to all the people who wanted to help me was also very helpful for my French!

There would still be a lot more to say, but I don't want this article to get too long: after all, I've been managing the newsletter for the past year, and so I would never want to clog it with too many bytes! I'll just say that, after the first moment of uncertainty and worries, time started flying by so quickly that I really wanted to tell it to slow down a little! I made many new friends, both in Liège and in other cities of Belgium, and discovered different cultures and points of view. My mobility got definitely better, and my French as well. I really have to thank Views International for the great opportunity it offered me, and all the people who kept me company in this amazing journey.