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EVS in Ukraine, by Esmeralda

Esmeralda Raskin

I first heard about the EVS in 2005 whilst pondering over career orientation as I was entering the second phase of my translation studies and disliking it as a professional option. Before the Bologna initiative, academic transfers were scarce and complicated. Therefore, EVS came as a solution as it provided time for thinking things through while enjoying an interesting activity. This programme is funded by the EU and consists of a long-term volunteering work abroad, in almost any field or destination you might wish for.

The preparation can take long but it’s worth the trouble. I was lucky enough to meet Beatrice and through a youth camp lead by Views in Liege in 2008, decide upon Ukraine as my destination. The theme was education in social and environmental matters for youth and adults and the project was approved in 2010 and completed in 2011. With the help of Anca David, my coordinator, I had created my own project within the realm of activities developed by CEI, my hosting organization in Sumy.

As often happens in life, reality does not always meet expectations and the organization took a different approach as that initially agreed. From discussing our consumer choices and their impact on the environment or social justice, my workshops should turn into promoting Europe for its wealth or raising awareness on the pollution issue by picking up trash in the parks, as this is the way the organization had always worked.

Needless to say I was disappointed but I then was allowed to focus more on the linguistic workshops and found my calling there. I had come full circle from picking translation out of passion for foreign languages to instilling that same passion into others. This experience in Ukraine has helped me find a new job in Belgium as language coach.

Of course, EVS should not be only a working experience and I had the pleasure of becoming part of a community which had different customs, eating, leisure habits which were also interesting to experience. Sumy (my host town) has 220 000 inhabitants while Brussels has over 1 million. I am used to a plethora of theaters, music festivals and other events which were not as readily available there. Instead, I spent many nights in my apartment with my friends, learning how to cook Ukrainian food, singing their traditional songs or discovering their cinema, and Saskia (the German volunteer also hosted by CEI) and I, in turn showed our own traditions to our guests.

I could also recall my many trips and adventures, the people I met, how we celebrated Christmas and New Year, the Ukrainian Way. All of these memories I am very fond of and could be partly experienced through mere travelling, however one only becomes part of a community whilst living there and this is what makes the EVS special. Despite the numerous problems encountered with my hosting organization (CEI) which have led to an earlier departure, I would recommend this experience to anyone, as a learning one, but first and foremost, as a human one.