This is the solution to the paradox of the labor market: That we, young graduates should already have relevant work experience before applying for a job. How? We have just finished university! This can really break us down. However the solution is internship and volunteering. This method will help us acquire the necessary experience and a new mark in our CV, but it also represents an opportunity to travel, gain practical knowledge through interesting work and can change us in many other perspectives .
This series of articles intends to present some of these opportunities, like the EU internships, the EVS program, the Erasmus internship program and others. Of course, besides the international programs you can research NGOs in your city, or perhaps check the national internships available.
At the end of each article I will mention some projects, programs and internships available, to which you can apply.
The EVS is the project of the European Commission; the targets are youths between 18-30 who participate in a volunteering program in a foreign country in the interval of 3-12 months, by themselves, or joining a group. The youths work 30-35 hours a week, they have previously agreed upon days-off and take part of free language courses.
What exactly does the program cover?
The volunteering experience means the non-profit activity, however this does not mean that the young people travel and work on their own expenses. The program covers the travel, the trainings, accommodation, health insurance, meals, local travels and language courses, besides all these, the volunteers is provided with pocket money.
How is the program designed?
In general, each project has three partners, a volunteer, a sending organization and a host organization. In order to find the organization/project, one can use the database available, which includes the list of the sending and hosting organization and the search can be narrowed by topics. First, the volunteer has to choose a sending organization and contact them. See here: http://europa.eu/youth/evs_database . After finding the organization you can look for a project, for which there are several platforms.
Where can you find projects?
I suggest the possibilities of the social media! Here are several links to find the project you desire.
Now, after the general information, two of One Europe’s writers, who took – or will take - part in EVS projects agreed to present the procedure in details and also their experiences.
Andrada David, recent graduate of the Faculty of European Studies, University of Babes-Bolyai, Cluj-Napoca, Romania, is going to start her EVS program in October, 2014. Here is her experience regarding the EVS application procedure and the possibilities.
“After my Erasmus experience in the 2nd year of my studies, I began to consider other opportunities that would allow me to acquire experience in a multicultural environment. I found out about the European Voluntary Service from a friend, who also experienced. Since I was about to graduate the Faculty of European Studies, I thought that volunteering in the area of European awareness would be of great use for my future. Consequently, I applied for an EVS in Magdeburg, Germany where I was accepted as a volunteer for 12 months (from October 2014 until October 2015). The project is hosted by Bildungsnetzwerk in Magdeburg and it specifically focuses on the area of media and communication and youth information regarding European awareness.”
What happens after you find your sending and hosting organization using the above mentioned sites and groups?
“By using the database, you can easily sort the voluntary work you consider suitable for yourself by country, city and area of voluntary work. The site already mentioned above provides you with all the necessary information regarding the volunteering programs and their duration and also gives you the contact information of the respective organization where you would volunteer. Since the application is done online, you will need to fill in an application where you provide the receiving organization with your personal information and reasons why you chose the particular volunteering program. In my case, I needed to fill in information regarding my education, previous volunteering experience, previous voluntary work in media and communication and previous experience abroad. Moreover, I needed to state my motivation in choosing the particular EVS, provide with brief information regarding my personal traits and characteristics, relevant to the project, as well as my expectations from the hosting organization.
About a month after I submitted my application I was contacted by the host organization and had a Skype interview during which I presented my motivation in undergoing the particular EVS. The interviewer was very friendly and open-minded and offered to provide me with more information in case I was selected as a volunteer. The very next day I was announced that I was indeed selected as a volunteer and since then I continued to keep in touch with the hosting organization until the moment of my departure. I am barely starting my EVS at the beginning of October, but so far I can only say that I am more than excited to have been given this opportunity. Besides the great experience of working in a multicultural environment, I believe that I will also enrich my own skills and that I will be able greatly develop both professionally and personally. The voluntary service is recognized as professional experience, which we all know that it is very important especially for a freshly graduating student who is most of the times required previous experience in order to find a job. Not only does EVS offer me the opportunity of acquiring new skills in the area of European youth work and media, but it also provides me with German language classes. For these reasons, I am more confident that the EVS is a very enriching experience and I strongly recommend it to all open-minded youngsters who are excited about working in a multicultural environment, learning a new language and developing their skills.“
After presenting the application procedure in details, another author for One Europe, Fábio Paulos agreed to present the EVS experience itself. His part of the story is also really interesting , because he is objective, sharing the positive and negative experiences as well as his motivation to choose an EVS.
“I love to live abroad, It is good for our personality and it is also the best way to get to know other cultures and make friends from different nationalities. This was my second experience in living abroad, the first one was in Istanbul, as an Erasmus student.
I already knew about EVS programs when I finished university, however it was not between my first plans after graduation to do an EVS. I wanted to be employed right after finishing my studies, but i didn’t manage to and EVS seemed a nice opportunity, as second choice.
I found a Portuguese association that had many EVS projects, for weeks I was looking for a project relevant to my studies, but it was not easy.
Finally I chose Macedonia, firstly I wanted to go to Poland, because I had some friends there, but after many applications without answer I started to look for other countries. What drew more attention to the project in Macedonia was the fact that I would be in a part of Europe which I wasn’t familiar with before. The only country that I have visited in the Balkans was in Bulgaria and I really enjoyed the time spent there. Another aspect that convinced me to chose Macedonia was the fact that I saw that there were people speaking Turkish in the country, so I was expecting that living there I could improve my knowledge of the Turkish language.
Before applying to the project, I contacted some of my friends who already took part in such projects, just for better understanding of the system. They told me a lot of positive things, but also incorrect experiences, which-unfortunately- I also experienced during my time in Macedonia.
There are some associations which are EVS hosting and sending organizations, but they do not really have projects, however they submit them officially. This is what happened to me in Macedonia. One month after my arrival in Skopje I didn’t really get any productive work which left me a bit demotivated.
The EVS associations receive money from the European Union for paying the volunteers expences as well. Sometimes, however, this money does not reach its “destination”, the volunteers themselves. I had some issues with the payment and the accomodation as well, nothing I could not arrange, fortunately, after some discussions with the coordinators, however it seemed weird, because it should not happen to us in a foreign country, where we do not know how to react to these kinds of situations. The money the volunteer receives in general at an EVS project is for food, transport, accomodation. I believe that this is a really good thought, we do not receive money as we are volunteers , but we do not spend our own money in a foreign country as well. The EVS provides pocket money as well- in general. The amount of money always depends of the costs of living of the country that you chose to do EVS.
The unfortunate facts led me not to finish my program of six months, I left before the end of it. I spent 3 months in Macedonia. I do not regret the time I spent there, however, after being a graduate of International Relations Faculty, I wanted to work, to improve the knowledge gained by productive work, but in Macedonia I couldn’t do it, so I quit earlier.
I also want to mention the good things, because I believe that the EVS has a lot of positive effects and it is a nice opportunity which I recommend, especially with a degree in International Relations. I arrived in Macedonia the day before the Orthodox Christmas and this was perfect time for celebration and I started the EVS in the best way. After that we reached a lot of other organizations and discussed several collaborations and projects, we realized only a few of them though.
One of the projects I was involved with was the online magazine of my hosting organization. I was looking for more writers but I didn’t find motivated people so I have been writing the magazine alone. After a while we had to end the online magazine, because of the lack of enthusiasm from the readers.
During my time in Skopje I met Macedonians who spoke Portuguese so I decided to go to the Portuguese meetings to make new friends and help them improve their language skills.
I had also some Macedonian lessons, this is another right that the EVS volunteers have. This is good and useful because we can learn a new language, and we will communicate better (or at least try) with local people. I advice you not to be afraid to live in another country, even though sometimes you can feel homesick and experience negative things during your stay. However, we all know that this can happen in our home as well. During our stay in a foreign country we can also give importance to small things in our home country which we didn’t pay attention to before. We can also gain a lot of experience in the other country and extend our views.”
What about the organizations involved?
The coordinators of the Diakonia Christian Foundation’s volunteering program told me about the work of the foundation as a host, sending and coordinating organization in the EVS program, which, between 2007-2013 was included in the Youth in Action program, since 2014 it is included in Erasmus+ program and since 2007 they have hosted 59 volunteers and sent 51 abroad. Their experience is positive on both counts; they met wonderful people during the volunteering periods. If volunteers choose the Diakonia Foundation as their hosting organization they will work in the framework of children- and elderly programs. You can find out more about the Foundation if you check the website: www.diakonia.ro
They considered important to mention that the host organization has to submit a written application for the project proposed by the European Commission in the framework of the Erasmus+ which should include circumstances and the environment in which the applicant will work and also a detailed budget plan. So, before a project gets adopted and reaches the potential volunteers, there is a need for a solid plan which provides security to the applicants.
The host organization thus has to ensure the conditions imposed by the EVS program. Since the Diakonia Foundation is also a sending organization, they mentioned that this responsibility is not just that of sending the volunteer abroad. Usually the applicants find the most suitable project for them and then contact the sending organization, however if someone contacts them with the idea of volunteering but without a particular project they are glad to help if there is an open project in the field and they play an advisory role as well. The volunteers should feel free to contact the host organization anytime during their volunteering. After the program the youngsters submit a report about their experience abroad; they can then get involved in the next volunteering programs and help recruit new volunteers as well. Therefore it can be concluded that the host organization constantly monitors the work of the volunteers.
Do not hesitate to apply to an EVS project! Use the sites and the database mentioned above and experience volunteering! As a bonus, here is a currently available project in Turkey!
EVS in Görükle Youth Center
Main Topics: Creativity and culture, Youth (participation, youth work, youth policy), Teaching and learning of foreign languages
Project Summary: The volunteers will do the club activities and workshops for different age groups but mostly to children, teenagers and university students differ according to the clubs and their needs. The volunteers will be working mainly in the youth center and the activities will be open to anybody.
Project Dates: 07.01.2015 – 07.08.2015 (7 months)
More information: http://volunteermovement.org/our-evs-projects/
And here is one for Spanish youth; destination: Romania!
The EVS stage will take place in Bucharest, Romania, for a 9 month period between 1 October 2014 and 30 June 2014. The project will involve 6 volunteers from Poland and Spain (2 from Poland and 4 from Spain). The volunteers will work closely with gymnasium students and kindergarten children from one school in Bucharest. The project will help the volunteers to develop their skills, abilities and competences by working closely with children and ensuring mentoring and after-school activities.
More information: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/z781fhye1v6j7xo/AAB4hmqt_aBgvB6UzNzN_J6Ha
Edited by: Lisa Enocsson