When living in Glasgow I heard about Xchange Scotland, an organization based in Glasgow that provided volunteering opportunities for young people, in a university fair. I had a meeting with Carla, who told me about European Voluntary Service (EVS). This opportunity really appealed to me; I had always wanted to travel and volunteer, but I never wanted to pay fortunes for it. I started looking for the different possibilities on the EVS database. I had been told that it was sometimes very hard to get accepted to a project, so I had realistic expectations when I embarked on this journey of finding myself a suitable project. I got accepted for a project in Portugal, but unfortunately, there were some administrative issues that prevented me from participating in this project. Xchange Scotland, however, had been very supportive all the way through, and I had been in constant contact with them, which meant I was aware of everything that had been going on.
In January 2016, I applied for a European Voluntary Service (EVS) project in France. This particular project caught my eye because of its location and theme; promotion of youth mobility in a small border town in south-west of France. I had my interview with the coordinating organization, which gave me more information about the possibilities and responsibilities involved in the project. I got shortlisted for this project and eventually I was chosen for it as well.
At this stage I had no expectation, however, because from previous experiences I knew that anything could happen; projects can be cancelled and other administrative issues can cause the volunteer to miss out on a specific project.
I received the good news from the coordinating organization in late April: our projects were accepted and everything was in place for us to move to France. The only fear I had at this point was my French language skills, which were not up-to-date. However, my plan was to keep an open mind and take this as an opportunity to learn a language properly!
My expectations about the project have changed slightly now that I have arrived in France. The initial expectations were to have a set time schedule the minute I arrive in Hendaye, and to start working on something very concrete immediately. These expectation were not realistic, and I have now understood and embraced the way things have worked here so far. I have settled in very well and I have a lot of room for taking initiative and to propose projects that I am personally interested in.
I feel very lucky to have heard about an opportunity like the EVS, and that I have had such a great support system from my sending, coordinating and hosting organizations. This is certainly a once in a life-time experience!