European Voluntary Service: fantastic but I had to run away. Here is why.

The EVS (European Voluntary Service) is a very good idea from the European Commission to make something out of the lost european youth. No, I’m joking, that’s good quality youth! If you’re european under 30 years old, that might interest you: you move to a foreign country from 2 up to 12 month and you get free accomodation, some money for food and a pocket money, the latters depending on the hosting country’s life costs. That’s the Erasmus for who’s not enrolled at university, plus you do something nice for others — various stuff, depending on the main topic of your EVS.

I escaped from my 6 months EVS after just 4 months because I didn’t get along with the hosting organization. The EVS is actually still running, its ending date is the 4th of this month. They said that by leaving I wouldn’t have got the “youthpass”, a certificate which officially states your participation, listing the “key competences” you aquired. It turned out this was bullshit, as they often said things just to manipulate us. So I can get the youthpass, they sent me the link to write all my “key competences” — the things you learn during EVS — and I first thought of writing “All work and no play make Jack a dull boy” in all the windows but then I thought hey come on, just skip the randomness just once in a while, get this damn youthpass done.

I’ll publish here what I wrote, confident that they will do something like claim I’m making things up and threat to sue me (as they did already once). I hope they’ll just ignore me. But, if someone is interested in EVS, this will give you a better idea of what you can get. So here you have the key competences I collected while staying in Craiova, Romania. Enjoy!

Communication in mother tongue

Knowing a language means mastering the code of that specific culture. When we learn foreign words and we understand that the meaning is not just the literal translation, our brain absorbs brand new concepts. This allowes us to expand our knowledge and makes our minds progressively more agile and flexible, able to see our culture with foreign eyes and therefore, understand it better.

Communication in foreign language

In a way, ignorance is a blessing: the less you know the more you can learn, and learning boosts your “happy-hormones”! With english I was already pretty fluent, so I got just slightly better; with german, that many romanians can speak (there’s a storical german-speaking presence in the country, and a good touristic flow), I got a little bit better, and with romanian I got much better because I was starting from zero. It’s still not easy to explore deep concepts but I can have a normal conversation.

Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology

About science, I think anthropologic understanding is relevant. I got to learn so much about humankind, and even if I’m used to travel abroad I often felt like an alien exploring Planet Nonsense. I had to make a huge effort identifing in myself emotions and rationality, and rapidly improve my social related problem-solving skills. I tried all my best to see things objectively and I pushed my fellows to do the same. I sincerely hope I was of any help.

Digital competence

I entirely renewed the project’s website which was pretty crappy. I had to learn a very simple website builder and it’s been like playing videogames! I also redesigned the logo and rewrite our “About” section, that previously was an embarassing copypaste. Lucky me, no one was interested in what I was doing and I played as long as I wanted, learning so much!

Learning to learn

This is my favourite key competence. I did learn to learn, especially because there was a misunderstanding with the main topic (social inclusion instead of ecology) so I had to challenge myself constantly with stuff I wouldn’t choose. Everyone knows the modern mantra “life is a journey not a destination” but I never really got it until my EVS. Learning is a process that doesn’t have anything to do with finally mastering something: they are both pleasant things but very different parts of our life. As I wrote, I found out that one of the most powerful happyness-boosting tools is the process of learning. Luckily we’ll never stop learning, even if we get to master a skill.

Social and civic competence

I saw how these voluntary services work, and honestly I don’t really like it. From a side is a way to make extra money and from the other is a way to get a payed holiday. Still, these projects are really helpful to make people feeling more European, increase their social and civic awareness and expand their opportunities; the european funds are a manna from heaven especially in countries with fewer opportunities. I would still recommend EVS, no doubts it’s a useful experience for the aforementioned reasons.

Sense of Initiative and Entrepreneurship

Working with people that just want some european money so they can sit on it, faking all kind of wonderful intentions, has been really frustrating, but it pushed me to define my values and stand for them. Feeling forced to speak up, in these months I got more brave, self confident, and my “sense of initiative” increased considerably. I’m currently creating my own opportunities thanks to the contact making I started in my EVS.

Cultural awareness and expression

I always thought life would have been better outside Italy, because in Vienna some universities are free and in Rotterdam everyone goes by bike and in Hamburg there is free wifi and blabla. Just to say random examples. I realized how lucky I am to have an italian citizenship. I never saw war. None of my relatives is now on battlefront. We have a public sanitary sistem. We don’t see homosexuality as a disease. It is not my moral duty to be a virgin and live by my parents until I get married. I can travel wherever and start a new life in basically any country, because getting visas is freaking easy. We complain and speak about difficulties, but we have no idea.

Other specific skills

I’m finding jobs without sending CVs and motivational letters: it doesn’t feel nice to unwrap our personal path to strangers we don’t even look in the eyes, and let them deciding our value like that. A better way could be to use the so-called “soft skills” (such a funny name) and present our real self, I mean in person. I also like to meet and choose my possible coworkers and not passively be chosen.