In the beginning of June I said yes to one of the biggest adventures of my life, I said yes to EVS Programme in Park Istra for a whole year… And by the 1st of July I was arriving in Slovenia! It was a big crazy change.
For those who don’t know EVS Programme, EVS means European Voluntary Service, which is supported by Erasmus+ and European Commission. You can do it for a short or a long term with all your costs covered with the main goal to embrace voluntary service and go abroad as part of a big life learning experience.
Now, I’ve been in Slovenia for more than 4 months already and I can say that time went so fast. I am from Portugal, so I’m in a total different environment and culture… But these differences made me fall in love for this country. Since the language to the food, to the people, to the landscape, I have a huge and weird feeling of being home, even being so far away from my country.
It has been probably the most intense summer of my life. I changed my country and spent all summer away from my hometown, my family and my friends for the first time. And I can say I missed them, a lot. I still miss them, but the opportunity of having new experiences, knowing new people and being a volunteer abroad made me think about how lucky I am to be here and how much this will teach me a life lesson of being independent and being brave enough to say YES to things that before I would probably say NO.
Living so sustainable as in Park Istra has been a challenge. I thought I had a really ecological behaviour back home until I came here, there are a lot of things that can be improved and a lot of new habits that I started to have. The communal lifestyle is not easy for those who are used to a city independent life, because even being born and raised in Azores islands, I have spent the last three years studying in Lisbon. I won’t say it was easy because it wasn’t but it’s all a matter of habit and lifestyle changes. You can always improve if you are conscious about your actions and how they will influence not only your life but others’ as well and specially you need to learn how to share and how to respect others more than any other time of your life.
I joined the other volunteers during the summer, we always welcome a lot of new volunteers from all over the world! We worked in construction, in the fields, in cleaning actions, in renovation… We worked in most of the things that we could do to help the locals to improve the region, trying to make them feel helped and supported. Helping people has a huge feedback, not monetary or material, but a great feeling of being useful and supportive for those who need it the most. It’s worth it, totally worth it!
Beside this and not less important, I have the opportunity to start a project that would help to improve the region. The research have started already and interviews as well. Me and Anna, my EVS buddy for the whole year decided to work on this together, since we are in the same experience and two different points of view is always better than one. Together, we have one year to make a change, to start something, to make the difference in our way and specially learning with our own experience, being able to take it back home.
Being a volunteer at Park Istra made me open my eyes to a world outside. The people I met here, my coordinators, the really true friends I made in Slovenia make me be so proud of myself and my decision that if I had to take this decision again, the answer would be YES! Beside work time, I had the opportunity to get to know other cities, to have fun, to visit friends, to be open for new experiences that I never had the opportunity to do before. It has been a crazy journey that has barely started.
Beatriz Lourenço – EVS Volunteer from Portugal