European Voluntary Service: a year of learning in Park Istra


Learning how to swim in the big bath. Photo: Žiga Šušteršič

I’m leaving EVS in three days: I have to pack my luggage. But where will I store all what I have learned this year?

For last eleven years, my life was changing so much every year that I have been aware of my inner transformations and I know how much I have changed from year to year. However, this year was so different of all what I experienced before and each day has been so rich, that I feel that I learned even more than the previous years.

To live in community was for me an experience more challenging than to live abroad. It was the hardest and one of the richest experiences of the year. It is an everyday challenge. Some weeks, some months, I enjoyed it so much, and some weeks, some months, I felt drowned or close to explosion.

You need to be all the time aware of what others need and of what you need yourself. You need to balance your needs with the ones of other people every day. You discover the pleasure to make others happy even if at start you were doing something which was not enjoyable for you. However you also learn to be gentle with yourself when it happens that you are not as generous as you think you should be. You learn that it is also good to sometimes put your needs first – sometimes because it seems fair to you, sometimes just because you strongly need it. You learn to judge yourself less and less and to be less and less worried about the judgement of the others – it doesn’t mean that you totally escape from this worry. You learn that what matters is to balance your needs and the ones of others and that this balance is never perfect, always in movement, a dynamic and not an achievement.

For example, these last days, I’m a bit stressed with all what I have to do before leaving. As a consequence, I’m less available for talking and for helping, I’m on the rush and not patient with other people, I also swear each time I hurt myself or let something falling because I want to be fast. And that’s ok! I don’t enjoy to be like that but I know why I am like that and I don’t want to have guilty feelings, as I used to have, which would just make things worse. I know that peace will come back.

I also learned a lot with my EVS-mate, who has also been, most of the time, my roommate. I of course learned to balance my needs and hers. It was sometimes rough but we did it. I learned to talk with her as much as needed about our problems. I learned to be rough and I learned to be sweet. I learned to be the big sister and the little one. I learned more about my strengths but I also learned more to be humble. I learned to discover a lot of common points with someone I felt first as really different. I learned to develop a complicity based as much on our common points as on our differences. This is probably what makes my relationship with Bea so special and precious.


I learned so much with my boyfriend, but this is something that I will not develop here. It is just important to mention it because it is obvious to me that my EVS would have been completely different without him and that he helped me in a lot of my learning process.

In addition he also introduced me to photography, to wood carving, and taught me how to be with dogs.

This year I learned so much with people. I learned with the community, I learned with my roomate, I learned with my boyfriend, I learned with more than 150 volunteers from a lot of different countries, I learned with my coordinators, I learned with my mentor, I learned with some Slovenian people I met in different occasions. I also learned a lot with some people with disabilities, thanks to my volunteering at Soncek NGO (‘My experience at Zveza Sonček also on my webpage), and I learned to organize and animate some workshops for different publics. I learned that I like to work with and for people, that I’m better at it than I expected, particularly for animating workshops (and most of all improvisation theater workshops).

Besides of living and learning with people, I learned also thanks to all kinds of jobs I did this year. The jobs were not every day interesting and there were even some months where I was quite bored with them. However, we had quite a lot of diversity and in one year I can see that I experienced lots of things I was not used to: a lot of work by hand, with tools and with machines, for building, fixing, renovating, gardening, farming, cooking, preparing wood for winter… In addition of that we had also more social jobs like volunteering at Sonček, animating workshops, taking care for dogs and cats at the shelter, and so on. Besides of the every day jobs, I also developed two long-term projects with which I learned a lot. Eventually, through everyday life and through the work, I also improved my English a lot and I also learned a bit of Slovenian.

Thanks to these jobs, thanks to my EVS projects and thanks to the community life, I feel today more ‘complete’ than after my years as a student and as a bookseller. I know that this has no other reality than my own perception about myself but this is precisely what matters: to have a bigger diversity of skills boosts my self-confidence and this is what I need for being more perseverant in my projects and for starting some that I might not have dared to start before.

Maybe one important key I got this year is that I learned to be proud and to be humble, with a more accurate awareness of being equal with anyone else. What I mean is that I learned more about my abilities but that I also started to learn not to feel superior because of what I have or inferior because of what I don’t have. I think I’m slowly learning to stop to compare myself to others but I know I will still need lots of energy for continuing this way. I wish to do it, as hard as it is, because it seems to me to be one of the keys for being peaceful.

Eventually I had confirmation how much I enjoy to live close to nature, in the countryside, and particularly how much I love rivers and mountains, being immersed in the water or climbing cliffs. I wish to be there a lot for the following years of my life.

Anna Vittet, EVS volunteer from France


The path goes on. Photo: Žiga Šušteršič.