Why You Should Take a Break After Graduating and How Volunteering Can Change You … For the Better
As a known phrase goes: “Volunteers don’t get paid, not because they’re worthless, but because they’re priceless.”
My name is Janka, I am 30, I come from Slovakia (Europe), currently living in Vietnam and I could not agree more. Here is how this priceless opportunity changed me, in 12 points: one for every month I have spent volunteering abroad via EVS (European Voluntary Service). Just a PS: if you want to volunteer outside of Europe, yes, it is possible.
- You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take
I was not sure if I would find a job right after my graduation. I was not even sure if I wanted to. Being on my Erasmus (student exchange) at that time, I have spent some evenings not socializing, but rewriting my CV, looking for opportunities online, until I found out about EVS. So I prepped my cover letters and contacted 118 organisations. Yes, you read that right. No, I am not crazy. Nor was I desperate. There are 4971 receiving accredited organisations in the database at the time I write this. 118 is a normal amount. By the way, I contacted only those which work I sympathized with. I got 26 responses and ended up taking a shot at the Republic of Moldova, volunteering in a dog shelter.
- Do what you love, love what you do
I have studied marketing for 9 years, volunteered in a dog shelter and at the Slovak embassy. I worked as a copywriter or in customer care. Now I freelance. And I loved it all (or “Ba Da Ba Ba Bah, I’m Lovin’ It!”). I even talked to my friend about EVS one day, she decided to go for it, chose a project where she worked with kids. How did it end up? She fell in love with it and now she is a teacher. She originally studied marketing like me. I am not saying that it will happen to you. I am saying it can. Change can be scary, but worth it.
3. Life begins at the end of your comfort zone
I will never forget the faces of my parents when I told them about Moldova only weeks before leaving. Most of my friends did not even have a clue where it was. You can choose your EVS based on country preference, but I strongly advise you not to. Search for projects you think you would like, and where you can be helpful, instead.
- Friends for life
I have met people from many countries that I am proud to call friends now. I met my sisters and a brother from another mother. The EVS community is a cult in the best sense of the word.
- The world is your oyster
I travelled a lot. I talked with locals, hitchhiked, visited Ukraine and Romania several times when on my EVS, tried local cuisine. If you liked travelling before, after EVS, it will become your addiction.
- Having what you do is a blessing, not a privilege, do not take it for granted
After volunteering, you will see your own problems, negative TV news, scandals and all the shenanigans going on in this beautiful, crazy and sadly, sometimes scary world, in a different light. I will never forget the cases of animal neglect I saw. But I will also not forget people who fight against it and try to change the situation every day.
- Y U NO stop talking about how cool EVS is? (Yes, I love memes)
Still with me at this point? How many times have you thought: man, she is annoying, I get it, she did EVS, she travelled… Well, can’t help it and don’t want to. I did EVS, tried mentoring incoming volunteers in Slovakia, studied in Poland and Indonesia and now I am writing this in Vietnam. And sincerely, if there will be a senior EVS group of grannies and grandpas, I´ll be there. WARNING: International experiences are contagious and incurable.
- The more languages you know, the more you are a human
During EVS, you are entitled to language lessons of the country you are in. Do not neglect them (as I sometimes did, ahem ahem) and practice with locals whenever you can. Also, I have always been afraid that I have a horrible Slavic accent when I speak English. I still do. I am just not afraid anymore 🙂
- Going solo
Have you been living with your parents before? Here is your chance to try and manage on your own.
- Please MTV, pimp my ride! Please EVS, pimp my CV!
Show it off in your CV. Create your Youthpass. Ask for recommendations on your LinkedIn profile. It will get you places. This also did not happen to me, but some of my friends even stayed working in their projects as employees.
- Like a boss
Basically, you will feel more confident than ever. Maybe you will even organize a fundraiser for your organization, a multicultural evening to present your country or give interviews to the local TV. It may be scary at first, but looking back, you will be all “been there, done that, easy peasy”.
- To be continued
So, you did EVS, now what? Many times in my life, I have had post-event blues. Cure for the post-Erasmus one? EVS. For the post-EVS one? Getting into a creative job. Post-copywriting? I moved to another country. After that? Scholarship in Indonesia. Now? Freelancing in Vietnam. What comes after that? Well, to be continued… There are plenty of options. This website presents some of them.
Bilateral agreements between countries, scholarships, internships, work and travel, WWOOFING, freelancing, backpacking, and the list goes on and on. Believe me, every person that is coming to an end of her/his first experience already has a list. And as months go by, the list grows. I am not a know-it-all but I will do my best to answer questions beyond EVS in my future articles. Thanks for reading… until next time! 🙂