Tips for future EVS volunteers


My EVS experience in Izmir is almost ending so this time I decided to write some tips that could be useful for next EVS volunteers.

-choose carefully your project, spend time in reading the topic and try to understand if it fits on you. Do not just think: "It could be cool", You have to be really get involved in the topic and in the aim of it or you could be feel bored or confused. Find infos about the association, write to them, contact with previous volunteers or read their experiences (most of them write a blog).

-Do not  be afraid about language barrier. I speak different languages but I choose Turkey on purpose because I did not know any words of it. I took it like a challenge. I expected that much more people spoke in english in here and I was a little bit scared at first because I thought I could have a lot of problems; then I realized that I am in Turkey, I have to understend them, not the contrary. Your association should provide a language course for you. I did it and I learnt basic words, but I am still trying to learn as much as I can by my own. Learning process is something that is always around you: on the metro, at the coffee, in the bazar ecc... People is much more open to listen to you when they see that you are making an effort in speaking their language. The few words that I know are enough to communicate simple ideas, but it wasn't easy, especially for asking directions. Turkish people are one of the most kind community in the world and if you ask for something, even if they are not sure about it, they will never say to you "I do not know". 
I saw people calling by mobile phone friends, brothers, neighbours just to answer my question: "where do I have to go to...?" I created debates between women living in same building speaking from the balcony just for helping me. My suggestion is trust them but do not understimate the power of googlemap!

-I really recommend to learn numbers as soon as you can or you will always keep with a idiot face when the cashier ask for the bill. Everybody use smarthphone nowdays, there are apps for the conversion of the value, especially for first days. First month I was very happy because everything looked very cheap to me. Now, I think on it three times before spending 10 TLiras in some purchase. Your pocket money is in TLiras and you are in Turkey. It is not an holiday, you are not a tourist, think about it!

-Try to find other EVS like you or Erasmus students. You can find some groups on facebook or meet with them at the on arrival meeting, ask to your organization, they have to help you. It is good for creating friendship and because sometimes you need to share your ideas/problems with somebody who is having the same experience as you.

-Go outside and travel as much as you can. I am not a stay-at-home girl and my flatmate understood it very soon when for the very second day saw me go alone into the city. Start with little places near your house and use maps, go to touristic information. Izmir is well connected by metro and ferries and it is very easy to visit it. If you are too afraid to walk alone or meet with new people do not try this experience. I think there is no sense staying in your room listening to the music or chatting all time with friends of your country if I you are abroad. 

-Be prepared to change. Living abroad will push your limits sometimes, you will understand much more about yourself and your personality, but no panic, this is life, and the good point is that everything is an experience that builts yourself. There will be days that you will miss your family and close friends but there is tecnhology for this (skype) and think that you will see them again, now you are just doing a great experience. (Or maybe this is a very good excuse to not contact with people that you are tired of!)The good of EVS is that you go outside from your comfortzone and see what you can do for yourself. Bring something that make you "feel home" for helping you in the integration and for when you feel so far from the local culture. For example, I brought my moka machine for making italian coffee. :)

 -I suggest to try to find something that remind you your country, for the food especially, but do not have any expectation about it and think that it is quite ridiculous searching for something that you already know when you have the possibilty to discover new things. On facebook there are plenty of groups of foreign people, search for your compatriots when you need to swear in yourmother language with somebody that can understand you but do not spend all the time with them or it would have been useless to leave your country.

-Try to find an opportunity in everything, also in bad exeperiences. This is how I thought when I had this kind of feelings.
If there is something wrong or problems speak immediatly with your association or mentor. Sometimes we believe that we can manage situations by our own but if you do not signal a problem it can happen that from a small thing it becomes bigger, do not forget that you are a foreigner and that sometimes the way you think it can be misunderstood due to difference of culture.

My suggestions are not enough, so I searched online and I found this useful article about other EVS volunteers. Click here to read about their experiences. I also found another one very interesting that talks about some aspects that you could face, let's say the other side of the coin. Click here.

To sum up I would like just say that in anycase it would be a great and amazing experience, that you could face problems but everything is possible to overcome, remember that you are a volunteer not worker, and just do what you love to do. I did so may things I could never expected to do like using couchsurfing or hitchhiking, living ramadan with village women,  or to milk goats!

Remember that this is your own experience and only you have the power to decide for the success of it.