EVS in Finland
In 1996 the European Commission decided to invent a Support Programme for young people who want to go abroad and do voluntary-work for Non-Profit organizations. It should give young people from all over Europe the opportunity to develop competences and also help to build a “new” and open-minded Europe. This programme (called European Voluntary-Service, or shortly EVS”) is celebrating its 20th Birthday this year and it’s the reason that I came to Finland, to live and work here for 9 months.
My name is Merima Corbo, I am 20 years old and from Austria. When I started my senior year in High School, I decided that, after my graduation, I want to go abroad for a couple of months. I made this decision because I’ve always been interested in foreign countries and cultures, and I wanted to get to know the life in another European country. So I contacted the AK Tirol (Arbeiterkammer Tirol, one sending organization in Austria) about EVS and after a couple of months of thinking what I am interested in and searching for suitable projects, I applied for the project in Kuopio, which included Youth Work in youth centers and also co-operation with many other organizations, like schools and the local “Työten Talo”. One month after my application I got the positive answer from my hosting organization, and seven months later, after getting ready for months and still not feeling ready enough for this huge step, I started my journey to the great Unknown, which is Finland, on the 3rd of October 2016. Now, exactly three months passed since then.
Three months in which I had to find my own way in a foreign country, through the language barriers and the cultural differences, and in which I had to learn to take care of myself on my own. Luckily, those are things you got so much to do with, that there is no time for getting homesick.
The first couple of months in Finland had their ups and downs, and I am not going to lie and say, that everything always was and is super and easy. Because it’s not. There are moments, where you get so annoyed about handling all your stuff on your own, that you start hating your decision to leave the warm and cozy cocoon, which your parent’s home is. But overcoming those moments and focusing on the good things in your new life is something that makes you stronger. One day, I am surely going to look back at this challenges, happy that I didn’t quit.
And even if there are a couple of things, who are still not working out, how I imagined them – the good things of my stay abroad still overweight. The EVS-Programme gave me, and is still giving me, the opportunity to get to know the life in another European country in all its imaginable facets. So far I’ve got the chance to work in different youth houses, to experience the Finnish Education-System by working in a primary-school, to help out in the very interesting and sensitive work of a social worker in a “Girls House”, to go on a Camp in the middle of Finnish nowhere with a group of youngsters, teachers and social workers and also to help raising children bilingual in the “English Kindergarten of Kuopio”. I’ve talked with a bunch of people, who work in different jobs and have different lifestyles. And I learned a lot through this talks and working together with all kinds of people.
EVS makes you open-minded. It gives you the chance to learn so many different things, not only job-related. And most important: EVS gave me the chance to learn something new about me and my home country. As staying abroad is not always easy, it makes you appreciate the good things in your home country even more – but it also makes you appreciate things, that are better in the country you’re currently living in. I learned many, many differences between Austria and Finland so far – but that only made me realize, how we are all the very same. There is a bunch of things I am really going to miss about my Finnish Life, when I am back in Austria.
Throughout all the ups and downs during my stay so far I am really happy that I took the opportunity to come to Finland and I would recommend EVS to everyone, who wants to see a different part of Europe. If you are willingly to fight your way throughout different kinds of smaller and bigger difficulties, I am sure, that you are getting rewarded with a great time and the most interesting people you’ve ever met in your life. At least, that is what I got so far.