Elena, an IVS volunteer originally from Italy, is currently on a 6-month EVS placement in Lithuania. She’s sent us a report of her time in Vilnius so far!
Labas (hello) everybody and warm greetings from Vilnius.
I’m Elena and I am an EVS volunteer in Vilnius, Lithuania. This country has a very interesting, but also misfortunate past and it is trying to go back to its roots while reinventing itself as a modern, dynamic and young Republic. Vilnius, its capital, is a small city situated at the intersection of two rivers; Vilnia and Neris. Its skyline is a mix of small red-roofed houses, many bell towers and shiny church domes, high skyscrapers with interesting shapes, and in the distance the TV Tower (now a symbol of the fight for freedom and independence) and lots of tall and grey Soviet housing blocks. This mix of styles makes the city so fun to live in, definitely never boring!
I always wanted to take part in the EVS programme. I’ve pictured myself in Spain, improving my language skills in warm sunny weather. But finally, I am in Lithuania. Why? Because I found a project that sounded so interesting and I couldn’t say no! I am lucky enough to volunteer for the Lithuanian Culture Institute, which is responsible for the promotion of Lithuanian culture abroad. From this privileged point of view, I am discovering little by little Lithuanian society, culture and traditions. It is such a diverse and interesting project. I can experience all the different aspects of working in a cultural institution, the role of the organisation from the international events to their promotion on social media while discovering more about European projects, how to apply for them and the selection process. Moreover, I am discovering a part of Europe that is still unknown to many of us. (Ah, funnily enough, I’m sharing my flat with a Spanish guy…so, in the end, I feel like I’m using my Spanish language a lot anyway!)
In this short article I want to talk about the EVS programme, the challenges you may face and the positive aspects it brings to you. I am exactly half way through my project, so it is nice to think back to when it all started. I also can’t wait to see what will happen next!
Choosing the right project for you
In my opinion, it is very important to choose the right project for you. Think really well about what you are interested in, if there is something new that you always wanted to try, or if you want to acquire new professional skills. EVS is an amazing opportunity to have fun and travel, but you will spend quite a lot of time working for your organisation, so be sure you’re making the right decision to avoid disappointed. Find your nearest sending organisation (just visit the EVS database online) and go and talk with them, they will be able to give you advice and point you in the right direction!
Discovering a new culture
Culture shock: it is inevitable! For me, it was the cold cold cold weather (-25°C) and the unknown language. You just need to embrace it and give yourself time to adjust. For example, Lithuanians are really quiet and it is not always easy to connect with them. Lithuanians may seem like their frozen lakes as you need to break the thick layer of ice to get to know them. But, in reality, they are just reserved, and they will offer their help and will be so happy to share their culture with you! When I started to learn a few words in Lithuanian, and use them in my daily life, people were so impressed. You have to find a way to arrive in their heart.
Pushing yourself with new challenges
EVS is your opportunity to try new things. For example, I walked on a frozen lake in Trakai, a city near Vilnius; I helped with the volunteers during Vilnius International Book Fair; I had to take care of 34 Taiwanese dancers while volunteering for the New Baltic Contemporary Dance Festival; I participated in Europe Day in the city of Kaunas (2 hours from Vilnius) representing the EVS programme. All these new experiences improved my confidence and helped me to acquire new skills. Moreover, EVS is a perfect opportunity to travel. Not only can you discover your host country, you can also explore nearby countries. I’ve already been to Latvia and I have booked my bus tickets to Poland, and on my list, there is still Tallinn, Helsinki and Oslo.
One of the best parts of EVS for me is the big community of volunteers. You get to know so many people from all around the world, there is always something to do, a place to visit, and obviously a fun night out! Being far from home is not always easy, but you will be surrounded by like-minded people and believe me, time will fly.
Are you a little bit more interested in EVS now? I hope so! I’ll talk to you at the end of my project!