My story – EVS in Rome, Italy
A story by Tânia Mendes
Country of origin: Portugal
Country of destination: Rome, Italy
I started my participation in EU programmes when I was in high school. I started with Comenius project for EU schools. When I was on summer vacation, while my friends enjoyed the beach, I was spending my time, exchanging ideas, interests, traditions, values, etc, with students from different parts of Europe. Without realizing it, I was starting to get out of the “box” and to stop being just a portuguese and to feel more like an european citizen. Since then, I just knew I simple needed more.
Looking at the world through the eyes of a simple tourist, did not satisfy the emptiness I felt inside of me. Everyone can be a tourist. Right? I needed learning experiences, to test my limits, which contribute to my growth and development of social skills. That´s why I decided I needed an international experience and as time has passed this dream has become a necessity increasingly difficult to live with. It’s hard to put into words how I felt. The only thing I can say is that it is hard to move on when you have a fixed idea in your head. Some people would say that this is not normal and healthy. I, on the other hand, prefer to say that having goals make us feel alive. And… guess what! When we least expect it, dreams become reality! A few years ago, after applying for an European Voluntary Service experience in Rome, I attended the information session and… I was selected 🙂 I woke up early every day to go to italian language course and after lunch I was sociocultural animator in two playgrounds characterized by an immigrant community.
As you can imagine, it was not easy at the beginning of the EVS. People may think that, because I was in a latin country, the adaptation could be easier. Well… yes, I´m a latin girl, but no, I am not like the romans. Everybody has their own way of living, so there is always a culture shock.
When someone asks me about this wonderful experience, people always wants to hear me talk about Rome. Yes, I threw a coin to Trevi Fountain, yes, I ate pasta, lasagna, ice cream, pizza (my italian friends asked me to inform you that pizza in other countries are NOT like italian pizza, and I confirm the veracity of this statement), I saw the colosseum, I visited all the churches, museums, monuments… for Christ sake, I even saw the Pope. I waited for him… in the rain… for one hour, just to hear him during… 15 minutes!!! I experienced everything what a city like Rome has to offer. I would rather talk about the people, because it is thanks to them that this great adventure become memorable. With the people I`ve met, people with different cultural background, I shared stories, ideas, laughs,… Even though they are not physically present in my life, they are present in my heart, because all of them, each in their own way, contributed to the person I am today. With them, I wrote an important chapter of the story of my life. And a good one! I don’t know if i’ll ever see them again, I just know I will never forget them, I will never forget what they mean to me.
#1 advise: For those people who say “don´t worry, you have plenty of time to do something like this”, let me tell you: in this case, you have until 30 years old to do an EVS. Do it while you can!
#2 advise: Go with an open mind and heart. If you’re not a tolerant person… you’re gonna become one. You have too!!! You should always have something in your mind: adapt and overcome! You’re gonna see, hear, feel things you don´t like, so try not to take everything so seriously… just relax! That´s what I did! And more important than everything: HAVE FUN! 🙂
International mobility experience has changed my life. Opened up my mind and changed the way I see the world. Having an international experience can be an advantage in a world with so many competition. Working in another country, with a different way of living, is definitely a great adventure.
I am more aware of my capacities and I know I can put my knowledge into practice in any place and circumstance!