Un an autrement — An EVS and beyond — France


Dates: 2nd October – 27th December 2016

Participant: Lukáš Jirousek

Report from the EVS project:

Before leaving for France, I was full of expectatins. What is it like to live in the birthplace of Joan of Arc, Descartes, Pascal, Louis XIV., Voltaire, Edith Piaf, Napoleon, my favorite Louis de Funes and many others?Here is my story.

This four-month long project, which was  organised by the organization Info Point Europe Direct Picardie took place between 28. 8. 2016 – 27. 12. 2016 in Amiens- the city of Jules Verne with nearly 150 000 inhabitants located approximately 90 kilometers north from. For me personally the project was even a little shorter, because  due to attendance on other courses and seminars I was able to  join the group at the beginning of October. Having said that, the project was an unforgettable experience for me.

This year it has been exactly 20 years since the establishment of EVS, so our host organization decided to carry out a really big project  including 13 volunteers. Apart from the Czech Republic there were participatnts from Finland, Slovenia, Germany, Italy, Holland, Denmark, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, Cyprus, Estonia and Greece. Those people not only became a family for me for a few months , but also they have become friends for the rest of my life.

The main objectives of the project  were to promote European programmes and mobilities in the region called the Hauts-de-France, motivate young people to travel and provide them with general information about our countries, customs, traditions, and last but not least the cuisine. Those who could  play instruments used to go to schools where they danced folk dances and played songs.

In September, when I was not present, the main aktivity was Ze Dictee, a dictation in several languages ​​(English, German, Spanish and Italian). This was a competition in language skills for students of secondary schools and colleges in the region of Picardie. Our task was to correct the dictations and the winners of each school  we  taken on an excursion to the European Parliament in December 2016.

I decided to drive by car to France, because in my spare time I wanted to see the beauties that the land of the Gallic rooster offers and even driving 1,300 kilometers on my own couldnt  discourage me. I personally began the voluntary service by pariticpating in an arrival  seminar which was held in Narbonne in the south of France. There  we as a group went the next morning upon my arrival. On the seminar we were informed about everything that is related to EVS, possible problems, how to solve them and we could also get to know our colleagues who took part in the voluntary service in other parts of France.

The first steps in the new country were not so easy for me because I was robbed in Paris at the metro station.My wallet with money and all my documents was gone. This bad luck, unfortunately, stuck to me throughout the whole project, and unfortunately this was not the only case when my wallet was stolen.

After return from sunny Narbonne we started with the main objective of the project, which were so called ,,interventions “in which we  went or rather drove to different schools in the whole region and talked about several topics. Sometimes we explained what the EU stands for, what are its advantages, disadvantages and the reasons for its creation. Furthermore, we discussed current issues such as migration, Brexit and national approaches to terrorism and security. The largest part of the interventions, however, consisted of presentations of our countries and about the possibilities of international mobilities. Those who spoke French, used the French language and helped  with translations of the rest of us, who are able to speak only Germanic languages.

Our host organization comes under the European Commission and we took the part in the representation of our countries and promotions of the Commission in the region of Hauts-de-France. These events were called the European Village (Café de l’Europe) and in three-week intervals they gradually took place in Saint-Quentin, Beauvais and Amiens. During these few months, we drove with a colleague from Slovenia, thousands of kilometers since we were the only two who possessed cars.

What I liked about the project was its diversity. Sometimes we worked at the office where we prepared our materials, other times we traveled to interventions, sometimes we organized promo actions, raised money for people suffering  muscular dystrophy, in some educational institutions helped with speed dating in several languages ​ ( for example I spoke with pupils in English or Chinese, whereas others in Spanish, Italian and German).

We were such a big group and as far as I am concerned I  see only positives in it. In our spare time we went on trips together, for example to Paris, Rouen, Plage de Mahonne, Baie de Somme or Etretat. Some other volunteer used the chance  and spent a weekend in London or Strasbourg. Sometimes we just gathered together and cooked national dishes and sang songs.

I am a qualified teacher and in the course of my short career, I have had the opportunity to teach, live and work in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Iceland, England and Taiwan, but France because of the content of  work is and will remain different from all the  others aforementioned countries. From now on, France is not just a word for me. It is much more than that. When I close my eyes and someone says France it will always remind me of the beautiful places I could see, experiences that I have had the chance to live,  places that I was able to see and especially my friends and team members who I had the privilege to meet.

When I visit France next time, I will not be surprised to see  half a meter high humps in places where it is allowed to drive 50km, I will find it normal that the French drivers indicate when they enter the roundabout  and not when they are leaving it, I will know that when traveling on French motorways is not really worth it to put a card in a wallet, because the toll gates are everywhere, I will understand why someone asks me to put my backpack on the cash register at the entrance of a supermarket or that to meet someone at 15:00 means something between 15:15 and 15:45. All of these are important findings.

In my case, 10 weeks flew by and it was a step into the unknown, which was definitely worth it and I’ll always remember that. I would strongly recommend the EVS to anyone who wants to experience something new.

I would like to thank EYCB for giving me the opportunity to experience all this, Europe Direct Picardie members Hedia, Glen and Adeline for their attitude, help and work they do, Meryem for teaching me French and of course  Marju, Florine, Veronika, Jakob, Mary, Krisztian, Ilona, Johannes, Constantina, Domen, Chiara and Sigrid for being my family there.    

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