[ENG] EVS is short. Eat gelato before dinner! Dianas EVS experience

It all began on a rainy day of April last year. My journey from Ventspils to Turin was long and grey, but an old Baltic belief says it’s a good sign when it rains during the trip. And I guess it’s true.

One year of EVS is a long time and it’s definitely not an ordinary time of one’s life. However, now I feel that the time passed really fast, and when I’m reflecting about this past year, I’m not sure what to start with. All I know is that you live experiences that change and challenge the way you look at certain things and yourself, as you are thrown into an environment that is completely different from the one you’re used to.

The first weeks of my EVS passed by getting to know my new home – Turin, my new workplace and the projects; meeting Eufemia’s friends and other EVS volunteers and eating lots of gelato.
Italians are very friendly and welcoming. In most cases it’s completely fine to bring 5 of your friends to somebody’s house party or dinner, and some of those friends might also bring some of their friends… And I will always be amazed by the amount of food people consume here during one meal. When we just arrived, our EVS coordinator warned us that we will gain weight in Italy. We didn’t believe it until a couple of months went by. So if you’re in Italy, you will be trapped into a world of incredibly delicious carbohydrates. Just surrender, there is no way out.

I have observed that Italians are definitely happier and they smile more than people in my home country. My guess is that it has to do something with the amount of sunlight they get here compared to the north. I have often been asked here: “Ma perché sei triste?” (Why are you sad?) I am not triste, I am just… not smiling.

Most of the time I’ve been living out of my comfort zone, as I have been doing things I’ve never done before, such as working with kids and elderly people, and participating in meetings and activities where only Italian was spoken. During this year I have been involved in various projects, such as Pane in Comune – collecting unsold food from the markets for people in need; English tandem with people in search of job; Language club for locals willing to practice English, Dutch, Spanish and Russian with my EVS partners Lotte and Virginia; children summer school in a church; a youth exchange “Urban Sustainability”; cooking, gardening and creative workshops in a homeless shelter; Escape 4 Change – raising awareness about climate change; and organizing events such as neighbourhood celebrations, Halloween and Christmas parties. So it’s been a year full of impressions and new experiences, learning a lot about communication, being a part of a team, taking responsibility and initiative and understanding what I do or do not like to do.
My longest stay abroad before doing EVS was 5 months, and I would not think I am the type of person that might actually get homesick, but turns out I am. And I guess it’s also a part of long-term EVS experience. I feel that during these months I have developed a higher empathy towards people that for various reasons have moved to another country, as for the whole year I have been a foreigner myself, which is not always easy.

During my EVS I’ve learned that it’s OK to fail. I was afraid to fail and I’ve failed many times here, and now I see that it’s absolutely OK, because you just keep moving forward and actually no one cares that you’ve failed. I’ve also realised that kids are not as scary as they seem. When you talk to them, you might learn something new. An 8 year-old once told me that EVS is cool, but I could also be an astronaut. I’ve been considering this idea since then.
At first I was skeptical about working in the shelter with elderly men, but it turned out to 
be one of my favourite projects. So it’s good to set our presumptions aside from time
to time. 

During this year I’ve met people that have changed the way I look at many things and I’ve done things I thought I can’t, so I can surely say that the learning we need the most happens in our stretching zone.

And in the end, after a year under Italian sun, I might be looking less triste now!

Diana