[ENG] Taking a gap year before studies, Valentin telling hid EVS story

My name is Valentin, I’m 25, and I come from France. I arrived in Ventspils on the 4th of January, in the middle of winter (which is colder in Latvia than in France !). I came for 5 months, to work as a volunteer in the Youth House of Ventspils, a nice place for youngsters, in which I was teaching French language, and organizing different kind of events and activities, such as games and workshops.

I became a volunteer because I decided to take a gap year before going back to my studies, and I wanted to have a new experience abroad. EVS were one of the most convenient volunteering possibility. I applied to different offers, mostly in Eastern Europe, and I’ve been accepted for this volunteering opportunity, in the Youth House of Ventspils. So I started my new life as a volunteer and expatriate in Latvia, I met my new colleagues and I discovered my new home. Little by little, I got new friends, local people and volunteers. I stayed the first month in Ventspils, the time to get used to the city, and then I started to travel more, to visit other cities, like Riga and Liepāja. I went there with some volunteers, which I met during the arrival training. This training of 5 days is for volunteers that recently arrived in the country. It was the opportunity to meet some other volunteers in Latvia, coming from Portugal, Spain, France, Ukrain, Egypt, Slovenia and Turkey.  Some of them became good friends, and we were sharing the same interest for exploring different places. 

My job in the youth house were really interesting. My colleagues offered me the possibility to work on the projects and activities I wanted to do, so I had the choice of the topics I wanted to develop. They also supported me, by giving me advices, helping me with translations, and so on.

About the difficulties, one of the hardest things for me were to plan activities and events without knowing how many people would come. The second point is the language barrier, but fortunately, Latvian people (and especially the youngsters) are generally comfortable with English language or even fluent for a lot of them. 

 Then, in my free time, I visited different places in Latvia, and discovered different traditions. I spent some weekend with my friends in Riga, visiting the Old Town, some famous places and monuments, some museums, the Art Nouveau district and so on. I also visited Sigulda, Kuldiga and its famous waterfall, saw traditional dances in Ogre and Ventspils, discovered Easter traditions in the open air museum around Riga, and so on.

This experience was amazing and unforgettable. I learned many different things, about different cultures, traditions, countries, societies, languages, and about myself.

What I will miss the most is probably the people I met. Of course, I enjoyed the place, my job, and everything else, but I got really attached to my friends here. Moreover, it is not easy to say goodbye, which is the reason why I already planned to come back in Latvia during the next holidays.

I encourage everyone who will read this, and especially young people, to experience something similar, an exchange, an Erasmus, a volunteering, an expatriation, in Latvia or anywhere else. This is not like going somewhere one week during holidays, it is much more, and you will probably not regret it.

The project "Involve the Youth" was financed with the support of European Commission’s “Erasmus+: Youth in Action” administered in Latvia by the Agency for International Programs for Youth.

This publication reflects only the author’s views, and the Commission cannot be held responsible for any use which may be made of the information contained there in.