Guillermo travelled from Spain to Northern Ireland on the European Voluntary Service Programme
TELL US A LITTLE ABOUT YOURSELF AND YOUR TIME ABROAD:
After one year living, working, making friends and growing as a person in a different country, it's obvious that this EVS experience has changed me. Before I started to look for a project, I had a clear idea in my mind. I wanted to travel and live in another country for at least one year. And of course I was afraid to do that because up until then I had always lived in the same city, the same house, surrounded by my family. This was an adventure about travelling alone, away from everything I knew. And when I finished I was happily surprised because I could do it. I DID IT. I spent one year on my own, being happy, managing different issues about my job, my shared house and my friendships. And of course, I did all of that in another language! So at the end of my volunteering my self-confidence and my interpersonal skills have grown dramatically and now challenges like travelling, living abroad or being away from my beloved family, are not something unimaginable anymore.
HOW HAS YOUR TIME ABROAD BENEFITED YOU?
I come from Spain where we are facing a terrible situation in terms of employment. 50% of young people in my country are unemployed. When I looked for a project I had just finished university and I had no experience at all. EVS provided me with experience in my field, and now I have something to add to my CV to show my new employers. This volunteering was a boost in terms of skills for employment and I am incredibly thankful for all the training I received and all the experience I have gained over the past months.
When I came to Northern Ireland I had very little knowledge about the English language. I was barely able to speak it, but thanks to this chance, I have learnt so much that now I’m working in English, I am able to have deep conversations and to say whatever I need to say. I remember that I spent the first six months of my EVS in an office, working on the computer because I wasn’t ready. At the end of it I was doing speeches in front of hundreds of students in schools, universities and colleges. That is the perfect example of how much you can improve.
What impact did volunteering abroad have on you personally?
It’s normal when you haven’t spent time abroad to have a lot stereotypes about other cultures. After my EVS experience, after living with German, Italian and French people, working with Polish people and being a migrant in Northern Ireland, I have now learnt that no matter where you come from, we are all equal. I have learnt that stereotypes are wrong ideas based on bad reasons. I have learnt that very different people can be very good friends, that you can find support in someone you didn’t expect and that if you are lucky, you even can find love with someone from a totally different cultural background. That’s the magic of the EVS.
If I am honest, when I started I was trying to change myself, to go to a new place and have a fresh start, leaving behind those parts I wanted to change or just forget. Now, after my EVS I can tell that I didn’t forget or leave anything behind. EVS taught me to accept myself as I am and carry on in every situation. Past, present, future, everything is in the same picture and we will need all our experience, good or bad, to manage the different situations that living abroad throws at us. I am no longer the one who came for a year and a half to Northern Ireland. Now I’m stronger, more patient and more aware, not only about Europe but also the world and its infinite possibilities.
EVS is a mind-blowing experience that opens a lot of different possibilities in your life, so many that sometimes it is hard to manage. And this is true because once you have crossed the first border, there are no limits, there are no boundaries. It’s you and the world. Thanks to EVS I know that now I can work out of my country, that Europe is open and that there are hundreds of opportunities out there. I’m going back to Spain to continue my studies but my plans are to look for a job outside of my country, maybe America, maybe Europe. Right now, I don’t have any limit.
Find out more about the European Voluntary Service on our website and learn how you could volunteer abroad.