Monday, October 31, 2011

Danni on EVS in France - 2011

"I have friends living in Paris, the alps and the south of France!"

I’m finding it incredibly difficult to describe my first month in Brest in only a few short paragraphs. My new life here began the moment I stepped off the plane. I met my first new friend in the airport. She was a Welsh Erasmus student and through her I met a whole horde of Erasmus friends. Five minutes later I met Martine – my mentor for daily life here. She has been a major help. From taking me to Ikea on my first day to taking me to the doctors to get my medical certificate to do sports, she has been absolutely indispensable. Next I met my mentor at work, Agnes. Without her I would never be able to do my job. I have continued to meet new friends every week. In fact, I seem to meet people every time I take the bus, although I suggest you avoid those people!

I have had the opportunity to travel a bit throughout Brittany already. My on arrival training was in the south of Brittany. Despite the often strange training techniques and the fact that people spoke English more than French, it was a very useful week. It was a great opportunity to meet other EVS volunteers and now I have friends living in Paris, the alps and the south of France! I also learned to say, “j’ai la gueule de bois” – “I have a hangover” in French. A very useful phrase when the majority of your friends are Erasmus students. I have also travelled a little with the Erasmus students and will soon be heading to Paris with them. Furthermore, I travelled to the North of France with the boss of my hosting organisation to work as a translator. The 11 hour car journey is something I won’t be forgetting any time soon! And this weekend I will be travelling to Nantes with the gaelic football team of which I am a member despite only playing twice in my life (and being absolutely atrocious).

In terms of work, I help organise projects on international mobility and have successfully held my first event (although Agnes really did all the work), I do a lot of translation, I hold english discussion sessions, I appear to have won my battle with the photocopier and I am finally learning the incredibly complicated art of poster making so I shall soon be helping a lot more with events! I also have my French courses which are a great help and even count towards my work hours!

Now that I am into my second month I no longer look the wrong way when crossing the road, I find the French keyboard easier than the English and find it acceptable to eat pain au chocolat for breakfast every morning. However, my Scottish accent remains as strong as ever. Brest is an amazing city to live in. I have so many great new friends, am surrounded by bars (mainly irish), cinemas, theatres, students (mainly irish) and whenever I think I’m learning more about the Irish culture than the French, I just eat a crepe and all is well.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Amy in Greece on EVS - 2011

Being a couple of months through my placement with Archipelagos on the Greek island of Samos, I thought I would write a blog about the work that I am doing out here. For a start do not be fooled – Greece has a winter and it is horrible! When I arrived here the sun was still shining constantly and temperatures rarely dropped below 30 even at night. Then last week we had a huge storm and since then the temperature has dropped ridiculously to the point I was wearing a woolly hat and gloves this morning. I have been told that it will heat up again, but at the moment, with my hands wrapped around a mug of tea, I refuse to believe this!

Although Archipelagos is predominantly a marine organisation it also does work on land as well. It is this terrestrial team that I am part of. My role here predominantly involves working with the chameleons on the island. First of all when I came here I had no idea that chameleons lived in the Mediterranean let alone in Greece! As it turns out the species of chameleon that is found on Samos is not found anywhere else in Greece and is therefore meant to be protected. However very little work has been done on them and no one knows how many there are on the island or their exact locations.

My job involves going out at various times of the day with a small team and surveying two transects near our base. We have to walk slowly up and down these transects searching the vegetation for chameleons. Obviously this is very hard as by nature they change their colour to match the vegetation, but it is possible! Once we find one, we capture it, measure its size, check if its male or female before releasing it again. I have to admit my first chameleon capture was incredibly exciting and the creatures are amazingly. Their ability to change colour in your hand and vanish into the trees, regardless of how well you follow them, is absolutely fascinating!

I am thoroughly enjoying my placement with Archipelagos, as not only am I experiencing the joys of working on a small Greek island, learning a language and culture that is so alien to me. I am also working with fascinating creatures and have met and worked with people from around the world.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Alistair in Austria on EVS - 2011

sJust as I thought, the first few months of my EVS Project has been a true roller coaster and a mixture of highs and lows.

From my journey down to the Concordia office in Brighton to the many train journeys I have enjoyed in Austria, it has all been a great challenge so far.

Duties at the youth centre include playing video games with the teenagers who can freely drop-by whenever they want (when the youth point is open!),chatting with them (in German) and generally being there for them. They really appreciate having somewhere they can come to meet their friends and to relax.

In my free time I find myself often cycling along next to Lake W├Ârthersee, the most popular lake in all of Austria. I have also taken to climbing up a couple of mountains here in the beautiful Alpine air and who can miss Monday night’s show, “die Millionenshow”, Austria’s version of ‘Who Wants To Be A Millionaire’, I never miss it for sure when I have a say over it!

As I write this in mid-October, the sun is shining once again and the trees have a lovely colour. The only problem now is deciding where to cycle to in this bike-friendly country.