The project was based in a small village in the South of Hungary, 12 km from the border with Croatia. With 4 other volunteers from Spain, Portugal and Romania, we worked on several community development, sustainability and environmental projects including a large youth exchange about cycling with 66 young people from 12 different European countries involved.
I held free English lessons on a weekly basis, and also organised cultural evenings for the local people to try food and learn about British/Indian culture. We also held frequent cycling trips around the area and longer ones to Croatia to promote cycling as a great mode of transport, even in the winter! This was definitely my favourite part of the EVS, cycling in a rural area is a breath of fresh air when compared to navigating the concrete mess of London. We had a huge amount of freedom in exploring the local area by bike and meeting people, and it was a great way to gain an insight into Hungarian culture as a lot of people in the area also used bikes. We were also required to participate in Hungarian lessons and I am proud to be able to hold a basic conversation in Hungarian (one of the hardest languages to learn!), and we also learn traditional Hungarian dance lessons.
Working in the local nursery was very challenging due to the language barrier, but it was a lot of fun and once again, an insight into Hungarian life. We also ran projects in high schools to do with sustainability and development and it was an excellent chance to practice our Hungarian. Over the first few months, we learnt about analog photography and used our acquired skills to take and develop photos, as well as holding exhibitions for local people. We were able to use this later during the youth exchange where one activity involved bike-related analog photography. In terms of accommodation, for the first four months, we all lived in a house in the village with a big garden. We had to chop wood to heat the house by furnace, which felt like a true rural living experience to me. Over the spring/summer months we moved to a container in the field where our office was based (our office was also a container). It was incredibly hot in there but luckily we could jump in the freezing outdoor showers if it ever got too overwhelming. The project leaders, Zoli and Orsi, were wonderful and really helpful throughout. It seemed like we had entered at a point where there personal lives were quite hectic and this may have caused tensions and affected their work sometimes (we were a very very small team) but all in all, they are wonderful, positive people and it was a joy to be there with them. I learn a lot about the inner workings of NGOs and am currently freelancing for an environmental charity in London.
EVS is such a great way to meet and work with like-minded people in a place you may have never thought you would visit before. Being British, I think it's very easy to forgot the fact that we are European citizens and think of mainland Europe as 'other' to the UK. Having volunteered in a highly disadvantaged area of Hungary for 8 months with 4 other volunteers from Spain, Portugal and Romania, I feel so much more strongly connected to Europe and feel very lucky to have the freedom to move around this land. London can be a hard place to meet and connect with people, and to sustain long term friendships. Having done EVS, I feel that I have gained a network of friends all over Europe who I have made a genuine connection with, and who I know I will see again in the future.
EVS Volunteer 2015