Every year, Citizens of Europe sends volunteers all over Europe to take part in the EVS scheme. We interviewed Benjamin Hausner, who spent 10 months in Belarus on his EVS placement. Here is his account.
Tell us a bit about your hosting organisation and what your EVS project involved.
My hosting organisation was Fialta, an educational organisation and one of the few NGOs in Belarus. Their main aim is to bring together young people and to encourage them to be active and with this goal they organise a lot of seminars and workshops on various topics. My task was to come up with my own projects and ideas in order to enrich the range of events at Fialta. I started to teach my native language German to beginners and advanced learners. I also organised a German culture club and several cultural events together with other volunteers. I was quite free in what to do and where, so some of my activities didn’t take place at Fialta, but in other organisations. I visited schools and universities as well, talking about myself and Germany. In summer I was able to spend two weeks in a linguistic summer camp for youth in the Belarusian countryside, where I taught English.
What were the main challenges you encountered in adapting to life in Belarus?
I didn’t have that many challenges, especially related to Belarus. Bureaucracy can be an issue, but the coordinator of my organisation helped me a lot in getting all my documents in order to finally receive my residence permit. Also, I didn’t speak any Russian in the beginning of my project, so I sometimes struggled with getting the things I wanted, since the knowledge of foreign languages in Belarus is rather low.
Not about the country, but about the shared flat, in which I lived during my time in Belarus: it was, let’s say it like this, not in the best shape. The furniture was quite old and a lot of things were broken and didn’t work. I could live there for the time I was in Minsk, but I was happy to finally leave it after those ten months.
I wanted to become more independent.
What did you hope to gain from your EVS project, and do you think you accomplished your goals?
Through living abroad for a long period of time, I wanted to become more independent. The organisation of many things by myself contributed to this as well. Speaking in public and interacting a lot with people strengthened my social competences. Last but not least the time abroad made me a more modest and happier person.
What was the best part of your time in Belarus?
My first day in Belarus is still very present in my memories. Everything was new for me and I was curious and so much looking forward to my upcoming time. Furthermore, the two weeks in summer, where I worked in a camp for youth, were very enjoyable. Besides, I had many unforgettable moments during the whole year.
What message would you give to somebody starting an EVS project now?
Don’t enter the country of your choice with a biased opinion, and be prepared to change your mind. Otherwise you will only see what you were expecting. If you encounter challenges and have a difficult time, see it as a part of the process! Don’t forget to enjoy your stay and you will have an unforgettable experience! 🙂