Hello! My name is Cristiana Pinheiro, I am 24 years old and I come from Portugal. For the last 4 months (October to January) I’ve been doing European Volunteer Service (EVS) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, in a Youth Organization – No Excuse, and the topic was Healthy Lifestyles in Youth Organizations.
After I finished my master’s degree in Portugal I started working in my professional area, when I decided to take a risk and do something that I have always dreamed of doing: being a volunteer. Therefore I applied for a project in Slovenia in order to work with health issues, which was my main area of focus. So, after an interview, an acceptance and some travel planning, on 2nd of October I was finally on my way to Slovenia, a country that I barely knew anything about, all alone.
When I arrived I met Urska, who was responsible for the research work; Lucija, who would help us with our logistics issues and needs, and Davide, other volunteer whom I would share later all my time, since we were living and working together. As time passed by, I met others No Excuse co-workers, who joined us in the office as often as they could and cheered us up with their funny stories. The aim of our project was to help organize a one week seminar with different health-related topics, such as mental health, nutrition, physical activity and addiction problems, aimed at European youth workers and youth leaders. For 4 months we worked on infographics, posts, scientific articles, videos, guidelines for Youth Organizations for each health topic. When this week came, we gathered together in an hotel in Ljubljana and we talked about these issues with the help of debates, group works and games. The best about this week was not just to improve ourselves with our workshops, but also to get to know all these people from different countries with different ideas and backgrounds.
I did know that my project was just for 4 months, but what I did not know was that it wouldn´t be enough. Ljubljana surprised me as a beautiful, small and cozy city where a lot of free and creative opportunities were available. From an alternative place to eat vegan food, meet other friends and keep the conversation up to date, to enthusiastic salsa lessons given by Erasmus students 2 hours each monday, where I had a chance to know more knew people. As I got to know other EVS volunteers, other activities (such as interesting debates, language exchange, art exhibition, etc) started to arise, as some were part of their volunteer and it was a pleasure to be a part of. I have to say that the fact that Slovenia is a small country helped our EVS friend group to get together easily from time to time, mostly in Ljubljana. Not every one of us were working in Ljubljana – others were, and still are, around all of Slovenia in other beautiful villages/cities. But that, in another hand, also helped us to get to know other parts of the country.
With that said, I want to thank to everyone who was with me all along. To Urska, with her characteristic calm and patience, everything could be very stressful but yet she would be zen and mindfulness! To Lucija, always with a story to tell, and at the same time, trying to help us with some burocratic stuff. To both of them who always guided us and without them I wouldn´t be able to live this amazing experience. To all of the others No Excuse co-workers: some of them I had the pleasure to work more close, others just a bit, but yet it was very important to know that if I needed I could count on them. To my EVS friends, who quickly turned out as a family and with who I shared trip travels, dangerous walks through the snow, teeth brushing, the Lord of the Rings trilogy movies or almost all of them, or just a night out which easily would start/end at Cutty Sark. To my flat mates, who I shared movies nights, study nights, late talk nights or just stupid talks… and also very smart conversations about physics and milky ways.. and the end of the world!
Thank you very much! Thank you for making this experience one of the best thing that I ever did!
And as I really hate goodbyes, this is a: See you later alligator!! We never know when we will see each other again…
My name is Davide and I have just finished my EVS with No Excuse Slovenia.
In these months I worked as an activist, helping organising an Erasmus+ seminar about healthy lifestyle for youth organization leaders from 7 different countries .
I had the opportunity to do researches about mental health, environmental sustainability, physical activity, alcohol and tobacco industry…, organising practical workshops and teaching by non-formal education these concepts to youth leaders.
Throughout this period I shared work, room, trips, friends and meals with another volunteer from Portugal, Cristiana. I have to admit it was hard at the beginning to share all this time together but finally we managed to keep our mental sanity and be great friends!
Which was the best part of the EVS program?
Definitely, the seminar.
It was kinda out of my comfort zone talking in English in front of 25 people from different countries about health topics and trying to make it entertaining and interesting, but I think we managed it well.Indeed I made a lot of new friends, cooked crazy healthy dishes and learned how to dance turkish and hungarian folk music!
What have I learned during my EVS?
One of the greatest problem was my level of English. The first day I step into Slovenia I was surprised about the fact that everybody could speak a perfect English, so I had to adapt very fast! I have even learned “malo slovensčino”. Other stuff we learnt during the organization of the seminar was event micro-planning, public speaking, getting honest feedback from the partecipants, video editing, creation of infographics and a lot more…
The best thing during my EVS?
The best thing during an EVS is that you never know what is gonna happen to you the next day.
One day you find yourself traveling in the same car and talking about politics with a slovene parliament politician, the next day you participate to a talk about beeing “single and happy” and you are published in a photo of the national newspaper.
I also started training kung fu, practised meditation, “learned” how to ice skate and became even almost vegetarian! Last but not least I also took a swing-dancing class.
No Excuse Slovenia
I would like to thank all the incredible team of No Excuse for giving me this opportunity, starting from our boss Urška, the calmest person i've ever met who, with plenty of patience guided me and Cristiana throughout our EVS. Not to mention Lucija who always arranged everything for us in a perfect way and Nina for the flawless tips that gave me during my seminar-workshops.
Last but not least I would like to thank also all the other coworkers Petra, Zala, Disa, Sarah for the precious help and company offered during the office-time.
Working for No Excuse made me feel I was doing something useful for society and allowed me to raise awareness about topics I would have never known otherwise the existence.
Would I recomend EVS?
During my EVS I could travel in 7 different european countries and all across Slovenia; I had the privilege to talk and have the most interesting conversations with people coming from more than 30 countries all over the world.
I had the luck to be part of a group of amazing friends from different nationalities, with different personalities, traditions and languages, creating bridges to different cultures.
This allowed me to demolish mine and others prejudices, till the point I started to completely forget that I was talking to somebody coming from thousands kilometers far away from my hometown.
I feel so privileged for having this amazing opportunity and living one of the best experience in my life!
I am already missing:
- all my EVS group of friends spread all over Slovenia: I will never forget when 30 people came to Ljubljana to say goodbye to me and Cristiana blocking an entire street…it was insane!
- the trainings in Rog, the Skuhna talks and vegan dinners in Metelkova
- the endless talks with my adoptive mentor Viktorija
- Slovenia, Ljubljana and Lublana people: this country has been a continue surprise from the beginning till the very end.
One thing is sure: this is not a farewell, I'll be back soon, Slovenia!