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How can you find a volunteering experience? How do you prepare for it? What is it like? In this bilingual podcast (the first part is in French, the second part in English), Sixtine and Thomas talk about Thomas’s experience as a ESC Volunteer in Italy.

Volunteering Abroad

At any moment in time, there are many young people around the world participating in volunteering projects. Some of them, like me, are taking part in an European Solidarity Corps Projects, which means that we’re doing our volunteering in other European countries than the one we usually live in.

Take me, for example. I’m living in Italy for ten months as I work with InCo Molfetta to promote European Mobility Opportunities for young people in Puglia. In Thomas’s case, his volunteering takes place in Bari, with the organisation EuroSud, which promotes European Mobility, as well as with the organisation YouPlay with which he is creating board games.

What are the European Solidarity Corps?

The European Solidarity Corps, formerly known as the European Voluntary Services, aim to give young people aged between 18 and 30, who are not currently at university or working, an opportunity to live abroad for up to a year and gain useful work and life experience. There is no need for a fancy CV or a prestigious certifcate – all that matters is your motivation!

There are many reasons to want to do an ESC project. Maybe you just finished high school and don’t quite know what you want to do for university yet, or maybe you want to take a gap year before starting university. Maybe you’re done with university, but don’t feel ready to enter the working world yet. Maybe you’re already working but want to do something else for a while. Maybe you just don’t quite know what to do with your life and need some distance while you figure it out. Or maybe you’re just passionate about a cause and want to give your time to it!
All of these are perfectly valid reasons.

How can such an experience benefit you?

Doing an ESC is a great way to meet new people, be they other volunteers in your area or local people you will be working with. If you’re just out of high school, it might also be your first experience living away from home, from your family, and as such a first taste of independence without being left completely to your own devices. This first taste of independence and of the working world will also help you gain in maturity. It’s also an opportunity to live amongst a different culture than the one you are used to, to discover new ways of life and new ways of seeing the world. To say nothing of the food – definitely one of the perks of doing my ESC in Italy, not going to lie! Italian food is delicious!

But an ESC experience can bring you so much more than that! Most of the time, you will have to learn a new language as your native one won’t be the one spoken in your host country. You’ll learn new skills, be they communication skills, people skills, project management, etc… which will be recognised by the Youth Pass at the end of your project, and which you’ll be able to showcase on you CV later on!  

How does it work?

So how does it work? First of all, you need to find an organisation in your home country that takes part in European Solidarity Corps projects. You also need to register on the European Solidarity Corps Portal. Then, with your organisation’s help, you can look at the European database of projects to find one that interests you. Once you’ve chosen one, you need to follow the hosting organisation’s procedure for applicants: if you make the shortlist, you will then be contacted for a Skype interview with them (or at least that’s how it went for me). If they think you’ll be a good fit for the project, congratulations! You can now start to prepare for your European Solidarity Corps project! That means paperwork, medical visits, in some cases a visa application… and, of course, booking your tickets and packing your suitcase! But before you leave, be sure to complete the mandatory pre-departure training session(s)! In Luxembourg, I had to complete two of them before I was allowed to leave.

And once that is done? Well off you go! You’ll be greeted by the supporting/coordinating organisation, that arranged all your paperwork, accomodation, etc… and will help you get settled. Often, you will also meet your mentor at that time. Just as you had a pre-departure training, you will also have an on-arrival session with the coordinating organisation to go over what to expect of your time here. And, of course, you’ll be meeting with your supervisor/tutor and your hosting organisation! The tutor will be the one watching over you at work, while your mentor is someone external who is there to help you with non-work matters, and to be an impartial ear in case of trouble with your organisation.

Overall, volunteering with the European Solidarity Corps is an amazing experience! Depending on which organisation you’re doing it with, the tasks will vary, but you will always have a chance to meet interesting people, travel around the area, and organise events with other volunteers or locals! Here in Molfetta, we have weekly international evenings, monthly poetry nights, local partnerships with schools and other organisations… No time to get bored!

So what are you waiting for?

Articolo di Sixtine Duvieusart