European Voluntary Service enabled Angela from Spain to learn English and gain new skills, which helped her to find a job in Cardiff afterwards. Read her story on the blog.
Angela, from Spain, studied Enviromental Science in Madrid. One and a half year ago she came to live and volunteer in Cardiff for ten months as EVS (European Voluntary Service) volunteer. After finishing her EVS project, she found a job related to her EVS project and she remained in Cardiff, teaching people how to ride a bike safety and promoting cycle in the city. She loves travelling, doing activities outdoor and hang out with family and friends.
“Basically since being a student in secondary school until graduating from University I thought: “So, what am I gonna do now?” The economic situation in my country did hard to find that job which everyone had told you that you would get after hard years studying. I was looking for many different ways to go abroad and I found the European Voluntary Service (EVS). It was the best way how to go abroad for me, because it was impossible to apply for an internship with my level of English. Finally in September 2014 I started my EVS project, promoting cycling, in Cardiff, that was coordinated by UNA Exchange.
First days were really hard
My first days in Cardiff were really hard. I was travelling to different parts of city, driving bicycle for long distances, meeting different people, every day. I was working in three different organisations: Cardiff Pedal Power, Sustrans and Cycle Training Wales.
Each day was totally different. One day I was in schools teaching children how to ride a bike or explaining them how to get from home to school on bike or how to repair a puncture, another day I tried to find the best bike for disabled people who coming to rent a bike in Cardiff Pedal Power or helped to repair bikes in the mechanic shop. I had to learn so much new skills, because I didn’t know anything about bicycles or how to use all the tools to fix them. And because my English was really bad at the beginning, I could hardly understand anything. I couldn’t express myself properly or having a proper conversation with others. In those times I felt like maybe I am not able to do my project. I remember some moments which I was close to give up.
Living with six people from different countries
I think that every challenge is a opportunity to overcome yourself. I think that it has to be hard for my colleagues to understand how challenging the situation was for me. I was taking all tasks I was asked and just tried to do my best and stay positive. Fortunately I had two Spanish roommates and in the first month, especially, this was very helpful. When I arrived home after work, I just wanted to speak Spanish. The life with other volunteers was great for me. I enjoyed to live with six other people from different countries, you feel like you are on a summer camp all the time! With the group we were travelling a lot and tried to do something different every weekend: I went to Russia, Slovenia and North Wales.
I had lot of nice moments
After all, I enjoyed my project because there were a lot of nice moments. In my work I used to teach people how to ride a bike or support people who haven’t feel confident on them. I went with them around Bute Park, a really wonderful place, I loved to listen them during our cycling ride, and can see the sense of satisfaction in their faces and feel their joy after all their efforts. I don’t know, if it was because I was from other country, or because I was smiling all the time as it could not keep deep conversations but I felt that people felt happy to be with me, and that made me feel really good.
The last day in my project I asked my supervisor why you chose me for the project between other many applications. Sometimes I didn’t understand why they chose me – I couldn’t do properly the job because I didn’t speak English well, so I didn’t feel useful. He told me: “We chose you because you were smiling all the time and this is great. We knew that you would work with children and disabled people and we were looking for someone nice, and we felt that you would fit perfectly.”
I learnt to be independent and got a job
Looking back now I would say that I learned to be independent that year. You are far from your friends, you live in another country and you have to learn how to survive by yourself. I am not scared of anything now and I learnt that life is moving all the time and you only have to move with it and even though you are facing difficulties in your life you have to keep going. I think I stopped to try to control everything and started to “go with the flow”, and be more relaxed.
I learned a lot and gained more skills and in the end of the project one of my organisation offered me a job and I decided to stay in Cardiff working and studying English. I am still keeping relation with UNA Exchange and EVS volunteers. It is great to have an international community around you. Because I learned so much during my EVS I started think about running my own business when I go back to Spain.
Back in Spain, when I was in my hometown with my friends, all the time in the same place, I couldn’t see how many different opportunities you actually have. Abroad you meet lot of different people from different countries, different ages, living their life completely different. And you can see they enjoy their life more than what we call “normal life” and it makes you realize how many things you actually can do in your life. After EVS I feel like nothing is impossible.”
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