After nearly 11 month away from home, it is time to share my story about my EVS experience of last year. My name is Jitske Wadman, I was sent by Platform Spartak on EVS to Budapest, on 1st May 2015. It’s nice to look back at that period!
I took my flight to Hungary the day after King’s Day (Koningsdag). Budapest was a familiar territory to me because I lived there previously for 12 months during my studies in 2010. This had its advantages: I knew the city, I knew a few people living there and I was eager to learn that difficult language. I had all kinds of plans in my head about exploring the international cultural scene and could not wait to start. I was going to volunteer at a theater. I found it very exciting especially that I never tied up to anything like that for a whole year. “What could happen? Everything was signed”- I thought. Yet, it turned out to be completely different than planned.
Unfortunately, it soon became clear that the host organization was not ready for EVS at the time. When my supervisor and mentor abandoned the organization my whole EVS plan fell apart. This happened after a month and it was pretty scary. I was scheduled for 12 months in Budapest and I wanted to continue it. The only question was: how?? Indirectly, I found a suitable “couch-surfing spot” and from there I was searching for possibilities for another EVS project in Budapest and neighborhood. After a short while I was able to find one- a community house for young people (especially Roma) in the suburbs of Budapest. Platform Spartak supported me on that and we were able to arrange my transfer to this project.
The switch from the cultural sector to a kind of after-school care for children who spoke only Hungarian was quite a change. I was the first and the only EVS- volunteer at the community house and luckily, I was able to get along with those in charge. The contact with children was my main focus. I signed up quite quickly for intensive language course at Hungarian school so that I would be able to easily communicate with the kids. Sadly, Hungarian is that kind of language which requires to have extreme patience.
It took some time to find my own goals in the organization. At first, I had many ambitious plans if it comes to working with the kids, however at the time I found out that they were not as motivated as me and they didn’t really feel like doing anything else except using Facebook or play football time to time. I had to learn to accept this and understand that they may need only a bit of warmth and coziness. Patience, that’s what I was able to learn the most. I realized that I needed to put my own ideas aside.
10 months later, I was still able to find time for attending the language school three times per week. It gave me pleasure, structure and satisfaction to learn such a difficult language. I could understand a lot of things and communicate on a very basic level with the children. I am really proud of it! It gave the kids great fun to see how I bumbled with the language. They were always ready to help me with my homework though, which was a nice collaboration. Actually, having a laugh with them and making fun gave me a really good feeling. It took me weeks before I could remember all the names: Josi, Lasi, Norbi, Ernö, Evi, etc. -about thirty pretty new names for me. Eventually, we were able to create a good band together, I got handshakes or some welcoming gestures whenever I arrived. They are rascals and sweethearts and I was still motivated to learn the language better so that I could understand more and more about their lives and experiences. I had no more wishes or hopes at that time, I just wanted to get to know them better.
EVS has given me a great personal learning experience and also offered career prospects. I am grateful that I got to know this suburb of Budapest and the kids form the community house. My dream is to do a video project with the kids I met and be able to offer them a platform to learn and share experiences.
I would like to learn more about setting up international projects for young people who can get to know each other and learn from each other. Platform Spartak has really inspired me throughout my whole EVS experience. In June I can start my further cooperation with the organization, as a board member and be engaged in more interesting projects.