My name is Sarah Azevedo, I am a 20 years old French student from Nancy, in the east of France. Some of us have, at some point in our life, the need to discover the world, a new culture and leave the comfort zone we’ve been living in forever. I felt this need one year and a half ago, in the middle of my second year of college. I realized how much I wanted to go on an adventure, just like my best friend had done before me by going to London for a year. Therefore, I did a lot of research to understand what, as a student, were my options to leave France, that is when I discovered the European Solidarity Corps, or as it used to be called the European Voluntary Service. Part of the Erasmus+ program, the principle of the ESC is to allow people between 18 and 30 to go abroad to work on a mission, mostly to help communities and individuals.

During my years of college, I had already been a part of many different organizations. I was the secretary of a feminist association, volunteer for an audio-visual one, a political militant…I always loved to give my time for bigger causes. The idea of being able to mix what I loved and my will to go abroad seemed perfect. I kept going with the research, read many testimonies, all we’re saying how their ESC mission had been the greatest experience of their life. My desire to go increased with each day passing by. I already knew that if I had to go abroad it had to be between my university degree and my master’s degree in Cultural Studies. I had more than a year to prepare for this trip.

I started contacting sending organizations in my region. In order to do an EVS, you have to find an organization in your country that can handle your departure and find an organization abroad who wants you for a mission. Often sending organizations already have several missions they can offer you; many find their happiness there. If you don’t, just like I didn’t, you must find a mission by yourself using the different online portals. This is very simple: make an account, answer the questions about your motivation, your professional journey, and then you apply for the missions you like. If the organizations like your profile, they contact you and then start the hiring process (often by skype). I got lucky, Ukraine was only my third application and the first to answer me. No worry if you don’t find a mission you like, it takes time. It takes an average of six months to find the mission and go.

So, I got accepted to become a volunteer for the EqUalize 2.0 mission by the Society Initiative Institute. I contacted a sending organization I already knew in my city who agreed to take care of the project. I was supposed to leave in august 2019. But because of grant issues, my departure was a shift to September 2019. When we got the grant, I started the process to get a visa and I finally left, after months of waiting patiently, the 23rd of October 2019. It took time, but I finally got there.

We all have a different journey, but if one day the desire to go on an adventure, to discover a new country, a new culture takes you, the ECS could be a good way. Too little known by the public, it is an easy way to get an important et rewarding professional experience in various domains. When I started talking about my project to my relatives I often heard « What about college? » « You’re going to miss a year! » « Aren’t you scared ? ». And they were right, I was scared and I still am. But I never doubted my desire to do this adventure, because I knew when I decided to go that it was the right time. There is no perfect time to do anything, so just do it when you feel this is right for you. Whether you decide to do this right after high school, or during university, or when you’re already working, if this is what your heart desires, if the adventure calls, you must answer it. 

On my part, I have a lot of hope for this mission. I left France because I wanted to discover new things, find happiness where I never went before, learn about the world and about myself. I long to make of this experience something positive and powerful. But saying this is easy would be a lie. Leaving my country, my life, my loved ones to go by myself to a whole different place, for an entire year is probably the hardest thing I have done in my life, but it also is the most exciting. I don’t know how long it will take for me to adjust to this new life, but I have high hopes about the future, and I wish for everyone to feel this way.