Even though the common view of an EVS experience is that of travelling, interacting with different cultures, and immersing yourself in a new way of life, it is even more than that. For me especially: Macedonian culture is not too far away from Croatian culture, which is why exploring and adapting to it has been a breeze. What this EVS represents for me is actually a chance for self-improvement, personal growth and introspection.
Throughout my time spent in Bitola, I’ve gained a lot of valuable experience, met interesting people, but most of all, I got to know myself more than ever. My daily office work consisted of many different things. First of all, I helped edit English texts to be posted on the SFERA website and newsletter. Since I also speak Macedonian, I used my skills in both languages to translate minor texts into either of them. Working in the office, I learned how to start a newsletter, which was a useful addition to my skills and something that will help me in the future when it comes to entrepreneurial activities. Also, I had to design flyers for various projects hosted by SFERA, which was a new experience for me and led me to discover a design program, Canva, and learn how to use it correctly in order to contribute to the promotion of a project or product.
While EVS volunteers typically receive Macedonian lessons in order to manage in the new environment easily, I did not require them, so the organization was kind enough to provide me with individual Greek lessons. While it wasn’t directly necessary to learn this language, Bitola is situated very close to the Greek border, so knowing a bit of Greek is always helpful. Not only that, but this enabled me to add another writing system and language to my repertoire of language skills. Even though I’ve only mastered the basics, the summer course gave me a solid foundation to continue learning Greek in the future.
I also had the opportunity to use my French language skills in a project of my own creation – so I decided to start a summer language course where the locals could come and learn the basics of French for free. The initial number of participants was so overwhelming that I decided to separate them into three groups, two beginner’s and one advanced group, in order to facilitate their learning experience. Even though I’ve already had teaching experience with English back home, this was my first time teaching French. Teaching a language I had never taught before and presenting it in Macedonian, with a lack of proper school materials such as textbooks, proved to be a challenge. Knowing that I overcame it and passed on my knowledge on members of the community makes me feel proud and enriched.
My EVS project was all about making ideas come to life. That is why I held a workshop that dealt precisely with this challenge. In the workshop, I explained the process of turning an idea into a concrete project through five basic steps which give a systematic overview of how to create community projects, products or services. During the second half of the workshop, the participants got the chance to apply these steps to an idea of their own and gain more confidence in their abilities to realize that idea.
EVS is not all about work, of course, and I had the opportunity to travel around the country and abroad, and witness the natural beauties of Macedonia that often get ignored in favor of cities. Climbing Mt. Pelister was my first such experience in Macedonia, and it was an amazing experience. I also enjoyed the Bitola nightlife and cultural events – for a town of that size, Bitola has an impressive cultural life reflected in festivals such as the Manaki Film Festival, concerts in the nearby ancient Greco-Roman amphitheatre, Heracleia Lyncestis, or simply book fairs and movie nights in local bars.
As everyone, I also recommend EVS to anyone who is considering applying for it. No matter where you go, from huge metropoles to remote villages, participating in such a project will enrich you for life, both professionally and personally. No matter if your experience is easy or challenging, you will come home a different person, and happier because of it.
Nikola Kajin (Croatia)